Royal Nicknames...

I’ve been fascinated about names such as Ivan the Terrible, Richard the Lion-Hearted, Bloody Mary, etc… Anybody know how these Royalties got such names?

How Bloody was Mary I really?
Why was Edward called the Black Prince?
Was Ivan II really Red?
I read somewhere that Ivan the Terrible killed his son in an angry fit. But how terrible was He?

Thanks…and Please do add any other…

The Black Prince had armor that looked black.

Bloody Mary was fairly bloody with her persecution of Protestants, but if you’re thinking she randomly slaughtered whole villages or something, that’s not true.

IIRC, the Russian word used as part of Ivan III’s name translates more closely as “awesome” than as “terrible.” As in he inspired awe. The words have kind of changed meaning over the years. But Ivan wasn’t a very nice man.

Poor Mary was Henry VIII’s eldest daughter. She had watched him put aside her mother (Katharine of Aragon) in favor of Anne Boleyn, and was therefore very bitter. Furthermore, Katherine of Aragon was the daughter of Isabel of Spain, as in the one who got the Inquisition going. Therefore, Katherine was raised very Catholic and passed that incredibly strong sense of Catholicism onto Mary.

Mary had watched her father cast aside the Catholic Church and make everyone swear that he was the head of the Church. This bothered her because 1)he did this to cast her mother aside and 2)Her strong religious convictions told her that it was wrong to break off from the Pope.

Therefore, when she ascended the throne, Mary was determined to bring England back to Rome.
in four years Mary burned nearly 300 Protestants. Victims included blind men, pregnant women and Thomas Cranmer, Henry’s Archbishop of Canterbury, who recanted his Protestantism seven times but reaffirmed it before his execution.
She was also made even more bitter by the lack of love from her husband, Philip of Spain.

From English History:

Ethelred the Unready. It sounds like it meant he was unready to take the throne, but, in his time, the word was “redeless” which meant literally “without advisors.” Essentially, the people blamed his problems on an inability to make decisions due to a lack of good advice.

Edward the Martyr. Got the name because his stepmother had him killed.

William the Conqueror. Obvious.

William II Rufus. “Rufus” for “red,” in reference to his red hair

Richard the Lionheart (technically “Coeur de Lion”). For his prowess in battle. Shows the power of a good nickname: Richard was an incompetent king, spending nearly all his time outside the country, and getting captured, forcing it to pay – literally – a king’s ransom to free him. He basically bankrupted the country, but is usually considered a great king, mostly because he had a cool nickname.

Of course the fact that Richard was succeeded by his weasel of a brother John helped to ensure that the English people remembered the Lion Heart fondly.

Peter The Great
Edward Longshanks

Of course, John was a competent King. If ever there were a pair of brothers who are remembered by history just exactly backwards, this is them.

John Lacklands, by the way, in order to tie him into the OP. :slight_smile:

Edward Longshanks was tall, with long legs, hence “Longshanks”. John “Lackland” wasn’t part of the rebellion of his older brothers, when they forced their father to divide up his lands and titles between them, so he didn’t get a title along with the rest of them. He “lacked land”. He also got the nickname “Softsword”, not because he was impotent, but because he was a poor swordsman and battle commander.

The early Franks were quite blunt, positive and negative.

Charles Martel (“the Hammer”) had a son, Pepin le Bref (“the Short”), whose son was Charles le Magne (“the Great,” or Charlemagne). Charles’s son was Louis le Pie (the Pious) or le Debonaire (I’m not sure of the translation, but it does not mean “debonair” in the modern sense). Louis in turn had four sons, two of whom were Louis the German (because he was fond of and ended up ruling the German half of the Caroliginian empire) and Charles the Bald (Pepin died young and Lothair apparently didn’t have any unique characteristics). One of Charles’s descendants was Louis the Fat, and another was Louis D’outremer (so called because he was raised in exile in England, “oversea” from France). Later Capetian kings were Philip II Augustus, Philip IV the Fair (meaning blond, not evenhanded), Louis XI the Spider King.

Among the Scots, Macbeth’s eventual successor was Malcolm III Canmore, a very knowledgeable chap. A descendant was David the Maiden, an appelation I doubt thrilled its wearer.

The Viking kings of Norway were an interesting group: Harold Hardrada (“hard ruler”), Erik Bloodyaxe, Halfdan the Black (and a relative Halfdan the White), Magnus Barefoot.

In Germany, Frederick I Barbarossa (redbeard) combatted Albert the Bear of Saxony.

South of the Pyrenees, there was Pedro el Cruel (just like it sounds) and Alfonso X el Sabio (the Wise). Ferdinand and Isabella, who play a pivotal role in Spanish history for several reasons, were los Reyes Catolicos, the Catholic Monarchs.

A tiny hijack, because I’m curious…how did this happen?

There was a freak accident with a radioactive spider in a lab, and…but you don’t need to know the rest.

No, seriously…Louis XI managed to break the power of a lot of the feudal lords and increased France’s influence by playing both his nobles and the other European lords against each other (he started out by dismissing his father’s advisors and putting his own in their place, then he later dismissed them to put commoners who were dependant on him in power. He then made a truce with a bunch of rebel lords only to break it to his benefit. He first supported the Lancastarian claims to the English throne, and then, when the Yorkist king and the Duke of Burgundy launched a war against him, he paid off the Yorkist king and bribed the Swiss to defeat Burgundy. He granted extended powers to the church, and then ignored that, etc.)

So, he got the nickname “the universal spider”, because people said he was like a spider in its web, luring his prey in and then entrapping them.

What’s more amusing about this one is that his name Aethelred means more or less “well-advised” - so he was “Well-Advised the ill-advised” :p.

This is a good point to inject a salient point about nicknames. Not all of them are contemporary. I’m currently thumbing through Barlow’s biography of William Rufus and he makes the point that is no real evidence William II was ever called ‘Rufus’ in his lifetime. If is possible he was called Le Ros or Le Rossel from childhood ( he would have been nicknamed in French, not Latin ) and later record state he had blond hair with a red beard ( as in adult, he may have been redder in his youth ), but it’s not clear. ‘Rufus’ itself seems to stem from a single ( incidentally hostile ) chronicler and became common only a couple of generations later.

Meanwhile his older brother Robert ‘Curthose’, apparently WAS nicknamed as such from youth. His father apparently once unkindly called him Brevis-ocrea or ‘short-boot’ because he was short and stout and the French version ‘Curthose’ stuck.

However their youngest brother, later Henry I, didn’t receive the nickname clericus until the 13th century, which was only elaborated to ‘Beauclerc’ in the 14th.

  • Tamerlane

I think the prize for unusual Royal nicknames must go to Poland ,as this Wilkipedia article shows

Peter the Great was actually an incredibly cruel man who built his masterpiece, St. Petersburg, on the backs of many of his citizens. He brought Russia into the modern era (well, what was THEN the modern era), but he did so very brutally.

What about Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula?

Queen Victoria’s son, Edward VII was known informally as “Edward the Caressor” for his numerous affairs.

King Kalakaua was the Merrie Monarch. Supposedly for his love of festivals but I’ve heard it was also used to refer to his love of drink.

thanks for the great info guys…

I’ve just found out that James II of England was ‘the shit’(!) coz he was a coward…

anybody know why was Louis XIV called the Sun King?

was Charles Martel’s weapon of choice a the hammer?

was he gay? or did he died a virgin?


Because he used to impale his enemies on stakes. He especially liked to shove stakes up one of the lower orifices (N.B., he impaled women, too) in such a way so that it took them hours to die.

BTW, his father was Vlad Dracul (“Dracul” for “dragon”), and his son, Vlad Tepes, was named “Dracula,” which means “son of Dracul.”

AFAIK this was his own PR - he invented the nickname himself, and hired a bunch of artists to paint him as Apollo in order to get the message across.