Top 10 bizarre and hilarious Medieval nicknames

Medieval nicknames weren’t all glorious

Medieval kings and rulers often got nicknames.

Some epithets like Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat are self-explanatory, if not very flattering.

For every glorious moniker like “The Good” or “The Great”, there’s “The Silly” or “The Unavoidable”.

Here is our list of the top ten bizarre medieval nicknames given to rulers.


Wolf or Ulf the Quarrelsome


In medieval sagas, Ulf the Quarrelsome is the Brother or step-son of Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland.

Even the Vikings called him “the greatest champion and warrior” of Brian Boru’s army.

He gruesomely avenged his brother’s death at the Battle of Clontarf.

He hunted down his brother’s killer Brodir, slew all of his men and then got down to business.

Cutting open Brodir’s belly, he wound the still living Northman’s entrails around a tree and tied him there.

From the Njals Saga :

Ulf the Quarrelsome cut open his belly, and led him round and round the trunk of a tree, and so wound all his entrails out of him, and he did not die before they were all drawn out of him.

Quarrelsome seems an understatement.


King Harald the Fine Haired (literally “Harald Hair-pretty”)


This is (sort of) a love story.

Gyda, princess of Hordaland, refused to marry Harald “before he was king over all of Norway”.

Naturally, he vowed to never cut or brush his hair until he accomplished his mission – the conquest of all of Norway.

More prosaically, he may have avoided the scissors because hair and beard was a source of power and strength.

During that period he was known as ‘shockhead’ or Harald the Tangle-Haired, thanks to his rat’s nest of hair.

When he became King of Norway 10 YEARS LATER, he cut his tangled mane and changed his moniker to suit his luxurious new locks.


Fredrick the bitten

Friedrich I. (der Gebissene) was a nobleman (Landgrave) of Meissen (by Dresden.)

According to legend, his mother fled her cheating husband in 1270. What do you expect of someone named Albert the Degenerate?

Overcome by the pain of parting, his mother bit Frederick on the cheek: therefore he became known as the Bitten.


Ibrahim the Mad

source :

Ibrahim I stood out even amongst the insanely cruel Ottoman rulers of the 16th and 17th century.

Being locked in a windowless building called the “cage” until the age of 23 probably contributed to his bouts of intense violence.

He also acquired some odd sexual proclivities.

Once, Ibrahim happened to see the private parts of a wild young cow and was very taken with them.

According to Cantemir:

“he sent the shape of them in gold all over the Empire with orders to make enquiries whether a woman made in just that manner could be found for his lust”.

They found a suitable candidate in Armenia, weighing 150kg, and she entered the harem under the name Sechir Para (Sugar Cube).

Ibrahim became besotted with her and made her Governor General of Damascus.


Niall of the Nine Hostages

The Irish warlord was “High King” at Tara, the ancient centre of Ireland from A.D. 379 to A.D. 405.

He was very busy battling the English, the Scots, the French and even the Romans.

He had work life balance down though as recent evidence shows that one in 12 men in Ireland has the same DNA as the ancient king.

In Ireland’s north-west, that figure rises to one in five.

“The Death of Niall of the Nine Hostages” says he received five hostages from the five provinces of Ireland (Ulster, Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Meath), and one each from Scotland, the Saxons, the Britons and the Franks.

But his most famous hostage of all was Saint Patrick.


Louis the Universal Spider

King Louis XI was called “Cunning” and “Universal Spider” due to the webs of intrigue he spun around Europe.

Plotting, exploiting enemies and friends,raising armies against his father – he would have been a contender in “Game of Thrones”.

Fun fact : he is the king in “Hunchback of Notre Dame” who orders Esmeralda killed.


Ivar the Boneless


The Viking sagas describe Ivar as-

‘Only cartilage was where bone should have been , but otherwise he grew tall and handsome and in wisdom he was the best of their children.’

The mid-twelfth century poem Hattalykill says he was ‘without any bones at all’ (!).

Theories about how he got the nickname “the Boneless” range from he was double jointed, to that he was named ironically, to erectile dysfunction.

He apparently grew up unable to walk and had to be carried everywhere on poles or on the back of a shield.

However, Ivar’s disability didn’t prevent him from fighting.

In fact, his arms were so strong that his bow was more powerful and his arrows heavier than those of his companions.

In a battle against King Eysteinn of Sweden, Ivar even defeated a bewitched cow named Sibilja.

In the saga, he orders his men to carry him towards the terrible beast; he then blinds it by firing two arrows from a longbow as large as a tree trunk, which he drew back ‘as if it were only a weak elm twig’.


Charles the Silly

Charles VI of France was Charles the Well-Loved before insanity took over.

He suffered from delusions, including believing he was made of glass.

He wore reinforced clothing and refused to travel by coach to protect himself from “shattering”.

He also attacked servants or ran until collapse, wailing that he was threatened by his enemies.

His wife’s nickname, incidentally, was “The Great Sow”.


Eystein the Fart

Eystein’s (1088-1123) nickname doesn’t actually refer to a tooting tetrarch.

It possibly comes from the Norwegian word fart, which means ‘fast’, due to his extensive traveling.

Or it may mean that he was a loudmouth or busybody.

He was definitely one of the first people to describe ice-skating: he boasted of his skills on ‘ice-legs’.

He was succeeded ( gently one supposes) by his son, Halfdan the Mild.


Ragnar Hairy Breeches

hairy breeches
King Ragnar Hairy Breeches (Ragnarr Loðbrók in Norse) was a legendary figure who was briefly King of Denmark.

He got his name from animal skin trousers he wore while fighting a poison-breathing serpent (or a dragon according to some stories).

Rather sweetly, the trousers were made by his wife.

At one point, French king Charles the Bald paid Ragnar 7000 pounds of silver not to sack Paris.

Ragnar had many sons, including Ivar the Boneless, Halfdan White-shirt, Björn Iron-sides, and Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye.


Constantine V the Dung-named

Byzantine emperor Constantine V (ad 718-775) was known as Kopronymous (dung-named) by his enemies.

This was essentially a smear campaign after he had destroyed most religious icons in Constantinople.

According to legend, when he was baptised, he lost control of his bowels into the baptismal font.

Not a name you called him to his face.

We can’t leave out the Medieval nicknames….

Iskander the Accursed
Charles the Bewitched
Colomon the Bookish
Geoffrey the Broom-Plant
John the Careless
Michael the Caulker
Emund Coal-burner
Vasili the Crosseyed
Edmund Crouchback
Robert the Devil
Louis V the Sluggard
Constantine V the Dung-named
John the Lover of Elegance
Ivan I Moneybags
Henry the Orphan
Eric II the Priest Hater
James the Rash
Karl the Sudden
Gusav the Tennis King
Garcia the Trembling
Louis the Unavoidable

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