We can’t all be great, but… (HLD 353)

11 March 2021

You only need to look through some history books, or spend a couple of minutes on the internet, and you can find some powerful people who had powerful names.

Alexander the Great, William the Conqueror, Catherine the Great, Richard the Lionheart, for example. Nicknames were applied often – the Good, the Great, the Hammer. There was even John II, the Duke of Cleves, who was referred to as ‘the Babymaker’, on account of his fathering 63 illegitimate children.

And then there’s the ones that history remembers with not so heroic titles.

There is Ivaylo, Tsar of Bulgaria, who had the unfortunate rags to riches story where people only recall the rags part. He was known as The Cabbage. An interesting part of this story was that Ivaylo didn’t last in power very long, being beheaded by political rivals. Possibly an early form of Masterchef.

Bloody Mary – Henry VIII’s oldest daughter was left with this title, while her younger sister Elizabeth 1 was remembered as Good Queen Bess. Sure, a very big bunch of Protestants lost their lives during Mary’s reign, for not practicing Catholicism. But then Elizabeth also managed to knock off a fair number of Catholics during her reign, also for not doing religion right. Protestants obviously won the battle over deciding who was the worse Queen.

Ivan the Terrible was pretty terrible. He even murdered his own son who was the only viable heir to his throne. Terrible decision.

Charles the Mad was Charles VI of France, and was designated mad because he had fevers and convulsions that lasted between three and nine months each time.

William the Bad ruled Sicily quite well, by all accounts. The bad title came about after he lost Sicily’s African territories. Which is fairly careless, but not really bad for the Africans. Unless someone worse took over.

Ptolemy VI the mother lover is not as bad as you might suspect. Kind of. He wasn’t a mother lover in THAT sort of way. I read an article which suggested that the Ptolemies were the most dysfunctional family in history (obviously before the Trumps!). The Ptolemies, according to this article, “lived a kind of domestic safari in which you tried to kill as many of your close relatives as possible”. You generally married very close to home – Ptolemy VI married his sister, for instance. But in his world he was quite different – a mother lover, in fact – because he neglected to kill her.

Constantine the Dung Named was a Byzantine Emperor who was accused by his political opponents of pooping in the baptismal font as a baby. Fairly sure he didn’t mean to.

King Alfonso the Slobberer apparently foamed at the mouth whenever he got upset.

Wilfred the Hairy – obviously missed a few appointments at the salon.

Bermudo the gouty – had gout.

Charles II the bald of France – was bald.

And an honourable mention goes to Henry the Impotent, who really should have let his wife make friends with the Duke of Cleves.

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