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60 of History’s Strangest Royal Epithets

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Some figures from history lead such remarkable (or notorious) lives that they earn themselves an epithet that remains in use long after their death. More often than not these nicknames are used either to encapsulate a leader’s personality or appearance, or else to sum up the events or legacy of their time in power—but either way, there’s no guarantee it will be complimentary. In fact for every Catherine the Great there’s an Ivan the Terrible. For every William the Conqueror there’s a Vlad the Impaler. And for every Richard the Lionheart there’s an Albert the Peculiar. Sixty of the most bizarre—and in some cases the most unflattering—epithets from history are listed here.

1. ALBERT THE PECULIAR was Duke of Austria from 1395-1404. He was also called “Albert the Patient,” and “Albert the Wonderful.”

2. ALBERT WITH THE PIGTAIL was the father of Albert the Peculiar, and Duke of Austria from 1365-95.

3. ALEXANDER THE POTBELLY was Prince of Suzdal, in western Russia, from 1414-17. Other holders of the same title included “George Longarm,” and “John the Strongbow.”

4. ALFONSO THE DISINHERITED was too young to take the throne when his father Crown Prince Ferdinand of Castile died in 1275, and so instead he was taken into the care of his grandmother. Nine years later the vacant throne was claimed by a usurper, and Alfonso was left with no choice than to renounce all of his family’s claims before he was even old enough to rule.

5. ALFONSO THE SLOBBERER was King of Galicia from 1188-1230. He apparently earned his nickname because he foamed at the mouth when enraged.

6. ANNE, THE QUEEN OF BEES, aka Anne Louise Bénédicte, was Duchess of Maine in France from 1692-1736. She became known as “Queen of Bees” after founding her own chivalric order, The Order of the Honey Bee, in 1703.

7. ANTIGONUS THE ONE-EYED was a close friend of Alexander the Great, who made him ruler of Phrygia in the 4th century BC. He lost one of his eyes in battle defending his kingdom from a brutal attack by Persia.

8. ARCHIBALD THE GRIM was the 3rd Earl of Douglas and Lord of Galloway, Scotland, from the mid 1300s until his death in 1400.

9. ARCHIBALD THE LOSER was the son of Archibald the Grim, who served as 4th Earl of Douglas from his father’s death until his own death in battle in France in 1424.

10. BERENGUER-RAMON THE FRATRICIDE was an 11th century Count of Barcelona who earned his unappealing nickname when rumors began to circulate that he had been involved in his twin brother’s death in a hunting accident in 1082.

11. BERNARD THE HAIRY-FOOTED was a 9th century Count of Auvergne. If not a genuine reference to his feet, his nickname might instead have been inspired by some family crest or emblem.

12. BOLESŁAW THE WRY-MOUTHED was Crown Prince of Poland from 1102-38. Bolesław “had a mouth slightly bent on one side,” according to one 15th century description, although “this did not mar his face, and even added some charm to it.”

13. BOLKO THE STRICT was a 13th century Prince of Germany. His father was Bolesław the Bald, and his brother was Bernard the Lightsome.

14. BROCHWEL THE FANGED, or Brochwel Ysgrithrog, was a 6th century ruler of Powys in central Wales. His epithet ysgrithog means “fanged” or “tusked,” and probably refers either to his large or prominent teeth, or to his aggressive, short-tempered personality.

15. BURMUDO THE GOUTY, King of Léon from 984-999, suffered from such a bad case of gout towards the end of his life that he couldn’t ride his horse and had to be carried everywhere by his courtiers.

16. CADAFAEL THE BATTLE-DECLINER was ruler of the Welsh Kingdom of Gwynedd from 634-56. He earned the nickname “Battle-Decliner” by abandoning his ally, Penda of Mercia, the day before a decisive battle against the Kingdom of Northumbria in the mid 7th century.

17. CHARLES THE FAT—aka the 9th century Holy Roman Emperor Charles III—is just one of a number of ancient rulers known by the epithet “the Fat,” along with Alfonso I of Portugal, Conan III of Brittany, and Henry I of Navarre.

18. CHILDERIC THE IDIOT was King of the Franks from 743-751. No one is quite sure what he did to earn the epithet “the Idiot,” but seeing as he ended his reign by being deposed and consigned to a monastery, it may be nothing more than an attempt by his successors to tarnish his name.

19. COLOMAN THE BOOK-LOVER, or Coloman The Learned, was king of Hungary from 1095-1116.

20. CONOMOR THE ACCURSED was a 6th century leader of Brittany. He was such a notoriously violent and temperamental ruler that some of his subjects apparently believed he was a werewolf.

21. CONSTANTINE THE DUNG-NAMED was the nickname of Constantine V, the Byzantine Emperor from 741-55. The Latin epithet Copronymus, “dung-named,” was unsurprisingly bestowed on him by his many enemies.

22. DOMNALL THE SPECKLED was the freckle-faced ruler of Argyll in Scotland from 629-42. He’s also a distant ancestor of Kate Middleton.

23. ERIK THE PRIEST-HATER, aka King Erik II of Norway, earned his nickname as his reign from 1280-99 was characterized by a persistently fraught relationship with the Church.

24. ERIK THE SHORT-CHANGER was Erik V, King of Denmark from 1259-1286. He was widely known at the time as Klipping, a Danish epithet referring to the medieval practice of “clipping” coins to devalue them.

25. EYSTEIN THE FART, Eystein Halfdansson, was an 8th century king of Norway. The epithet “Fart” is usually taken to mean that he was a busybody or loudmouth, although no definitive explanation has yet been found.

26. FEODOR THE BELLRINGER was one of the sons of Ivan the Terrible and Tsar of Russia from 1584-98. His nickname “Bellringer” is thought to be a reference to his strong Orthodox faith, but there are numerous folktales of him traveling across Russia ringing bells in every church he came across.

27. FERDINAND THE BOMB was King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, who ruled from 1830-59. He earned the Italian epithet re bomba, “The Bomb King,” when he ordered the shelling of a Sicilian town believed to be a stronghold of antimonarchist separatists, despite its large civilian population, in 1848.

28. FERDINAND THE FICKLE was king of Portugal from 1367 until his death in 1383. Also known as Ferdinand The Handsome, he was the son of Peter The Cruel and grandson of Alfonso The Brave.

29. FREDERICK THE BITTEN was apparently bitten on the cheek by his mother when he was just a baby. He served as Margrave (a medieval title equivalent to marquis) of Meissen in Germany from 1291-1323.

30. FRUELA THE LEPROUS was king of Asturias in northern Spain from 910 until his death from leprosy in 925.

31. GARCÍA THE TREMBLER, García Sánchez II, was king of Pamplona in Spain from 994-1004. According to one account, “though a man of tried courage, he never prepared for battle without visibly trembling from head to foot.”

32. HAAKON THE CRAZY was a Norwegian earl who died in 1214. The epithet “the Crazy” doesn’t mean “mad” or “foolish” but rather “wild or “frenzied,” and probably refers to his fighting technique.

33. HALFDAN THE BAD ENTERTAINER, also known as King Halfdan the Mild, was the son of Eystein the Fart. His nickname apparently refers to his habit of paying his soldiers generously, but providing them with little food or entertainment.

34. HARALD THE LOUSY ruled Norway as King Harald I for almost 50 years from 872-930. He is better known as “Harald Fairhair,” but is also referred to as “Harald Tanglehair” and “Harald the Shockhead.”

35. HENRY THE IMPOTENT was king of Castile from 1454-74. His nickname probably refers to his disastrously ineffectual reign, although some accounts have since suggested that Henry was genuinely impotent, if not secretly homosexual.

36. IVAYLO THE CABBAGE, also known as “Ivaylo the Swineherd,” was a Bulgarian farmer who led a peasants’ revolt in the late 13th century and proclaimed himself Emperor of Bulgaria in 1278. He was overthrown the following year and assassinated.

37. IVAR THE BONELESS was a 9th century Viking leader. Although some accounts claim his nickname was a reference to impotence, a more likely theory is that he was an incredibly swift fighter and was able to move quickly and effortlessly in battle.

38. JOAN THE LAME ruled as Queen of France while her husband, Philip IV, fought in battles during the Hundred Years’ War. Fiercely intelligent yet ruthless and austere, by all accounts she was hugely unpopular among the French people, who apparently saw her physical deformity—probably nothing more than a curvature of her spine—as a mark of the Devil.

39. JOHN THE MAD, Count of Rietberg in Germany from 1552-62, earned his nickname became of his violent and confrontational character.

40. JUSTINIAN THE SLIT-NOSED was a tyrannical Byzantine Emperor who was deposed in a rebellion in 695 and had his nose sliced off as a punishment by his usurpers. When he reclaimed the throne in 705, he had the nose replaced with a solid gold replica. He remained in power 711, when he was again overthrown and eventually killed in battle by his own soldiers.

41. LLYWELYN THE LUXURIOUS was a 14th century Welsh prince. Quite how he earned his lavish nickname is sadly unknown.

42. LOUIS THE DEBONAIRE succeeded his father Charlemagne to become Holy Roman Emperor in 814 and ruled until his death in 840.

43. LOUIS THE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING was King Louis V of France, who reigned for just one year and died with no heir to succeed him in 987. Medieval historians called him qui nihil fecit—or “he who did nothing.”

44. LOUIS THE STAMMERER was King Louis II of France, the great-great-grandfather of Louis the Good-for-Nothing. He reigned for just two years from 877-879.

45. LOUIS THE UNAVOIDABLE was the nickname of Louis XVIII of France, who spent much of his reign in the late 1700s and early 1800s either in prison or in exile during the French Revolution. When Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815, Louis was the “unavoidable” choice to return and reclaim the throne.

46. MANUEL THE SAUSAGE-MAKER was Count Manuel Francisco Domingo Godoy, Prime Minister of Spain from 1792-1797 and 1801-1809. Born in an area of central Spain known for producing sausages, Godoy’s epithet is probably also a crude reference to his long-term affair with the Spanish Queen, Maria Luisa.

47. MICHAEL THE CAULKER was the Byzantine Emperor Michael V, whose father – before becoming an admiral in the Byzantine navy – had been a professional caulker, employed to ensure that ships were unfailingly watertight. Michael reigned for just four months from 1041-1042, until he was deposed, arrested, blinded, castrated, and imprisoned in a monastery.

48. OLAF THE TITBIT was king of the Isle of Man from 1112-1143. His Norse epithet bitlingr, meaning something like “titbit” or “morsel,” was predictably a reference to his height.

49. PEPIN THE SHORT was the father of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and King of the Franks from 751-768.

50. PIERO THE UNFORTUNATE was ruler of Florence for two years from 1492-1494. Abandoning an alliance with France in favor of one with Naples, Piero lost control of the city when the French invaded, then was ousted from power when the people revolted and plundered the Medici Palace. As if that weren’t unfortunate enough, he eventually drowned crossing a river while fleeing from a battle in 1503.

51. RHYS THE HOARSE was a 13th century Welsh prince, known as a fierce warrior who played several other leaders against each other in order to further his own interests.

52. SANCHO THE CAPED is said to have gained his nickname from his habit of wearing a capelo or leather-trimmed cape as a child. He ruled as King Sancho II of Portugal from 1223-1247.

53. ULICK OF-THE-HEADS, aka Ulick Burke MacWilliam, was a 16th century Irish earl. He earned the Gaelic nickname ­na-gCeann, meaning “of the heads,” by collecting together all of the heads of his enemies' soldiers who had died in battle.

54. VASILY THE CROSS-EYED was Grand Prince of Moscow from 1434 until he was overthrown the following year by an alliance of forces loyal to his brother Dmitry and his cousin, Vasily II. He was subsequently blinded and banished from the Kremlin.

55. VSEVOLOD THE BIG NEST was Grand Prince of Vladimir in eastern Russia from 1177-1212. The nickname “Big Nest” is a reference to his family – he and his wife Maria had at least fourteen children.

56. WILFRED THE HAIRY was a 9th century Catalan nobleman and Count of Barcelona. According one medieval description of him, Wilfred was “hairy in places not normally so in men.”

57. WILLIAM THE BASTARD is the less well known nickname of William the Conqueror, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy who led the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

58. WILLIAM THE SILENT was Prince William I of Orange, ruler of the Netherlands from 1544-1584. His nickname apparently derives from an anecdote in which, while on a stag-hunt with the King of France, William remained so silent that the French king unknowingly explained all of the details of a secret pact with Spain, presuming that William knew all about it. The Dutch national anthem, Wilhelmus—the world’s oldest—is dedicated to him.

59. WŁADYSŁAW THE ELBOW-HIGH was the short-statured king of Poland from 1320 until his death in 1333.

60. ZENO THE HERMIT was a courtier of the Roman Emperor Valens from 364 until the Emperor’s death in 378, when he retired to a cave near Antioch in southern Turkey. He remained there in total isolation until his death, 36 years later.

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12 Solid Facts About New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain
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On May 3, 2003, the craggy rock face known as New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain tumbled to the ground in spectacular fashion. For a landmark that had been in the state's DNA for generations, its collapse was like a death in the family to some. The day after it fell, people left flowers at the base of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park as a sort of funeral tribute, and plans were immediately launched to create a longer-lasting memorial. So what was so great about the Old Man of the Mountain, pre- and post-crumble? Read on for the stone-cold facts.

1. THANKS TO NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, THE OLD MAN WAS ALSO KNOWN AS “THE GREAT STONE FACE.”

Although not explicitly named, it’s widely believed Hawthorne based his 1850 short story "The Great Stone Face"—which was set in an anonymous state that happens to look like New Hampshire—on the Old Man. At that time, the mountainous figure was already a tourist draw to the Granite State. Hawthorne described it as an “enormous giant, or a Titan,” with a “broad arch of the forehead,” a long-bridged nose, and having “vast lips.” Eventually Hawthorne’s nickname stuck, along with other loving titles like “Old Man” and “the Profile.”

2. THE "FACE" WAS ACTUALLY A SERIES OF LEDGES.

These granite cliff ledges, 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide, when viewed from the north at certain angles looked like a jagged face. Hawthorne corroborated this, writing in “The Great Stone Face”: “If the spectator approached too near, he lost the outline of the gigantic visage, and could discern only a heap of ponderous and gigantic rocks ... Retracing his steps, however, the wondrous features would again be seen; and the farther he withdrew from them, the more like a human face, with all its original divinity intact, did they appear."

3. HE COULD HAVE BEEN 12,000 YEARS OLD.

An 1856 postcard of The Old Man of the Mountain
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The Old Man was first discovered and recorded in 1805 by road surveyors Francis Whitcomb and Luke Brooks, which put the landmark at nearly 200 years old by the time it fell. But it likely first formed when water inside cracks in the granite bedrock froze and thawed following the retreat of glaciers about 12,000 years ago. (This freezing and thawing process was what hastened its eventual collapse.) According to geologist Brian Fowler in a research report by the Old Man of the Mountain Legacy Fund, the lower ledge—or chin—of the Old Man is assumed to have fallen first. Once that support was gone, the rest of the rock fell in formation.

4. CANNON MOUNTAIN WAS SO NAMED BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE ANTIQUE ARTILLERY.

The Old Man jutted from a cliff in Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, within Franconia Notch State Park. Originally named Profile Mountain, it took on a new name since its granite dome resembles a cannon from select vantage points. There are even three sub-peaks, nicknamed “The Cannon Balls.”

5. SOME OF THE STRONGEST SURFACE WINDS EVER IN THE U.S. WERE RECORDED ON TOP OF CANNON MOUNTAIN.

The gusts measured 199.5 mph on April 2, 1973. While impressive, they were likely even higher since 199.5 mph was the limit of what the researchers' instruments could record at the time. The highest surface wind gust in the U.S. still belongs in-state, though, with New Hampshire's Mount Washington recording 231 mph winds in 1934.

6. A SERIES OF TURNBUCKLES AND IRON TIES WERE PLACED WITHIN ITS FACE TO KEEP IT TOGETHER.

By 1916, as it became clear the Old Man might not live forever, the first efforts to protect the rock formation were made. By the 1920s, a crack in the Old Man’s "forehead" was clearly noticeable, and residents who were worried about its safety used chains, turnbuckles, and iron ties to keep the crack from separating. Many of those metal rods used to hold the Old Man together were still attached to the mountain years later.

7. THE STATE EVENTUALLY SPENT A SMALL FORTUNE TRYING TO SAVE IT.


Julius Hall, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1957, the New Hampshire state legislature passed a $25,000 appropriation for the necessary repairs to slow the Old Man's deterioration. These steps included quick-drying cement and steel rods meant to fill in and fortify cracks. The rocky Band-Aids were maintained every summer.

8. THE CARETAKERS’ MAINTENANCE ROUTINES WERE METICULOUS.

One longtime caretaker, Niels Nielsen, took great pains to keep the Old Man clean since 1965. Nielsen would spray bleach on the rock face and in its cracks, then carefully remove moss and lichen in an effort to prevent cracks from spreading further. He would even clean out the Old Man’s ear with a garden hoe. When Nielsen retired, he passed the job on to his son, David. The face continued to be groomed until its collapse.

9. NIELS NIELSEN SAW THE OLD MAN AS A GIFT FROM GOD.

According to Yankee Magazine, Nielsen was rather enchanted by the rock formation. “I had sailed around the world as a merchant seaman, yet I had never seen anything like the Old Man," he said. "I don’t believe anyone can be up there and not feel the presence of God."

10. BUT EVEN NIELSEN KNEW IT MIGHT FALL SOME DAY.

Nielsen was asked by Yankee what would happen if the Old Man ever fell. “The Lord put him here, and the Lord will take him down," Nielsen replied. Research concluded its collapse was natural—that the freezing-thawing process and subsequent erosion over time caused its downfall.

11. YOU CAN STILL "SEE" THE OLD MAN.


Rob Gallagher, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The image of the Old Man has lived on as a state emblem since 1945, appearing on highway signs, on the back of drivers licenses, and on the reverse of the state quarter. But residents weren’t done with honoring the now-deceased rock face. At Old Man of the Mountain Profile Plaza and Historic Site in Franconia, special viewfinders and steel “profilers” at vantage points near Profile Lake offer a glimpse of what the formation used to look like.

12. THERE’S EVEN AN OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN FLOWER.

Old-Man-of-the-Mountain, or tetraneuris grandiflora, is found in the Intermountain Regions and Rocky Mountains in states like Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho. It’s sometimes called an alpine sunflower and got its common name from the wooly hairs that cover its leaves.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Take a Closer Look at the $17 Billion 'Holy Grail of Shipwrecks'

Feast your eyes on these new images of the treasure among the wreckage of the Spanish ship San José, often called the "holy grail of shipwrecks." When it sank on June 8, 1708, it was carrying gold, silver, jewels, and other precious cargo worth roughly $17 billion today. Now, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is revealing the major role it played in the 2015 expedition to find the San José.

The three-masted, 62-gun Spanish galleon exploded and sank at the hands of the British during the War of the Spanish Succession. It was carrying its riches to the Colombian city of Cartegena to finance the war. Archaeologists had been trying to find the San José for decades before it was finally located on November 27, 2015, during an expedition organized by Colombia, Maritime Archaeology Consultants (MAC), and WHOI. The multibillion-dollar treasure, which still sits nearly 2000 feet below the surface of the ocean near Cartegena, is just now being revealed.

WHOI's autonomous underwater vehicle REMUS 6000 was responsible for finding the elusive wreck. REMUS has been with the project since the beginning: The machine created the first side-scan sonar images of the site. After that, REMUS journeyed to a point 30 feet above the site and captured high-resolution photos of the ship's distinctive bronze cannons, which are engraved with dolphins. REMUS's documentation of this defining feature allowed scientists to positively identify the wreck as the fabled San José. (Thanks to whoever had the idea to put dolphins on the cannon in the first place.)

WHOI also released REMUS's photos of the wreckage, which show details of the horde, including ceramics and those famous cannons. "This constitutes one of the greatest—if not the biggest, as some say—discoveries of submerged patrimony in the history of mankind,” Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said back when the treasure was discovered.

The San José's treasure is the subject of a legal battle for ownership between Colombia and U.S. salvage company Sea Search Armada, which helped look for the wreck. In 2011, four years before the San José was even found, the court ruled that the booty belongs to Colombia, but the dispute is ongoing. Because of the legal drama, the exact location of the wreck remains a government secret.

Below, check out the newly released pictures for a closer look at cannons, teacups, and other ceramics.

cannons from the San Jose
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

pots from the San Jose
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

teacups from the San Jose
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

REMUS 6000
REMUS 6000
Mike Purcell, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


A mosaic of images taken by the REMUS 6000 depicts the whole site.
A mosaic of images taken by the REMUS 6000 depicts the whole site.
Jeff Kaeli, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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