The Top 10 Royal Nicknames
A nickname that sticks can make or break your royal reputation. William I of England was known as William the Bastard. That didn’t appear to slow him down. Geoffrey V of Anjou was known as Geoffrey “Broom-plant”, because he always wore a yellow sprig of the plant on his person. Another word for broom-plant is Plantagenet and a dynasty is founded off a nickname. And Richard III was known as Richard Crouchback, not a name to stir any confidence. At e-Royalty we have gathered our top 10 royal nicknames for good or ill. Do you agree?
- The Fair Maid of Kent
Stunningly beautiful, Joan was turning heads when she was only a girl. She married twice (in a tangled mess of relationships) before Prince Edward, son of Edward III, fell madly in love with her. (He had a cool nickname too, but more on that later.) They married in secret, and the marriage proved to be very happy. She produced two royal sons – Edward and Richard. Richard survived to become King Richard II. Joan is also considered the first royal princess to be called the Princess of Wales.
- The Pearl of Brittany
Eleanor of Brittany was the only daughter of Geoffrey (4th son of Henry II and Eleanor) and Constance, Duchess of Brittany (in her own right). When Eleanor’s only brother, Arthur, was murdered (allegedly by their Uncle John), Eleanor had the best claim to the throne of England and Normandy. So John had her imprisoned in England in various remote castles, like Corfe Castle (hoping that out of sight would be out of mind). Eleanor spent almost forty years in captivity under both John and his son, Henry III.
This rather lackluster nickname was given to Prince John, youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. John’s older brothers, Henry, Richard and Geoffrey had already been given substantial Angevin land holdings by their father. Henry had England, Richard, his mother’s Aquitaine and Geoffrey, Brittany. There was no land left to give John, so he was nicknamed “Lackland”. Henry loved John best of all of his sons and tried to convince the older boys to give some of their land to John. Not only did this attempt fail, but it led to a disastrous war between Henry and his sons. The nickname did nothing for John’s incompetent reputation.
- The Goggle-Eyed Whore
This referred to Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry III and mother of Elizabeth I. She was never popular in England. First of all, she replaced the much-loved Katherine of Aragon, and secondly, the people blamed her for Henry’s overthrow of the Roman Catholic Church and the destruction of the monasteries and other church property. It was said she seduced Henry with witchcraft and her marriage was not valid. To be goggle-eyed is to have very open eyes that look amazed or surprised. She must have been quite goggle-eyed when she heard the numerous, adulterous claims against her.
- The Atheling
This lyrical word “Atheling” comes from the Old English and means “Princeling”, one who is the heir to the throne. It was in common use among the Anglo-Saxons before the Norman invasion in 1066. Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, gave the name to his only son, William. Henry’s wife, Queen Matilda, was of English descent. Henry hoped that the use of the English Atheling would honor his son’s mixed heritage and end the turmoil caused by the Conquest and bring peace to Normandy and England. Unfortunately, 18-year-old William the Atheling drowned in the sinking of the White Ship. The title was never used again.
- The She-Wolf
Both, Isabella of France, wife of Edward II, and Marguerite of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, have a claim to this lupine nickname. Isabella gained this epithet for her allegedly cruel treatment of her husband after she and her lover, Roger de Mortimer invaded England. They deposed Edward II and placed Isabella’s young son, Edward III, on the throne – while establishing she and Roger as ruling regents, of course. Then, there was that nasty business of Edward II’s mysterious and somewhat unexplained death at Berkeley Castle. All eyes looked to the she-wolf.
Marguerite of Anjou is noted for her particularly nasty behavior towards her enemies during the War of the Roses. She maintained that her son, Edward Lancaster, was the rightful King of England. Marguerite was dubbed “she wolf” by Shakespeare in his play, Henry VI. In the play, Richard, Duke of Gloucester cried, “She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of France, whose tongue more poisons than the adder’s tooth!” It’s probably meant to be derogatory, but perhaps these strong women wore the name with pride in an era when women were not expected to invade and do battle.
- Bloody Mary
This frightening moniker was given to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon’s only child, the very Catholic Mary I. Her younger brother, the Protestant Edward VI, wishing to keep the succession Protestant, had named the granddaughter of his father’s younger sister as his heir. Her name was Lady Jane Grey. She ruled for only 9 days, until Mary rallied the nobles and she was declared Queen. She ordered the beheadings of Lady Jane, only 16, and her teenage husband, Guilford Dudley, as well. She also kept the fires of Smithfield burning with the bodies of Protestant “heretics” as fuel. By the end of her mercifully short reign, most of her subjects despised her. But there is quite a pleasing alcoholic beverage named in her honor.
- The Hammer of the Scots
Who would want to mess with a king known as The Hammer of the Scots? Edward I (also known as “Longshanks” due to his long legs) conducted a lengthy and ferocious war against the Scots. He fought and defeated William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. He had Wallace hanged, drawn and quartered, then beheaded. A few years later, Robert the Bruce rose up against Edward and the English. Once again, Edward brutally put down the Scottish rebellion. Although he won most of the battles, he could never quite achieve total victory against the Scots. But his tombstone reads, “Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots”. Methinks, a much better nickname than Longshanks.
Could there be a more noble name for a queen than this? In 1588, the Spanish Armada was defeated while attempting to invade England. Elizabeth I had been on the throne for 30 years and would rule for another 15 years. She was achieving divine-like status. To honor her, Edmund Spenser wrote The Faerie Queen in 1589. He dedicated the book to Elizabeth. The queen of Faerie kingdom was known as Gloriana. Spenser describes the name as referring to “the most excellent and glorious person of our sovereign.”
- The Black Prince
Now there’s a name to put fear in to the hearts of one’s enemies on the battlefield. This awe-inspiring nickname was given to Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. Edward fought tirelessly in The Hundred Years War, started by his father who claimed to be the rightful king of France, through his mother, Isabella, (a.k.a. the she-wolf see #5). No one is quite sure how Edward came by this name. One theory centers around the fact that he wore black armor and carried a black shield with white ostrich feathers emblazoned on it. Another theory is that he was so ruthless and brutal in battle the French feared him so, and gave him the nickname. Edward died before his father and never became king. He didn’t receive the coolest royal nickname in all of Christendom until 150 years after his death. Shakespeare used the name in his plays, Richard II (The Black Prince’s son) and Henry V.
What’s your favorite Royal nickname? One of ours or another? Let us know below.