We suspect that some nicknames could have been used without offense, for example, Richard the Lion-Hearted, Vladimir the Saint, Charles the Wise, or Henry the Lion.
However, we suspect that the really insulting nicknames could have gotten you killed—do you think Ivan would’ve liked being called “the Terrible”? People used them behind the king’s back or, more often, when he was safely dead.
Here are some of our favorite nicknames that have been permanently affixed in the history books: Louis the Fat (Louis VI, France, 1108-1137), Louis the Quarrelsome (Louis X, France, 1314-1316), Pippin the Short (Pepin, England, 741-768), Charles the Bald (Charles II, France, 840-877), Charles the Fat (Charles II, France, 884-887), Charles the Simple (Charles III, France, 898-922), Henry the Fowler (Henry I, France, 919-936), Louis the Indolent (Louis V, France, 986-987), Philip the Amorous (Philip I, France, 1060-1108), and a schizophrenic pairing: Charles the Mad and Charles the Well-Beloved, both referring to Charles VI (France, 1380-1422).
Finally, here’s a mysterious one: John the Posthumous (John I, France, 1316). He was named that because he was born after the death of his father (Louis the Quarrelsome) and was proclaimed king as soon as he emerged from the womb.
The infant king ruled for five days before he himself died—murdered, some say, by his crown-seeking uncle, Phillip the Tall (Phillip V, France, 1316-1322).