As Mel Brooks said in History of the World: Part I, "It's good to be the king." You live in a castle, deposit your feces through parapet chutes onto the villagers below and acquire a neat nickname for future generations of bored schoolchildren to memorize.
That being said, not every ruler is lucky enough to be "The Great," "The Wise" or even "The Degenerate" (here's looking at you, Albert II, Margrave of Meissen!). Thanks to sheer bad luck or their own epic fuckuppery, the following 10 kings, princes and noblemen have gone down in history as eternal losers.
This king wasn't lousy as in "below average." On the contrary--in 872 AD, he founded the kingdom of Norway at 22-years-old, an age when many of us were beer-bonging our way through bachelor's degrees. No, Harald was was called the Lousy as in "it's time for the school nurse to inspect your scalp with a #2 pencil."
According to legend, Harald I vowed not to cut his hair until he was the king of Norway. By the time he scored the crown a decade later, he looked less like a King and more like the Son of Kong. We assume Harald's eldest son's own name, Eric Bloodaxe, was a not-so-subtle attempt to distance himself from his dad's legacy as a walking, talking vector for body lice.
As a boy, Henry showed a very early interest in clothing, his mother and (probably) getting his ass kicked after school every day. As a teenage act of rebellion, Henry would reportedly sing Protestant psalms to his younger sister. Not exactly the 16th century equivalent to throwing on a leather jacket and riding away from home on a motorcycle, but it probably caused his parents just as much grief. This French fashionista bedecked himself with couture that was more Paris Hilton and less 16th century Paris. Henry's fondness for miniature dogs, transvestite-themed galas and dressing like an extra from Purple Rain further gained him quite the reputation as a real dude's dude, and an embarrassing nickname of Biblical proportions.
If historians weren't such a stodgy bunch, this 9th century AD Danish viking chieftain would be known as "Ivar the Bonerless." Of course, that nickname wouldn't be entirely accurate, as Ivar gained his moniker from a case of osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic bone disorder that makes your bones extraordinarily brittle.
Either way, it's probably an unfair nickname for any viking berserker. And it gets even more unjust when you realize he had extraordinarily breakable bones and his job entailed getting wasted and killing everything in sight wearing only a bear's skin and a 1,000-yard stare. The modern day equivalent of Ivar would be a peanut plant employee with a peanut allergy who went to work everyday wearing a tuxedo made of peanut shells. And then got nicknamed fatso because he was always swollen to twice the size of a normal man.
Ivar probably looked like this
Sebastian of Portugal was named king a full two weeks before he was even born, so it's completely understandable and, in fact, reassuring that he was still a virgin at his coronation. Maintaining his virginity for the next 24 years of his life, however, was less comforting to the people of Portugal. In Sebastian's defense, all of the women that his advisors were throwing at him happened to be his own relatives. So, Sebastian died without pumping out an heir. But we suppose we would too if everyone we knew was peer pressuring us into porking our first cousin.
This Pisan nobleman made a career of conspiring with enemy city-states. For his civic pride, the citizens of Pisa rewarded Ugolino and his kids with a one-way ticket to a doorless tower. Unfortunately for the Gheradesca clan, this wasn't an all-expenses-paid trip--food and water were left out of the deal. Needless to say, it was a short vacation.
History would've forgotten about Ugolino had Dante not name-checked him in his Divine Comedy. In Inferno, Uggy admits to chomping on his children in his final moments.
According to Dante, his punishment was to be frozen up to his neck in a lake in the 9th Circle of Hell, where he's presumably spending eternity watching the Ice Capades. Despite having zero grounding in reality whatsoever, Dante's finger-licking fable carried historical cachet for centuries, landing him this nickname. In 2002, palaeontologist Francesco Mallegni exhumed Ugolino's corpse and found that though the nobleman may have been killed by a head wound, no actual cannibalism occurred (Dr. Mallegni apparently got his PhD in Buzzkillery).
Imagine you're reading an encyclopedia from the year 3008. You can easily find leaders like FDR and Lenin, but when it comes to politicians like Michael Dukakis or Howard Dean, you can only find entries for "Tank Man" and "That Guy Who Once Yelled on TV."
It's sort of like that for Alfonso IX. What were his accomplishments? Who cares! The guy drooled when he got agitated! Politics is a rough game: do one thing stupid in the Middle Ages, and humanity makes fun of you forever!
In a purely historical context, this Belarusian king's biography is a snoozer--he's mostly notable for building a nice cathedral and fighting a bunch of other Slavic-sounding guys whose surnames throw spell check into conniptions.
However, he becomes an exponentially wackier guy when you look at his legends. When Vselav was born, a placental membrane was stuck to the newborn's head. Unfortunately for Vseslav, a nearby wizard advised Vseslav's mother to keep the dried baby cake stuck to his forehead for good luck, a piece of advice that is equal parts totally gross and super retarded. We couldn't make this shit up if we tried.
Wearing his own afterbirth as a wig every day didn't stop the ambitious young king. According to Russian folktales, the king developed the power to transform into a werewolf at the tender age of 28. Vselav's lycanthropic powers have been immortalized on Belarus' 20 ruble coin, thereby distinguishing Belarus as the first country in history to put a werewolf on their national currency.
Sadly, Vselav's kingdom never went to war with Transylvania.
Piero's father Cosimo will forever be remembered as the founder of the powerful House of Medici. Piero's son Lorenzo will forever be remembered as a chief patron of the Italian Renaissance, a ruler whose court hosted such luminaries as Botticelli, da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Piero will forever be remembered for the uric acid build-up in his big toe.
Plenty of kings have had trouble producing an heir. Henry IV is unique for having his limp dick be the defining feature of his reign. This Spaniard's penile problems began when he refused to have sex with his wife ... for 13 years.
After a decade plus of no nookie, Henry decided that he wanted a divorce. Since his marriage was never consummated (a claim corroborated by lots of people peeping up the queen's skirt), and his gear supposedly worked (a claim corroborated by the local cathouses), Henry remarried and the new queen popped out a princess six years later.
Still, questions over his majesty's wood persisted. It's highly plausible that Henry bribed the prostitutes. A court physician further noted that Henry's physiology ("thin and weak at the base, but huge at the head") made it nigh impossible for the king to raise his scepter. To top it off, Henry's malfunctioning manhood likely caused his second wife to cheat on him, therefore nullifying his daughter's claim to the throne.
In sum, having erectile dysfunction is embarrassing enough. Having future historians hold colloquiums on your erectile dysfunction probably makes you glad you're dead.
This Byzantine emperor had his reputation swift-boated years before boats were ever invented.
If you think mud-slinging and political smear campaigns are harsh now, be thankful you never ran for office in the 700s. Constantine's unfortunate nickname comes from political opponents who accused him of shitting in a baptismal font as a child. The campaign was, by its nature, absurd; we all shit in weird places when we were babies as part of the natural pooping developmental process. But the fact that, 1,300 years later, Constantine's crappy nickname still sticks is both a testament to the remarkable persistence of the emperor's opponents as well as the colossal ineptitude of his PR team.
Frequent Cracked contributor Cyriaque Lamar's sci-fi political satire America 20XX will be performed at the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival from August 8 to 24 in lower Manhattan.
If you liked that, you'll probably enjoy our look at The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Taught in History Class. Or, enjoy a look back at a guy history's been a little kinder to, and find out why Once Jesus Got Famous He Changed, Man.