How Much Do You Know About These Famous Kings?

By: Mark Laufgraben
Image: Wiki Commons via Mrlopez2681

About This Quiz

For centuries, the monarchy was the political foundation of the entire world. Civilizations separated by vast chasms of space, culture, and language all knelt before the thrones of their mighty kings. But these people were anything but uniform. They were as different from one another as can be imagined, strong and weak, brave and cowardly, cunning and foolhardy. The price of granting power through noble birth was to put the fates of entire nations into the hands of the genetic lottery. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, not in some backstreet gambling den, but rather on the entire stage of human history.

Besides personality traits, there were the simple truths of genetics to consider. In order to maintain the supposed purity of their royal blood as well as the practical considerations of consolidating and acquiring wealth and title, a limited number of noble families married into each other again and again and again. Over time, this resulted in increased genetic diseases and malformities, creating an additional challenge for those born into nobility. 

In spite of all of this, though, few can question the dignity and aristocratic bearing with which these monarchs held themselves. Indeed, you can see their nobility shine through in the images we have in this very quiz. Can you identify these kings by their royal portraiture? A great challenge, to be sure. Are you worthy of it?

Henry VIII, King of England is known for many things, but his greatest claim of fame is how the pope's refusal to grant him the annulment to his marriage led to him breaking the Church of England away from Rome entirely.

Richard III was the final royal scion of the House of York, and last of the English Plantagenet Kings. His defeat at Bosworth Field saw the closing of England's Middle Ages, but he was forever immortalized in Shakespere's play, named after him.

Charles the Great was King of both the Franks and Lombards, but his mightiest achievement was the creation of what would be called The Holy Roman Empire. He was known as "The Father of Europe" as so much of Western Europe was united under his single rule.

Henri II of France was a Valois King who struggled both in wars with the Hapsburgs and the nascent struggles with the French Huguenots. He met a sudden death from a wound he received in a jousting tournament.

Louis XIV, known to the world as The Sun King, was the absolute apex of French Royal splendor. He reigned for an astonishing 72 years. Although the majesty of his court is unquestioned, he also had a darker side: he revoked the Edict of Nantes, which effectively led to the destruction of France's Protestant minority.

Friedrich I, also known as Barbarossa for his mighty red beard, was a Holy Roman Emperor. He was extraordinarily skilled in both warfare and legal matters, and he enacted the restoration of Roman Civil Law to the Empire. He fell, after a long rule, during the 3rd Crusade.

Charles V ruled the Holy Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, AND the Kingdom of Burgundy over the course of his reign, making his Kingdom unthinkably vast. He battled Ottomans at the gates of Vienna, the French crown, and the Schmalkaldic League of Protestants in Germany.

Henri IV, also known as Henri of Navarre, was the King of France. He was known for his making the immensely difficult decision to adopt Catholicism so as to end the religious wars rocking France at the time. He also promulgated the Edict of Nantes, allowing for a period of tolerance between French Protestants and Catholics.

Napoleon I, known to history as simply Napoleon, was the Emperor of the French. His aggressive attempt to reshape Europe combined his military genius, France's Levee en Masse, and extraordinary daring, setting off a huge European- and later world- conflict.

Edward I, King of England, was also known as Longshanks and the "Hammer of the Scots." Edward crushed Wales at last, constructing a series of castles there that would finally subjugate the region, warred with the Scots and struggled with France to (successfully) recover Aquitaine.

John I of England comes to us with a reputation for cruelty and poor diplomacy with his lords. He lost much of his French continental holdings, was temporarily excommunicated, and ended up fighting in a civil war against his nobility.

Edward II of England suffered many great misfortunes. His closeness to a noble friend resulted in discord among the nobility, he was defeated by Robert the Bruce and forced to sign a treaty with Scotland, and his own wife turned on him and invaded England with French help, deposing him in favor of his 14-year-old son.

Richard I was King of England, but he spent most of his life either in his holdings in Aquitaine or away on Crusade. A laconic man, he was also known as Oc e No (Yes and No) for his brief manner of speech. He is the rare English King to actually be remembered by his nickname, the Lionhearted.

The final Anglo-Saxon to rule England, Harold II ascended to the throne in 1066, but soon found himself beset on all sides by enemy. Winning a battle in the North, he turned and faced William the Conqueror, and it is there he fell at the Battle of Hastings.

Canute (Knut), the Great was King of Norway, Denmark AND England. Not bad for a Viking! He helped restore English prosperity through the simple mechanism of putting a leash on his own Norse raiders, thereby letting the economy recover.

Alfred the Great, King of England, encouraged learning and culture while simultaneously engulfed in a brutal war against the Danes and their Vikings. His victories kept the Danes from total control of the isle.

George III, King of England, is best known in the U.S. for being the King who fought against American Independence. He suffered from mental illness due to an unknown cause, and as his life went on, it eventually became a permanent state of affairs.

Aethelred II, the Unready (which means poorly advised in the original English), faced an English kingship of constant battle. His attempt at paying off the Danes did not last, and he ended up exiled to the continent he later re-invaded but found himself struggling both against his own son and other Danes.

William I, the Conqueror, was the Norman Lord of conquered England, forever changing the destiny of the British Isles. His victory at the Battle of Hastings brought peace to the war-torn country and would eventually lead to massive changes in the country's ruling class.

Edward, the Confessor was a peaceable, religious king of England, whose pious nature gave way to his royal nickname. Though he was not martyred, he was nonetheless nominated for sainthood some time after his death.

Henry V of England saw his country to the apex of its power. A Lancasterian monarch, his total victory at Agincourt so crippled the French King that he became regent of France, and returned Normandy to English rule.

William IV of England was the final King of the House of Hannover. His reign is notable for ending slavery in the British Empire, changing the Poor Law,​ and altering the British electoral system.

Clovis, King of the Franks, brought together the disparate Frankish tribes under a single King for the first time in History. His victories would lead to the formation of the Kingdom that later peoples would know as France.

Louis I, called The Pious, was the son of Charlemagne and heir to the Holy Roman Empire.

Frederick II of Prussia, also known as Frederick the Great, is famous for his conquest of Silesia and consequential incredible victory against a host of European enemies. His military successes saw Prussia rise to be a true rival to neighboring Austria and has secured him a lasting legacy of fame.

Wenceslas of Bohemia was most noted for his heroic defense of his Kingdom against the forces of the Mongols under Subutai. His incredible victories helped shield Europe from the Mongols, cementing his reputation as an incredible leader.

Ferdinand I, elder brother to Charles V, was the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. He continued his brother's Ottoman conflicts, but his greatest accomplishment was before his ascent to the throne- he enacted the Peace of Augsburg, temporarily staying the brutal wars of religion rocking the Empire.

Louis-Philippe ruled France as King through his position at the head of the Orleanist conservative party. His rule is largely seen as a transitional one, as the Revolution of 1848 saw him cast into exile in the U.K.

Peter I, Tsar of Russia, bears the well-earned title Peter the Great. He vastly increased the size of the Russian empire through military means, and sought to modernize it culturally, scientifically and economically based on Western principles.

Ivan IV of Russia, known forever as Ivan the Terrible, greatly expanded the size of his empire, but at a cost: his brutality and paranoia toward his nobles prompted many deaths, including his killing of his own son and heir.

Nicholas II was the final Emperor of Russia. Known for his violent crushing of the 1905 revolution, anti-semitic pogroms and his role in the Great War, Nicholas (and this family) met his end at the hands of the Bolshevik Revolutionaries.

Harald I Bluetooth, besides being a raider Viking​ par excellence, is known for being the first King of Denmark, as well as introducing Christianity to that Norse country. His rule of Norway proved more tenuous, however.

Gustav II Adolf is widely regarded as one of the all-time​ great Swedish Kings, and indeed one of the greatest European rulers as well. He was tremendously successful both militarily and in his reorganization of the Swedish bureaucracy, and was seen as the champion of the nascent Protestant faith.

Stanislaw II was the final King of Poland. Although well liked for his progressive legislation, his military failures led to the partition of Poland, the country eventually falling under Russian domination.

Henry I, fourth son of William the Conqueror, ruled England and​ Normandy with a steady hand. He soon found his Norman home under attack by multiple rival claimants, but he bested them all, finally allowing the Kingdom time to come together.

Edward III of England was born a warrior and wasted no time in showing it. He started his reign by overthrowing the treacherous Roger Mortimer, after which he attacked Scotland. Soon after this, he declared his intention to​ seize the French throne, starting the 100 Years War.

Henry VI of England saw his Kingdom war fortunes fall as his own mental acuity declined. Under his rule, England's French holdings diminished, and eventually,​ he was overthrown in part due to his mental illness. A brief restoration did not last, and he died in prison.

James I, first Stuart King of England, was the son of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots. When Elizabeth died childless, he became King of Scotland and England. His reign saw continued cultural flowering in England, and he dutifully steered clear of the wars of religion that rocked the continent.

William III, King of England, also known as William of Orange, was also the sovereign Prince of Orange, of the Dutch Republic. His bloodless capture of the Throne in England's Glorious Revolution led to a rarely seen shared monarchy between himself and his cousin, Mary, who he married.

George I had literally 50 relatives with a greater claim to the throne of England than he. But they were all Catholic, which was forbidden. Hence he lucked into the job. By the end of his reign, experts agree, England had truly shifted power into the hands of Parliament.

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