Medieval Kings Of History

Dec 30, 2022 | Kingdoms, Kings, Noble Titles, Royal Titles

The medieval period is one of the most historic eras in the evolution of Europe, and nowhere were the most notable themes of the times played out more visibly than through the monarchs and sovereigns of the Middle Ages. 

The lives of the kings and rulers of these tumultuous times are among the greatest stories of this legendary epoch. 

The Middle Ages are well-known for the instability of royal rule, shifting allegiances, questionable loyalty and political turmoil. It seems that there was never a more dangerous time to be a king or emperor than during the medieval period. 

Yet this era produced a great number of legendary kings, men who expanded their empires, fought for worthy causes, or dedicated their lives to the royal duty and noble purpose of serving their country and their subjects. 

Of course, there were also infamous medieval kings whose notoriety was rooted in less altruistic endeavors – the scandalous, cruel or extravagant monarchs who were renowned for more self-serving motives and actions. 

Yet kings of any age, like all humans, are always a blend of dubious motives and more redeeming qualities, and it may be that history has judged harshly some great kings by focusing more on the failings and controversial decisions. 

Much as in modern times, there would have been few who knew the true nature of the medieval kings of history – the reasons behind their actions or the story of their character. 

Since all that remains of the great rulers of the Middle Ages are what the history books recorded, all a contemporary audience can do is enjoy the stories that have been handed down through the ages – the tales of the most notable kings and emperors from one of history’s most troubled and tumultuous periods. 

Here are two of the great medieval kings who left a rich legacy of history and changed forever the nations over which they ruled. 


Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great, was the legendary King of the Franks who founded one of medieval history’s most famous eras – the Carolingian period. 

Charlemagne would become known as more than a great medieval king, however, as he would also be crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire – the first European empire since the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. 

A denarius of Charlemagne dated c. 812–814 with the inscription KAROLVS IMP AVG (Karolus Imperator Augustus) (in Latin)

A denarius of Charlemagne dated c. 812–814 with the inscription KAROLVS IMP AVG (Karolus Imperator Augustus) (in Latin) – PHGCOM, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Known throughout history and during his lifetime as a fervent upholder of the Christian faith, Charlemagne would become legendary for his efforts to spread the Christian teachings throughout the world, in particular defending the faith against opposing forces in the Middle East. 

On a more human level, however, Charlemagne was also notorious for his faults and failings, which contrasted starkly with his staunch Christian values. He was believed to have numerous wives and even more mistresses, and was widely regarded to be the father of 19 children. 

More dangerous than his romantic life, though, was his capacity for violence in the pursuit of his mission. While Charlemagne is widely applauded for the great outcomes of his military endeavors and Christian missions, his means were often far from the Christian values he sought so valiantly to uphold. 

His legacy of military and political success came at the cost of a great many lives and much bloodshed. However, in recognition of his better nature, it’s believed that, towards the end of his life, he began to atone for his actions and the trail of misery his rule had left in its wake. 

Regardless of the means by which the great Charlemagne accomplished his legendary achievements, he enjoyed the support and backing of the Roman Catholic Church and its powerful advocates throughout his reign and was canonized in 1165, though his saintly status has been much disputed in the centuries since his iconic rule as King of the Franks. 

King Henry IV of Castile

Henry IV of Castile is another of the notable medieval kings of history, though unlike the great Charlemagne, he is notorious more for his misadventures than for his military or political successes. 

His most notoriety is perhaps related to his conflict with his own sibling – the half-sister who would succeed to the throne, despite Henry IV’s best efforts that resulted in a civil war. Ultimately, his famous sister prevailed and enjoyed her place on the throne and a place in history as the great Isabella I of Castile. 

To his credit, Henry VI did secure an alliance with Portugal through his marriage to the daughter of the King of Portugal. This was after the annulment of his first marriage to Blanche II of Navarre, the heir to the kingdom of Navarre, after it was claimed the marriage had never been consummated – claimants argued that some kind of ‘witchcraft’ had prevented the normal marital consumption and a divorce was granted by the pope. 

Despite Henry’s strategic marriages, his reign was not deemed to be a successful one, and he was blamed for allowing the nobles of the region to become too powerful in relation to the supremacy of the monarchy. He was also held responsible for the shifts in power throughout the nation that undermined a centralized governance. 

Whether it was in relation to his marital history, his sovereignty or his personal influence, Henry IV would become known throughout history as Henry the Impotent, and labeled as one of the weaker medieval kings. It has since been suggested that this unfortunate moniker may have been related to a lack of good health, rather than personal character flaws or failings. 

The lives and legends of the medieval kings of history make for a rich and captivating account of the Middle Ages. The notoriety and infamy of these famous sovereigns are as fascinating today as they likely were during their own lifetimes. 

While history may not always have the complete picture of those who played a starring role in the evolution of medieval Europe, it’s thanks to the stories and documentation passed down through the centuries that history lovers are able to enjoy these tales of medieval monarchs and their adventures today.

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