8 Bizarre Medieval Names and the People that Bore Them

A plate from The Image of Irelande, published in 1581 by John Derrick. On the right you can see professional farters. Atlas Obscura

Roland the Farter

Roland the Farter might seem like a derogatory name or one that a man would come by due to issues with stench or flatulence but Roland came by the name in a different way. Roland the Farter got his name because of his profession. He was a farter by trade and was one that gained the favor of the King.

He lived in the twelfth century in England and was the flatulist to King Henry II. He was professionally a jester but he was known for the trick that make him funny enough to be called before the King. Every Christmas he would be called to perform what was known as “Unum saltum et siffletum et unum bumbulum” or one jump, one whistle, and one fart.

While that may not seem like a very honorable profession, it apparently paid pretty well. A 13th century English book of fees reportedly noted the payment that was given to Roland the Farter in exchange for his yearly performance. He was given a stately manor in Suffolk and 30 acres of land. That made him a man of considerable wealth and while he did have to fart for the king, he at least got to live handsomely the rest of the year.

Being skilled in flatulence was a profession for many during the middle ages in Ireland and even in the 1600s in Japan. Saint Augustine made references to performers who could make their farts sound like singing. Today few other historical professional flatulists are known and it was likely the discovery of Roland’s pay that his name is known today.

  • Oncle

    Well, “William the Conqueror” was known by a different name during most of his lifetime…

    • Adam Kelleher

      what was that?

      • Eli Goldsmith

        La Batard.

        • Pigseye

          in french ,Le Batard.La means ,female

          • Eli Goldsmith

            Mon apoligie; Ver? Mental lapse/Dupetryn’s “lapse”. Freaking “Viking `disease'” – getting worse as I age. THANKS MOM for those Norman-French->Irish genes!! Nah! Nice to have both those (or many?) European Celtic genetic and cultural heritages as well as the Jewish. Inherited most of the “good” genes and few of the “bad” ones from both. hahaha Been awhile since I have used any Frog-talk I once knew. Hey!, maybe Willie simply hadn’t “come out” yet… or “went both ways”…. I heard he had his own band: Willie and LES Batardettes. Played all over Northern Europe! Started in an old cave turned into a “club” Maybe that’s just heresy, a rumor
            . 😉

      • Oncle

        His mom n dad were not married to each other, and his shield had a “bar sinister” on it..

  • Eli Goldsmith

    There are worse jobs!

  • Brilliant! I love the names of the past, wished we still referred to present day people with such distinctive names.

    • kim

      Donald the Turd-Burglar.

  • GumbaJ


  • Thomas Buster

    No Ethelred the Unready?

    • BristolBeast

      Means ‘ill-advised’. Not such a bad name.

  • Henry Etheze

    My great grandfather going back 41 generations was Charlemange, Holy Roman emperor, King of France, Germany and Italy.

    • Laura Rae Sullivan

      So was every other Anglo Europeans.