Král Karel

In a recent article on The Conversation, Neil Bermel, professor of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield, explained how some European languages will refer to King Charles III:

  • in Czech, although he was almost always called princ Charles before ascending to the throne and occasionally král Charles is in use, he is now generally král Karel. However, if Charles had been Charles IV, rather than Charles III, he would have been called Charles IV in Czech, to avoid confusion with the famous 14th century Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Karel IV.
  • Among other Slavonic languages, Russian is calling the new king Король Карл (korol Karl), Polish is calling him Król Karol and Bulgarian is using Крал Чарлс (kral Charls)
  • German and some other Western European languages are using Charles, rather than a translated name (such as Karl or Carlo).
  • The Finno-Ugric language Finnish is also using Charles.

Foreign leaders’ names in English

Bermel also looks briefly at how English now deals with names of foreign leaders:

  • For contemporary rulers, English tends to translate titles, but leave regnal or personal names alone, for example: King Felipe VI of Spain (never Philip) and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark (not Margaret II).
  • For some languages, we swap the first and last names to put the personal name before the family name, for example, Hungary’s Orbán Viktor is known in English as Viktor Orbán. But for other languages, such as Chinese, the family name stays first (President Xi Jinping).
  • Some Middle East rulers keep local titles, like emir or sheikh, which have become English words.
  • English keeps some familiar historical titles in the original language (Kaiser Wilhelm from imperial Germany, and the tsars of Russia), but calls Catherine the Great an empress, not tsaritsa. Some less familiar names are often anglicised and the tsars are known as Alexander or Nicholas, not Aleksandr or Nikolay.


Karl, Karel or Karol? The translation confusion over King Charles III’s name, explained (

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