Regnal numbers are ordinal numbers used to distinguish among persons with the same name who held the same office. Most importantly, they are used to distinguish monarchs. An ordinal is the number placed after a monarch's regnal name to differentiate between a number of kings, queens or princes reigning the same territory with the same regnal name.
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It is common to start counting either since the beginning of the monarchy, or since the beginning of a particular line of state succession. For example, Boris III of Bulgaria and his son Simeon II were given their regnal numbers because the medieval rulers of the First and Second Bulgarian Empire were counted as well even if the present Bulgarian state dated only back to 1878 and were only distantly related to the monarchs of previous Bulgarian states. On the other hand, the kings of England and kings of Great Britain and the United Kingdom are counted starting with the Norman Conquest. That is why the son of Henry III of England is counted as Edward I, even though there were three English monarchs named Edward before the Conquest (they were distinguished by epithets instead).
Sometimes legendary or fictional persons are included. For example, the Swedish kings Eric XIV (reigned 1560–68) and Charles IX (1604–11) took ordinals based on a fanciful 1544 history by Johannes Magnus, which invented six kings of each name before those accepted by later historians. A list of Swedish monarchs, represented on the map of the Estates of the Swedish Crown, produced by French engraver Jacques Chiquet (1673–1721) and published in Paris in 1719, starts with Canute I and shows Eric XIV and Charles IX as Eric IV and Charles II respectively; the only Charles holding his traditional ordinal in the list is Charles XII. Also, in the case of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, he chose his regnal number with reference to a mythical ancestor and first sovereign of his country (a supposed son of biblical King Solomon) to underline his legitimacy into the so-called Solomonic dynasty.