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A queen regnant (plural: queens regnant) is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king, or a queen regent, who is the guardian of a child monarch reigning temporarily in their stead. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire.

A queen regnant possesses and exercises sovereign powers. The husband of a queen regnant does not usually share his wife's rank, title or sovereignty. A queen consort shares her husband's rank and titles, but does not share the sovereignty of her husband.

A queen dowager is the widow of a king. A queen mother is a queen dowager who is also the mother of a reigning sovereign.


Elizabeth II, queen regnant of the Commonwealth Realms, here with her husband on the occasion of her coronation in 1953.

In Ancient Egypt, Ancient Persia (Iran Kingdom), Asian and Pacific cultures, and even some European countries, as noted below, female monarchs have been given the title king or its equivalent, such as pharaoh, when gender is irrelevant to the office, or else have used the masculine form of the word in languages where gender is needed. The Byzantine Empress Irene sometimes called herself basileus (βασιλεύς), 'emperor', rather than basilissa (βασίλισσα), 'empress' and Jadwiga of Poland was crowned as Rex Poloniae, King of Poland.

Among the Davidic Monarchs of the Kingdom of Judah, there is mentioned a single queen regnant, Athaliah, though the Hebrew Bible regards her negatively as a usurper. The much later Hasmonean Queen Salome Alexandra (Shlom Tzion) was highly popular.[citation needed]

Accession of a regnant occurs as a nation's order of succession permits. Methods of succession to queendoms, kingdoms, tribal chiefships, and such include nomination when the sitting monarch or a council names an heir, primogeniture when the children of a monarch or chief become regents in order of birth from eldest to youngest, and ultimogeniture when the children become regents in the reverse order of birth from youngest to eldest. The scope of succession may be matrilineal, patrilineal, or both; or, rarely, open to general election when necessary. The right of succession may be open to men and women, or limited to men only or women only.

Margaret I ruled Denmark, Sweden and Norway in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

The most typical succession in European monarchies from the Late Middle Ages through most of the twentieth century was male-preference primogeniture; i.e., the order of succession cycled through the sons of the monarch in order of their birth, followed by the daughters or grandsons. Historically, many realms[which?] forbade succession by women or through a female line in obedience to the Salic law, and some[which?] still do. No queen regnant ever ruled France, for example. Only one woman, Maria Theresa, ruled Austria. As noted in the list below of widely known ruling queens, many ruled in European monarchies.

In the waning days of the 20th century and early days of the 21st, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark amended their acts of succession to absolute primogeniture. In some cases the change does not take effect during the lifetimes of people already in the line of succession at the time the law was passed.

In 2011, the 16 Realms of the British Commonwealth agreed to remove the rule of male-preference primogeniture. Once the necessary legislation is passed, this means that had Prince William had a daughter first, a younger son would not become heir apparent.[1]

East Asia[edit]

In China, Wu Zetian became the Chinese empress regnant and established the Zhou Dynasty after dismissing her sons. It should be noted, however, that Empress Wu used the title huangdi (皇帝, "emperor") as opposed to huanghou (皇后, "empress") and was often referred to, in both Asian and European sources, as a female emperor rather than an empress regnant. Similarly, a few decades earlier in Korea, Queen Seondeok of Silla and Jindeok of Silla developed the term yeowang (여왕, "female king") to refer to themselves instead of the term hwanghu (황후), which is usually translated as "queen" and refers to the wife of a king or emperor.

Although the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan is currently barred to women, this has not always been the case; throughout Japanese history there have been eight empresses regnant. Again, the Japanese language uses the term josei tennō (女性天皇, "female imperial ruler") for the position which would be "empress regnant" in English, with kōgō (皇后) being the term reserved for an empress consort.

Current queens regnant[edit]

Queen Countries Date
Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth Toronto 2010.jpg
 Antigua and Barbuda 1 November 1981
 Australia 6 February 1952
 Barbados 30 November 1966
 Belize 21 September 1981
 Canada 6 February 1952
 Grenada 7 February 1974
 Jamaica 6 August 1962
 New Zealand 6 February 1952
 Papua New Guinea 16 September 1975
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 19 September 1983
 Saint Lucia 22 February 1979
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 27 October 1979
 Solomon Islands 7 July 1978
 Tuvalu 1 October 1978
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 6 February 1952
Margrethe II
Queen Magrethe sep 7 2005.png
 Denmark 14 January 1972
 Faroe Islands

List of all queens regnant[edit]

Further information: List of queens regnant

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bloxham, Andy (28 October 2011). "Centuries-old rule of primogeniture in Royal Family scrapped". Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2011-12-31. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Monter, William. The Rise of Female Kings in Europe, 1300-1800 (Yale University Press; 2012) 271 pages; studies 30 women who exercised full sovereign authority in Europe.

External links[edit]

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