Luminous Queens and Shining Sovereigns | Reign of Women
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The term “queen” holds a rich historical significance, representing a pre-eminent female noble, a consort of a king, or a female sovereign ruling in her own right. The concept of queenship has evolved over time, with numerous remarkable women breaking barriers and leaving their mark on history
Middle English quene, “pre-eminent female noble; consort of a king,” also “female sovereign, woman ruling in her own right,” from Old English cwen “queen, female ruler of a state; woman; wife,” from Proto-Germanic *kwoeniz (source also of Old Saxon quan “wife,” Old Norse kvaen, Gothic quens), ablaut variant of *kwenon (source of quean), from PIE root *gwen- “woman.”
Kubaba, Queen of Sumer
Around 2,400 BC, Kubaba became the first recorded female ruler in history as the queen of Sumer, located in present-day Iraq. In a predominantly agricultural civilization, she ascended to the throne as a true monarch, a queen regnant ruling in her own right.
Kubaba stands as a remarkable figure, as she was the only queen to reign without a male counterpart throughout the extensive history of Sumer.
In an empire that endured well over 1,000 years, Kubaba was the only queen to reign without a man.
Sobekneferu – Pharaoh of Egypt
Sobekneferu (sometimes written “Neferusobek“) reigned as Pharaoh of Egypt after the death of Amenemhat IV.
The first known female pharaoh, she was the last ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt and ruled Egypt for approximately four years from 1806 to 1802 BC.
Her name means “the beauty of Sobek”.
Sobekneferu is the first woman for whom there is confirmed proof that she reigned as Pharaoh of Egypt.
There are earlier women who are known to have ruled, as early as the First Dynasty, such as Neithhotep and Meritneith, but there is no definitive proof they ruled in their own right.
Sobekneferu, assumed the throne as the heir of her father. According to the Turin Canon, she ruled for three years, ten months, and 24 days in the late nineteenth century BC.
- #2436 Asteroid
Hatshepsut, known as the “Foremost of Noble Ladies,” reigned as the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt from 1507 to 1458 BC. As the second historically confirmed female pharaoh, Hatshepsut utilized her bloodline, education, and religious understanding to rise to power.
She held the titles of daughter, sister, and wife of a king, and her understanding of religion allowed her to establish herself as God’s Wife of Amun. Hatshepsut’s reign coincided with a prosperous era in Ancient Egyptian history.
Nefertiti, 1370 – c. 1330 BC
Neferneferuaten Nefertiti, was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshipped one god only, Aten, or the sun disc.
With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of Ancient Egyptian history.
Some scholars believe that Nefertiti ruled briefly as Neferneferuaten after her husband’s death and before the ascension of Tutankhamun, although this identification is a matter of ongoing debate.
If Nefertiti did rule as Pharaoh, her reign was marked by the fall of Amarna and relocation of the capital back to the traditional city of Thebes.
She was made famous by her bust, now in Berlin’s Neues Museum. The bust is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. It was attributed to the sculptor Thutmose, and it was found in his workshop.
Boudica – Queen of the British Celtic Iceni Tribe
30 AD – 61 AD
Boudica was the wife of Prasutagus, who ruled the British Iceni tribe as an ally of Rome.
When he died, his will stated that his daughters would get the kingdom. Well, Rome wasn’t too happy about this and pretty much-ignored everything Prasutagus wanted.
As the ancient Romans were wont to do, they took his kingdom and his property. Far worse than that, his wife Boudica was flogged and his daughters were raped.
This information comes to us from Tacitus, a senator, and historian of the Roman Empire.
In 60 or 61 CE, Boudica led a large-scale revolt against the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus on the island of Anglesey off the coast of Wales. Involved in the revolt were the Iceni, the Trinovantes and more.
By this time, Boudica’s army was around 100,000 people strong, and they burned Londinium and Verulanium, now St. Albans.
How effective were they?
The British folk hero and her band of rebels took out somewhere between 70,000 to 80,000 of the enemy. Suetonius, however, defeated her army in the Battle of Watling Street.
Boudica is said to have killed herself or died of illness, depending on whether you listen to Tacitus or the second Roman historian who wrote about her, Cassius Dio. (Tacitus says she poisoned herself. Dio says she died in battle and mentions nothing about the flogging and rapes.)
Her threat was so powerful though that Nero is said to have considered pulling out of Britain completely.
Watch the movie Boudica (2003) with Alex Kingston and Emily Blunt
Boudicca (Boadicea) by William Faithorne line engraving, published 1676
Boadicea and Her Daughters bronze sculptural group, the north side of the western end of Westminster Bridge.
Maeve, Queen of Connacht
50 BCE – 50 CE
Maeve was the Warrior Queen of Connacht, the western province of Ireland. It is said that her father was king of Connacht before becoming High King of Ireland and she became ruler of Connacht after him. She had five recognised husbands, and ruled for over 60 years.
Maeve was also said to be the reason her husbands became kings, that to be the ruler of Connacht they had to be ‘married to Medb‘ as in married to the land.
The first written evidence of Queen Maeve is in Old Irish manuscripts, copied by the monks in the the 8th century during the days of ancient Eire, (Ireland) when the High Kings ruled the land.
Historians throughout history have looked at these stories of Queen Maeve as reminiscent of classical Celt society in Gaul, Galatia, and Britain and they contain authentic Celtic traditions from the Iron Age. So the stories do contain genuinely ancient material.
Therefore, the story of Queen Maeve does reveal the Celtic nations’ societal rule that women’s rights equaled those of men and that Celtic women were able to own property and held powerful positions within society.
Also, Celtic women were not bound by the confines of monogamy even within marriage.
Sultan of Delhi
Razia Sultana shattered gender norms as the first female Muslim ruler of the subcontinent and the Sultan of Delhi. Her ascension to the throne was unique, driven by the support of the general public.
Razia, aware of the public’s expectations, declared that they could depose her if she failed to meet them. Her reign marked a significant milestone, highlighting her political acumen and her determination to prove herself in a male-dominated world.
Razia Sultan, a 2015 TV series on the life of Razia, starring Pankhuri Awasthy as Razia.
Moremi Ajasoro was a legendary Yoruba queen and folk heroine in the Yorubaland region of present-day southwestern Nigeria who is fabled to have assisted in the liberation of the Yoruba kingdom of Ife from the neighbouring Ugbo Kingdom.
The heroic Moremi whose desire to change the destiny of her people overwhelmed her pride, she sought to bring an end to the condition of affairs, she resolved to letting herself be captured during one of the raids, so that she might be taken as a prisoner to the land of the Igbos and learn all their secrets.
She sought the assistance of her god for spiritual guidance for her mission as she went to a certain stream to make an oath to the god of the stream that, if her attempt was successful, she would offer to it the richest sacrifice she could afford.
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots, also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 until her forced abdication on 24 July 1567.
Mary, the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, was six days old when her father died and she acceded to the throne.
Birth Chart of Mary, Queen of Scots
- Mary, Queen Of Scots (1971) with Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave
This film centers on the tumultuous rivalry between Queen Elizabeth I (Glenda Jackson) and Mary, Queen of Scots (Vanessa Redgrave). The heightened focus on the rivalry is meant to explore the hostile dynamic between the two female monarchs amid an era where it wasn’t popular to have women in such political, hierarchal, and monarchial power.
- Mary Of Scotland (1936) with Katherine Hepburn
This movie follows Mary, Queen of Scotland, as she returns to her Celtic homeland. Unfortunately for the Scottish monarch, her lands become divided which then forces the rightful queen to abdicate the Scottish throne. Mary Stuart then requests the aid of Queen Elizabeth I.
National Portrait Gallery London
Elizabeth I 7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603
Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, who was executed when Elizabeth was 2 and 1/2 years old.
Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII was annulled, and Elizabeth was declared illegitimate.
Her half-brother Edward VI ruled until his death in 1553, bequeathing the crown to Lady Jane Grey and ignoring the claims of his two half-sisters, the Roman Catholic Mary and the younger Elizabeth, in spite of statute law to the contrary.
Edward’s will was set aside and Mary became queen, deposing Lady Jane Grey.
During Mary’s reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for nearly a year on suspicion of supporting Protestant rebels.
- Click here to view the birth chart of Elizabeth 1
- Elizabeth, 1998 movie with Cate Blanchett
- Elizabeth R is a BBC television drama serial of six 85-minute plays starring Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth I of England
National Portrait Gallery London
Catherine the Great – Empress of Russia
2 May 1729 – 17 November 1796
Catherine II, (born Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst; 2 May 1729 in Stettin – 17 November 1796 in Saint Petersburg), most commonly known as Catherine the Great, was empress regnant of All Russia from 1762 until 1796 – the country’s longest-ruling female leader. She came to power following a coup d’état that overthrew her husband and second cousin, Peter III.
Under her reign, Russia grew larger, its culture was revitalised, and it was recognised as one of the great powers of Europe. As empress, Catherine westernized Russia. She led her country into full participation in the political and cultural life of Europe.
The period of Catherine the Great’s rule, the Catherinian Era, is considered a Golden Age of Russia. She enthusiastically supported the ideals of the Enlightenment and is often included in the ranks of the enlightened despots.
She championed the arts and reorganized the Russian law code.
As a patron of the arts, she presided over the age of the Russian Enlightenment, including the establishment of the Smolny Institute of Noble Maidens, the first state-financed higher education institution for women in Europe.
- Watch The Great, a comedy starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, which takes a farcical and fictionalized approach to the life of the famed Russian empress.
- Click here to view Catherine the Great’s birth chart
Maharani Jindan Kaur
Regent of the Sikh Empire from 1843 – 1846
Maharani Jindan Kaur’s spent much of her life raging against the British empire for cheating her out of the Punjab, then a vast country stretching from the Khyber Pass to Kashmir.
Her revolt began when her husband, the last Maharaja of the Punjab, died of a stroke in 1839 and the British tried to wrest the kingdom from the heir to the throne, her infant son, Duleep Singh.
During her rule as regent, Jindan waged two disastrous wars against the British that led to the annexation of the Punjab.
Jindan may have made huge strategic errors due to her military inexperience and young age (she was in her early 20s), but she was a fierce ruler.
She was remarkable in how she discarded sati and purdah, dominant at the time, and led the courts, had meetings with chief ministers and the armies.
Watch The Last Maharani of Sikh Empire || The Rebel Queen who terrorised the whole British Empire
Sālote Tupou III
Queen of Tonga from 1918 to her death in 1965
Queen Sālote Tupou III of Tonga, also known as Queen Sālote Mafile‘o Pilolevu Tupou III, was indeed the Queen of Tonga from 1918 until her death in 1965. Born on March 13, 1900, she was the eldest daughter and heir of King George Tupou II and Queen Lavinia Veiongo.
During her childhood, Queen Sālote faced some challenges and was not initially popular among the people of Tonga. This was partly due to her mother’s lower rank, which led to her being perceived as being born from the “wrong mother.” Her unpopularity made it unsafe for her to venture outside the palace.
After the death of her mother in 1902, the Chiefs in Tonga urged King George Tupou II to remarry in order to produce a male heir. He eventually married Queen Anaseini, who gave birth to two daughters, but they both died at a young age.
As Sālote grew older, she received education and instruction in Tongan history and customs. When she turned 18, on October 11, 1918, Sālote was crowned the Queen of Tonga. She quickly displayed her political acumen, proving to be politically astute and capable, even surpassing her father’s abilities.
During her reign, Queen Sālote focused on promoting Tongan culture and traditions. She was an advocate for education and women’s rights and worked towards the modernization and development of Tonga. Queen Sālote passed away on December 16, 1965, leaving behind a significant legacy in Tongan history.
Tamara Natalie Madden
16 August 1975 – 4 November 2017
Tamara Natalie Madden, a Jamaican-born painter and mixed-media artist, resided and worked in the United States. Her artistic endeavours revolved around depicting the African diaspora through allegorical paintings.
Madden’s primary focus was to acknowledge the nobility, honour, and respect within individuals often marginalized by society. Although her subjects might appear affluent and influential, the artist intended to convey an inherent power emanating from within.
Drawing inspiration from her recollections of the people in her homeland, Jamaica, Madden portrayed them adorned in opulent fabrics such as raw silks and vibrant satins, reminiscent of regal attire.
Birds played a recurring role in Madden’s artwork, serving as a personal symbol of her liberation from illness.
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