A while back, a cartoon called “Princess King” was hugely popular on Facebook for several days before getting lost. If you don’t recall it, or have never heard of it, here it is:
My wife and I found this cartoon amusing, as we have at least one niece that we could see doing this. While we were laughing, my son wanted to know what was so funny. Shrugging, we showed him the cartoon and read him the dialogue. He thought about that for a moment and then said “Girls can’t be kings!”
“Girls can be anything they want,” my wife told him. “Just like boys.”
“No,” my son insisted. “They can’t!”
Sigh. Gender politics at the age of five. Although, being honest, most of this is probably just him being contrary. He’d insist the sky was green and up was down, some days. If he was in the right mood and we were contradicting him.
What is a King? A Queen?
Dictionary.com has 13 different definitions for the word king, but here’s the only one relevant to this topic: “a male sovereign or monarch; a man who holds by life tenure, and usually by hereditary right, the chief authority over a country and people”. Queen, by contrast, has “only” eleven different definitions. Two of them are relevant to this discussion:
- a female sovereign or monarch.
- the wife or consort of a king.
So, it would appear that – by definition – my son was right. A woman who “holds by life tenure, and usually by hereditary right, the chief authority over a country and people” is a Queen Regnant, while “the wife or consort of a king” is a Queen Consort. So, there we are. Right?
Were there any female Kings?
See, dictionary definitions are fine and all, but they rarely hold the force of law. Kings, however, frequently hold the force of law. And there have been a number of historical women who – although by the d would be “Queens Regent” – have borne the title “King”. And I suspect that most of them would have executed you for contradicting them.
Here are a few of them.
- Sobekneferu (or Merytre Satsekhem-nebettawy Djedetkha Sobekkare Sobeknefru, if you want the full regnal name): The last ruler of the Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty, and the first woman that archaeologists can conclusively prove reigned as Pharaoh. And yes, I’m aware that technically her title was “Pharaoh” and not “King”, but that is unworthy semantic hairsplitting.
- Jadwiga: Crowned King of Poland on October 16, 1384, and reigned as such until her death in 1399. She shared the title with her husband Władysław-Jogaila beginning on March 4, 1386 (14 days after they married), but she was never retitled Queen of Poland.
- Christina of Sweden: The only surviving legitimate heir of King Gustave II Adolph of Sweden. She was crowned King in 1633 (at the age of 6), and educated and trained in the exact same fashion she would have received had she been born “Christopher” of Sweden. She is commonly referred to as Queen Christina, but the title conferred upon her by the Riksdag at her coronation was “King”.
- King Peggy (more formally King Amuah-Afenyi VI): A naturalized citizen of the United States, Peggielene Bartels became King of Tantum in Ghana after the death of her uncle in 2008. You can visit her web site here.
The Princess King Herself
Finally, it seems only fair to acknowledge the woman who inspired this entire article. The “Princess King” comic is the work of a woman named Pascalle Lepas, who also writes and draws a webcomic called Wilde Life. If you liked that comic, let her know – because someone decided to publish that comic without attribution, and she got next to none of the benefits of seeing her hard work go viral.