Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have
Princesses are pretty popular, but what about the grown-up version, the queen? It turns out history has given us our fair share of amazing women who took their place on a throne. Check out these amazing queens.
1. Wu Zetian was the only female emperor in all of Chinese history, which isn’t surprising since she used every tool at her disposal to rise to power during the Tang Dynasty. She became a concubine of the emperor and accused the empress of killing her own baby daughter, convincing the emperor to marry her instead. When the emperor died she quickly consolidated her power and took over as ruler, despite a strong prejudice against women as rulers. She was even considered one of the best emperors of the time, fair and benign. She lowered taxes, improved agriculture and established Buddhism as the official religion.
2. When Elizabeth Woodville’s first husband was killed by King Edward IV, Elizabeth decided that the best course of action was to seduce the king and win his hand in marriage. Despite the fact that she was a commoner and the marriage as a scandal, she convinced him to wed her and gave birth to a number of children. After her second husband’s death she even briefly took power as the Queen Dowager while her young son became king.
3. While most queens had to fight to gain power, Tamar of Georgia was handed the throne at an early age. When she was just 18 her father declared her his successor. That didn’t stop her from being a terrifying and amazing woman though. Her father died about 6 years after, and the response from the nobles and church was overwhelmingly negative. They tried to depose her, but Tamar quickly raised an army and jailed anyone who opposed her. After she consolidated her power the church started to push for her to get married, which she did, but soon after realized that her husband was a drunkard. She stripped him of power and kicked him to the curb. He tried to rebel, but she put him down and instead married her general. The next ten years saw her army completely undefeated.
4. During the Roman Empire, Palmyra was a kingdom in modern Syria. Zenobia was the queen, but after her husband died she took over and expanded the kingdom into Egypt, taking it over for a good part of her reign. The Romans were not happy with the development, but Zenobia repelled them until she was finally defeated in Anatolia, impressive for a small country against the great Roman Empire.
5. In the north of India, there’s a region called Jhansi. In the 19th century, Queen Lakshmibai took power there after her husband died when the British attempted to depose her. She wasn’t about to go quietly though. Her people were angry and rebelling and she took up the cause to lead them, taking on a central role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
6. Queen Boudica was part of the Iceni tribe, living in an area of England that the Roman Empire wanted control over. Her husband died and willed his land to her, but the Romans ignored the will. Boudica raised an army and cut a swatch through England, including destroying London. She killed over 70,000 Roman soldiers before finally being defeated.
7. Ancient Egypt boasts a number of powerful women, but chief among them was Hatshepsut, the 5th pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. She married her half-brother and they co-ruled until he died soon after. She was an amazingly successful monarch, creating trade, leading expeditions, and successfully fighting in Nubia, the Levant, and Syria.
8. In the early Middle Ages, the Byzantine Empire was one of the big players, which is why Empress Theodora was one of the most powerful women. Together with her husband Justinian I, she put down a revolt, built up Constantinople to be one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, and promoted women’s rights. The famous Hagia Sophia was built thanks to Theodora, and she banned forced prostitution and killing women accused of adultery. She’s even considered a saint in the East Orthodox Church.
9. We’ve already mentioned Wu Zetian, but following her in “most impressive Chinese women” was Cixi, the consort of Emperor Xianfeng. She took control as regent for her son and successfully kept power despite everything from the Taiping Rebellion to the Second Opium War. As a conservative leader, she limited the influence of the West and when her nephew attempted to learn from the West she put him under house arrest.