Throughout history, many people deserve to be known for the power which scintillates. Of course, most of them are kings – simply because we have much more information about them. Unfortunately, we forget about the other side of the coin, or we just underestimate it. Everyone knows the quote that there is a strong woman behind every successful man. Well, in some cases, it is just a woman. So we at the Dope Lists have compiled ten of the most famous female rulers in history.
Is there anyone who has not heard of the iconic Egyptian Queen and her love story with Julius Caesar? Probably not. Cleopatra VII Philopator ruled ancient Egypt for almost three decades. She was an heir of the Ptolemy dynasty and the last ruler of Egypt. She was very clever and well-educated. Cleopatra could speak seven languages fluently and preferred to meet with ambassadors without the help of an interpreter.
In the battle between brothers and sisters for the Egyptian throne, Cleopatra received help from Caesar. At this time, their romantic relationship began. Shortly after that, Cleopatra gave birth to a son – Ptolemy Caesar, and started to identify herself as the goddess Isis, reinforcing her position as a queen.
After Caesar’s death, she relied on Marc Antony in the enmity with the new roman ruler – Octavian August. In the battle of Actium, Octavian’s forces defeated the combined ones of Antony and Cleopatra.
Then Cleopatra closed herself in her chamber and committed suicide. The most popular theory is that she used a poisonous snake known as an asp. This act symbolized divine royalty, and she formally defeated Octavian because he could not present her as a military trophy. She is considered the first celebrity in history.
Elizabeth I was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor, called the Virgin Queen. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife – Anne Boleyn. After the execution of her mother, Elizabeth was declared illegitimate and deprived of her place in the royal inheritance.
Elizabeth’s half-brother became king at age nine, but he had health problems, and soon Henry VIII’s son was dead. The throne was inherited by Elizabeth’s elder half-sister – Mary Tudor. But the fortune had other plans. Who would believe that the daughter of the beheaded Anne Boleyn would ascend the throne? Elizabeth became Queen at the age of 25.
During her reign, one of the most discussed questions was about her potential marriage. She decided not to risk possible loss of power or provoke political instability by choosing a king-consort candidate and never married.
She ruled England for 45 years. Contrary to expectations, her kingship was very successful, and because of that, the period was called The Golden Age and The Elizabethan Era. The most popular maxim was ‘video et taceo’ (I see and I keep silent).
Isabella of Castile
Isabella was not expected to succeed to the throne until the death of her younger brother Alfonso. But after that, she was given the title Princess of Asturias and became her half-brother’s heir.
The question of Isabella’s marriage was never off the table. King Henry offered her several times, but she refused all of them. The reason was that she did not want to move away from Castile. Then an old opportunity came out, and Isabella did not miss the chance. She married her second cousin Ferdinand of Aragon in secret.
Soon after that, her elder brother died, and she became Queen of Castile. Thanks to her conducive marriage with Ferdinand, this was the beginning of the unification of Spain. He was king-consort in Castile, and Isabella ruled on her own so as he in Aragon.
The spouses are known for completing the Reconquista and the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain. They supported Christopher Columbus’ voyage, and the discovery of the New World was carried out under the Spanish flag. That turned Spain into a significant power not only in Europe but all over the world.
Isabella and Ferdinand were granted the title ‘The Catholic Monarchs’ for their contribution to the spread of Christianity.
Queen Victoria is one of the most famous female leaders in history. Like Isabella of Castile and Elizabeth I, she was not expected to be the head of England. But after her father’s three elder brothers died without having legitimate heirs, Victoria became the first one in the royal succession, and at the age of 18, she was already Queen.
The first thing she did was end the control of her mother and her lover to reign by herself. Then married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He received the title of Prince-consort, which guaranteed Victoria’s power.
They had nine children who became part of royal and noble families across the continent. That earned Victoria’s nickname – the grandmother of Europe. The Queen was so famous that she turned into a national icon, identified with strict standards of personal morality.
She was the last monarch of the House of Hanover, and her reign was longer than that of any of her predecessors. The period of her majesty was called the Victorian era because of the industrial, political, scientific, and military changes. Because of the great expansion of the British Empire, Queen Victoria received a new title – Empress of India.
Catherine the Great
Unlike the other women in this article, Catherine was not even a descendant of the Romanov dynasty. She was born in the Kingdom of Prussia as Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste.
Sophie arrived in Russia to marry the heir to the throne – Peter. It cost her a lot of effort to integrate into the Russian court, but she was determined to do whatever was necessary to be qualified to wear the crown. She even converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and changed her name to Catherine.
Soon after Peter succeeded to the throne, the aristocracy, the clergy, and the army turned against him. Catherine suspected that he was preparing to divorce her and plotted to remove him. She forced Peter to abdicate and proclaimed herself Empress.
Catherine’s rulership is considered a Golden Age of Russia. She reformed the administration of Russian guberniyas. A large number of new cities and towns were founded. Under her reign, Russia grew more prominent, and the process of westernization continued. But the most important achievement was recognizing Russia as one of the great powers.
Hatshepsut was the first female pharaoh. She wore clothes for men and a pharaoh’s beard. She is considered one of the most successful pharaohs. Her leadership was longer than that of any of her female predecessors of the Egyptian dynasty.
She was the daughter, sister, and wife of a pharaoh. According to the documents, Hatshepsut ruled together with her husband’s son –the two-year-old Thutmose III, who had inherited the throne from his father the previous year. Nonetheless, Hatshepsut was the dominant ruler.
The period of Hatshepsut’s reign was a peaceful one. The reason is that her foreign policy was based on trade rather than war. Because of her religion, she established herself as God’s Wife of Amun. She also undertook an extensive building program.
Hatshepsut is known as the first great woman in history for whom we have information.
Suiko was a consort to Emperor Bidatsu. After the death of his first wife, Suiko became his official consort and received a special title appropriate to her new position.
But after her husband’s death, Japan had to deal with the question of heritage. They decided that Suiko would accede to the throne in the role of Empress regent. Although the reason for choosing Suiko was to avoid a power struggle, she was the first woman to be proclaimed Empress in Japanese history.
She had significant political skills – proof of this is her accession to the throne and the fact that she managed to keep it.
Suiko represented a significant break from tradition. During her reign, the Constitution of Japan was accepted as well as the Chinese calendar. Buddhism was established, and they replaced the old system of purely hereditary ranks and awards. Empress Suiko’s most outstanding achievement was the recognition of the emperor’s full authority.
Maria Theresa is the firstborn surviving child of Carl VI. They eagerly awaited her birth because the Habsburg dynasty had been in a bad position for years. The emperor changed the law according to which women could not occupy the throne. So Maria Theresa became her father’s heir.
They raised the question of Maria Theresa’s marriage early in her childhood to be chosen as the most suitable candidate for the future Empress. She married Francis Stephen – the heir of the Holy Roman Empire.
Maria initially ruled with her husband, but after his death, their eldest son took his position. The reign of Maria was a time of enlightened absolutism. She imposed educational and financial reforms, developed trade, reorganized Austria, and limited the church’s influence. Maria Theresa abolished serfdom and the Inquisition and introduced a new currency – the guilder. These reforms led to the modernization of Austria.
She was the only woman to head the Austrian Empire. And for the first time, skills and merits have become a more critical factor than the origin and kinship for promotion in the hierarchy.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor was the heir of the House of Poitiers. She received the county of Poitiers and the Duchy of Aquitaine – the territory of today southwestern France. Besides, Eleanor had the best possible education and well-developed skills that would help her future role.
Because of her inheritance, she was the coveted wife of many kings. The reason was that the kingdom Eleanor chooses gets her lands. Her first marriage was to the French Dauphin – the future King Louis VII. Even though they had two daughters, their marriage failed, and the Pope dissolved it.
Only a few months later, Eleanor married again. This time to the Duke of Normandy. Soon Henry became king of England. Who would have believed that Eleanor would be crowned twice in enemy kingdoms – once as Queen of France and then of England?!
Along with her first husband, she went on the Second Crusade. Years later, she ruled England as regent instead of her son Richard the Lionheart, who went on the Third Crusade. Undoubtedly, during the High Middle Ages, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of Western Europe’s wealthiest and most powerful women.
Theodora – Empress of Byzantine
As opposed to the other women in the rankings, Theodora was not even of noble origin. In her early years, Theodora worked as an actress. But in Byzantine society, they believed that working as an actress meant being a prostitute.
She met Justinian in Alexandria. He fell in love with her, and soon Theodora became his mistress. Justinian wanted to marry her, but the law did not allow men of his rank to be engaged to actresses. Well, that obviously did not stop him. He changed the law, and Theodora became his legal wife.
She had significant influence in the management of the Empire, and many people considered her a co-emperor. Perhaps this was because she took part in all political strategies, and Justinian called her his ‘partner in my deliberations.’ The spouses were canonized as saints by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Theodora introduced many reforms that were ahead of their time. She created laws that allowed women to own and inherit property and have the right to want a divorce. Her proclamation as Empress is a typical example of rising from the mud to the top of power.
History shows us that women have had a much more significant influence on the development of countries than we think. These ten remarkable women are a small example of this. So we just have to scrutinize the sea of information to find a treasure.
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