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What is a Queen Regnant?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2016
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A Queen Regnant is a queen who rules as monarch by birthright; the male counterpart of a Queen Regnant would be a King Regnant. The role of a Queen Regnant varies, depending on the type of government she presides over. Some Queens Regnant are simply figureheads for their nations with minimal political power, for example, while others rule as active monarchs, taking a role in the government of their nations.

When someone marries a Queen Regnant, he becomes known as a King Consort or Prince Consort. By convention, the title of King Consort is actually fairly rare, with most husbands of Queens Regnant being given the title of Prince. The partner of a Queen Regnant typically has no political power, although he may contribute advice and ideas to his wife as she runs the nation.

Some notable examples of Queens Regnant include: Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Liliuokalani, Isabella II of Spain, Maria Theresa of Austria, and Margartha II of Denmark. Many of these women were noted leaders, well known for their social and political reforms as well as the important role they played in their national histories. Some people find stories about Queens Regnant to be inspiring, showing that women have a long history of capable and talented rule.

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The rules about succession to the throne can get complicated in many nations. Historically, many countries followed a system of primogeniture which gave preference to men. This meant that the first born male of the family would be the King unless he died, in which case the position would go to the next male in the line, and so forth, until all the male heirs had been exhausted., at which point a woman would be allowed to inherit the throne. A Queen Regnant would often be known as the “presumptive heir” in these cases, as a reminder that she could be supplanted by a male in the family line.

Some nations explicitly forbid ascension to the throne by a woman, which has been an issue historically in some cases, when the obvious heir to the throne would have been a woman. Many more have adjusted their rules about accession, granting the throne through a system of primogeniture which ignores gender. Ideally, the next King or Queen of a nation is the oldest son or daughter of the current ruler, although this is not always possible.

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