The Most Powerful Female Rulers in History
The Most Powerful Female Rulers in History

The Most Powerful Female Rulers in History

Aimee Heidelberg - February 3, 2023

The Most Powerful Female Rulers in History
Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, Public Domain

Regent Sethu Lakshmi Bayi (reigned 1924 – 1931)

Sethu Lakshmi Bayi was a champion of women’s rights in the Kingdom of Travancore in southern India. She declared the Devadasi system illegal, and encouraged women to get an education. To put her words into action, she invited women who went to college to the palace for tea. The Women’s College in Trivandum offered classes in “history, natural science, languages, and mathematics” on her order. Women were able to study law for the first time under her watch. She prohibited animal sacrifice, opened public roads to all, regardless of caste (with some exceptions). Additionally, railways and telephone service became publicly accessible. While some of her reforms were controversial, like the Newspaper Regulation Act that limited press rights, she was a progressive advocate for her region’s advancement.

The Most Powerful Female Rulers in History
Queen Elizabeth II, 1953.

Queen Elizabeth II (reigned 1952 – 2022)

The longest reigning monarch in British history, Queen Elizabeth oversaw Britain’s constitutional monarchy upon her coronation at age 25. Given the limits of royal power in this system, Queen Elizabeth served as a figurehead and diplomat for Great Britain. She dedicated her life to public service and representing Great Britain with diplomacy, grace, and humor. She served the country through its post- WWII recovery, a killer smog in 1952, and the election of 15 Prime Ministers. Elizabeth managed scandals within her family, even her own children and grandchildren, while keeping her focus on serving the public. Until her recent death, the Queen and her family stimulated its economy and tourism industry, and serve as patrons to around 3,000 charities (Elizabeth held 600 patronages alone).

The Most Powerful Female Rulers in History
Queen Margarethe of Denmark, 1966.

Queen Margarethe of Denmark (reign 1972 – present)

Like Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Margarethe rules under a constitutional monarchy and serves as a public figurehead. She serves as the ceremonial head of state and diplomat. She is kept informed of State matters through her meetings with the Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs ministers, but is not involved in public administration or creating law, and does not affiliate herself with a political party. Her main power is to formally form a government after an election, and as head of Government, oversees the Council of State, and is head of the Church of Denmark. Queen Margarethe famously loves art and culture. In the 1970s, she painted scenes from Lord of the Rings and sent them to J.R. Tolkien. He had them included in the Danish editions of the book.

Where did we find this stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

Anne (r. 1702-1714). (n.d./ n/a)

Christina of Sweden, b. 1626 – d. 1689)., 3 July 2000, Karen Woods.

Denmark’s Queen Margarethe II celebrates 50 years on the throne., 12 November 2022.

Devadasis are a cursed community. The Guardian. 21 January 2011. Nash Colundalur.

Empress Suiko – Japan’s first reigning empress. 26 April 2018. Lauralee Jacks.

Japan’s Female Emperors., 1 May 2019.

Lady Six Sky and the Definition of Ritual Space at Naranjo. Vernderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, 1(1) 2005, James Doyle.

Life and Times of Isabella of Castille. Penn State digital archives, Loraine Pearce Bucklin.

The Queen who would be King. Smithsonian magazine, 2006. Elizabeth B. Wilson.

Queen Amina, “woman as capable as a man”. BBC News Africa, 2018.

Razia Sultan: The first and last woman ruler of Delhi Sultanate., 17 March 2017.

Ruling for 54 years, this little-known ‘Pepper Queen’ once defeated mighty Portugal., Angarika Gogoi.

Seven most power African queens in history you need to know. September 2019. Aderemi Okejunle.

The story of Catherine the Great., 15 May 2020. Meilan Solly.

The ten most powerful queens in history, from Catherine the Great to Queen Victoria., 30 May 2020. Paula Froelich.

Theodora: The empress from the brothel., 10 June 2010. Stella Duffy.

The true story of Semiramis, legendary Queen of Babylon., 11 September 2017, Marcos Such Gutierrez.

The untold story of the great Nubian Queen Shanakdakhete who ruled without a king., 4 May 2021.

What is the role of our Queen? Royal Collection Trust.

Who was Boudica?, 7 March 2019. Sarah Pruitt.

Women Leaders in African History: Ana Nzinga, Queen of Ndongo., October 2003, Alexander Ives Bortolot.

Yaa Asantewaa and the fight for the Golden Stool., 11 July 2018.