Friday, January 30, 2009

Question from Liz - "Kingdom" vs. "Queendom"

THis may be a dumb question, but when Elizabeth I was ruling, wouldn't the "kingdom" be known as a "queendom"? After all, the realm was being ruled by a queen, not a king.


kb said...

This is a good question

However, Elizabeth, while female, held the position of absolute authority. The word king also means the 'top dog', the preeminent person. So even though Elizabeth was female, she was 'king'.

Also, it would have been hard to change the entire country's language habits.

I know this might seem a bit confusing but it's a very short way of pointing out that our language is very gendered while at the same time avoiding a lengthy discussion of queenship, Fouccault, de-constructuralism and post-feminist theory. :)

If you care about these types of things, allow me to point out the the United States is technically not a democracy but a republic.

Anonymous said...

yes If a man was ruling the country it would be a kingship and it would be a kingdom of rule.If it were a queen it would be a queenship which means it would be her queendom.
K.B If a queen was ruling tell me why she would be addressed as king also Because I have never heard of that one before.The only reason I can think of is because at the time it was considered unfit for a woman to rule and only fit for a man so if a daughter of a male or female monarch was ever crowned she would still be regarded as king due to the times.

Anonymous said...

lol thats actually a very good point!

Elizabeth M. said...

Does it also have something to do with religion? Monarchs were then considered God's anointed. There is the description of the Kingdom of God. So if monarchs were the anointed rulers of God's domains on Earth, was it not an extension of the Kingdom of God?

Anonymous said...

I agree with KB that the issue is largely one of language habits. For almost a thousand years prior to the late Tudor period, England had been ruled by male monarchs (with only one questionable exception). Therefore the English language developed in such a way that "king" came to be associated with the ruler himself, while "queen" came to be associated with the wife of a ruler, not with an actual ruler. Making the mental shift to using "queen" to describe an anointed sole femme ruler rather than a wife must have been a difficult transition for the English of the 1500s.

KB did not say that Elizabeth would be addressed or styled as "King." She said only that Elizabeth was, in essence, a king (lower-case "k") in that she was the ruler of the realm. And Elizabeth did famously refer to herself as "a king" (not "The King") on numerous occasions.

It is worth noting that the gender-specific (and gender-biased) term "Kingdom" was also used in other European realms even when that realm was ruled by a woman. Spain remained "El Reino de Espana" even under female monarchs, though there has been only one queen regnant in Spain since that kindgom's consolidation in 1516 : Isabella II, 1833-1868. But the multiple small kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula that later unified as the single Kingdom of Spain were each also described as "Reinos" even under a female monarch (e.g., El Reino de Aragon, El Reino de Castile, El Reino de Leon, etc.).

Gender bias is a powerful shaper of language.

Just for fun, and as one last example, the present Queen of the United Kingdom also bears the lesser title Duke of Lancaster. Yes, "Duke," not "Duchess." The original creation of the title in 1351 limited it to "heirs male," so a verbal fiction is maintained by addressing a female possessor of the estates as "Duke."

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by the point raised by this question so I did a quick bit of "looking up". In an old dictionary (dating from the beginning of the last century) a kingdom is described as a "monarchical state" - ie a realm or country ruled by a monarch; and a "monarch" is described as a "sovereign with title of king, queen, emperor, empress or similar". So it seems that there is perhaps some confusion arising here. As I understand it, if you were addressing the monarch you would generally use the term "your majesty" or similar, not "King Henry" or "Queen Elizabeth" those terms would surely only be used by a third person in discussion about the monarch. So whether the monarch was male or female did not affect the use of the term "kingdom" to denote the territory ruled, nor their status as the "monarch".
Queen Elizabeth was heir by birth, and as such was considered to be the rightful heir and monarch; she was female, and therefore was a queen, not a king. The "kingdom" was merely another way of referring to the land she ruled over.
Personally, I have no problem with this - possibly because I am British and have grown up with the vagaries of the English language!

kb said...

Tudor Rose -
Elizabeth, Mary and Jane were never, to my knowledge addressed to their face as King Elizabeth, King Mary or King Jane. This was not what I meant to imply.

Phd Historian kindly filled in the blanks I left open in my original post.

I meant that it's hard to change an entire country's language habits. Phd Historian's example of the current queen being known as the Duke of Lancaster illustrates this point. However, in this particular instance the original rule of the title of the Duke of Lancaster required that only men hold the title. So we've just sort of ignored the rule in the face of reality.

The concept of king - lower case - refers to the person at the top. Elizabeth famously referred to herself in the Tilbury speech as 'I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman but I have the heart and stomach of a king'. In this case 'heart and stomach' refers to courage, guts, fortitude, leadership skills, etc. - all those qualities you hope your supreme leader exhibits. Not for example Henry VII's actual stomach thank goodness. Elizabeth was the monarch, she knew, everyone else knew it, even those who thought she shouldn't be like Mary Queen of Scots.

Some language is fluid, some language is not. All language reflects images of our past and who we think we are, where we've come from or where we wish we had come from. We mostly just don't notice the historical and emotional baggage of the language we use every day. (This is the Foucault, de-constructuralism, post-feminist theory bit)

How many times do you use the word kleenex for tissue? Or ...

Imagine how flummoxed everyone would have been if England during Elizabeth's reign started calling itself a queendom and then Elizabeth married and there was a king. After all, the entire country thought she would marry someone who would then be a king-consort. This expectation lasted through the first 20 years or so of her reign. Then poor James shows up and it''s suddenly a kingdom again. Imagine the headaches of trying to get everyone to change their frame of reference back to kingdom.

Foose said...

While Mary and Elizabeth were never addressed or referred to as "king," Elizabeth seems to have frequently referred to herself, and been referred to by others, as a "prince." "Prince" had an alternate meaning in the 16th century; not just the king's son, but the recognized ruler of a principality, no matter what the title (king, duke, elector, etc. - hence Machiavelli's best-seller, "The Prince" and also the Reformers' emphasis on authority of the temporal "prince," rather than the Chuch, as the arbiter of religion for his subjects.) It did, however, have a distinctly gendered origin so it's interesting that the English could apply it to Elizabeth apparently without issues. Unless this is a deliberate annexation and imposition of the word "Prince" by Elizabeth to offset the disadvantage of her sex and assert her identification with the Reformers.

I can't find any examples of Mary doing the same thing. Maybe someone knows more about the use of this word by the Elizabethans? It doesn't affect the query about kingdom or queendom, but it's interesting that Elizabeth knew she could be a "prince" but not a "king."

Foose said...

Actually, I did find reference to Mary using the word "prince" to describe herself, in her speech to the Londoners during Wyatt's rebellion: "I say to you, on the word of a prince, I cannot tell how naturally the mother loveth the child, for I was never the mother of any, but certainly if a prince and governor may as naturally and earnestly love her subjects," etc.

Possibly Mary, as in many areas now being explored by her biographers, was a trailblazer in the use of "prince" that Elizabeth later adopted. Also note the word "governor" -- I think Elizabeth became "governor" of the English church, not "Supreme Head," because that title was all the extremists could tolerate for a woman.

Anonymous said...

How about "principality"? Did that mean ruled by a prince? Or could it be a princess?

Foose said...

On the Continent, the title "prince" usually seems to be a hereditary title originally bestowed by the Emperor. It can also be a hereditary title bestowed by the Pope. In both cases, I believe only male succession is recognized.

In France, it's a little different. There are princes owing fealty to the Emperor but whose principalities are in France; the Prince of Orange is a prime example. There are also French principalities that were originally created "without overlord," so French nobleman can carry the title of "prince" (Prince de Conde, for example) but in fact it seems to have meant no more than "lord," although everyone wanted to have the title of Prince. Again, only male succession is recognized.

In the England of Henry's time, the only principality that I'm aware of is Wales (until 1536, when it was incorporated into the Crown). Wales was originally ruled by a Welsh prince, and the title was first used by Edward I to bestow on his heir. Since then, the English monarch's eldest son is known as the Prince of Wales (often, even before the title is actually formally bestowed).

There was a thread a couple of weeks ago on whether Henry's daughter Mary was "Princess" of Wales. It seems that strictly speaking the title could only be held by a male heir. However, because Mary was Henry's only child for a long time, because she was sent to Wales as his formal representative with a council, people started speaking of her as the "Princess" of Wales. When she was displaced as Henry's heir by Elizabeth, the usual assumption is that Elizabeth became "Princess" of Wales but in fact she only became Henry's legal heir by Act of Parliament. The title was not included.

Bright Yafesi said...

Kingdom or Queendom would mean a nation's name would change each time a leader of different gender rose to power. So a gender neutral term is a good option.