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Title: Queen-Empress  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Empress dowager, Coronation Park, Delhi, Duke George Augustus of Mecklenburg
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A king-emperor, the female equivalent being queen-empress, is a sovereign ruler who is simultaneously a king of one territory and emperor of another. This title usually results from a merger of a royal and imperial crown (as in Austria-Hungary), but recognises that the two territories are different politically or culturally and in status (emperor being a higher rank than king). It also denotes a king's imperial status through the acquisition of an empire or vice versa.

The dual title signifies a sovereign's dual role, but may also be created to improve a ruler's prestige. Both cases, however, show that the merging of rule was not simply a case of annexation where one state is swallowed by another, but rather of unification and almost equal status, though in the case of the British monarchy the suggestion that an emperor is higher in rank than a king was avoided by creating the title "king-emperor" ("queen-empress") instead of "emperor-king" ("empress-queen").

In the British Empire

Following the Proclamation of Empire in 1877, when the British Crown took over from the East India Company the administration of British India, Queen Victoria was considered to have gained Imperial status and assumed the title Empress of India. She was thus the Queen-Empress, and her successors, until George VI, were known as King-Emperors. This title was the shortened form of the full title, and in widespread popular use.

The reigning King-Emperors or Queen-Empress used the initials R I (Rex Imperator or Regina Imperatrix) or the abbreviation Ind. Imp. (Indiae Imperator/Imperatrix) after their name (while the one reigning Queen-Empress, Victoria, used the initials R I, the three consorts of the married King-Emperors simply used R).

British coins, and those of the British Empire and Commonwealth dominions routinely included some variation of the titles Rex Ind. Imp., although in India itself the coins said "Empress", and later "King Emperor." When in 1947 India became independent all dies had to be changed to remove the latter two abbreviations, in some cases taking up to a year. In Great Britain coins of George VI carried the title up to 1948.

In Austria-Hungary

Another use of this dual title was when in 1867 the multi-national but Austrian-German-ruled Austrian Empire, facing growing nationalism, saw a reform that gave nominal and factual rights to Hungarian nobility culminating in the revival of the Austrian-annexed Kingdom of Hungary and therefore creating both the dual-monarchic union state of Austria-Hungary and the dual title of emperor-king (in German Kaiser und König).

Therefore the Habsburg dynasty ruled as Emperors of Austria over the western and northern half of the country and as Kings of Hungary over the Kingdom of Hungary which enjoyed some degree of self-government and representation in joint affairs (principally foreign relations and defence). The federation bore the full name of "The Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen".

In Fascist Italy

In 1936, with the Italian conquest of Ethiopia, Benito Mussolini proclaimed Victor Emmanuel III to be a King-Emperor, i.e., King of Italy and Emperor of Ethiopia. This was evidently modeled on the above-mentioned British monarchs' relation to India.

However, the Italian King's claim over the Ethiopian throne - and Italy's rule over Ethiopia in general - were disputed in the International Community, and came to an end five years later with the British conquest of Italian East Africa during World War II.

Other titles

  • The Holy Roman Emperors were also Kings of Italy, Germany and Burgundy for most of the time that title existed. They were also Kings of France, Spain, Rome, Sicily, Naples, Bohemia and Jerusalem at other times.
  • John VI of Portugal was made titular Emperor of Brazil alongside being King of Portugal and was titled as King-Emperor until his death. After John IV's death, his son Pedro briefly acceded him as King of Portugal while reigning as Emperor of Brazil.

See also

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