We'll Never be Royals

For all you ladies looking for liberation today on International Women's Day, 
look no further.

(From left to right): Empress Dowager Cixi, Queen Elisabeth 'Sisi' of Austria
Artwork by WRITTEN CITIZEN Editor-in-Chief Zoe G.
From the birth of the Roman Republic to the end of the French monarchy, female royals have always been subject to distinct, but very limited, personas: the femme fatale—seductive, dominative, dangerous—or the inept ingénue—useless, submissive, naïve. The siren has always been condemned for her audacity, as well as accused for being a renegade, and the curious, but credulous, callow fawn has always been demeaned for simply being an unworldly woman. Either way, they were never to be trusted.
   When a man's lust for power surpassed his common sense, he, along with other men, fought it out on the battlefield. But what of women, who were forbidden to carry out such exploits of a mongrel? How were they to gain power? What was their battlefield? (Now, this is when a Philippa Gregory novel would answer all of our queries—about English women, at least—and unveil the [moderately doctored] truth of what a noblewoman had to do in order to attain power that would match or elevate her status.)
   The court was a woman's battlefield. Exterior appearances—perception and deception—intertwined with lies, were their weapons of choice. And, in most cases, a woman would have to sleep her way to the top. Of course, there were women, such as Elisabeth of Austria, who just longed to be women—not royal assets. So when these women would fight back, simply wanting more freedom, they were seen as disobedient and foolish. Their fights for women's liberty, though very particular, were seen as harebrained acts of disloyalty; when in fact, they were acts of justice and freedom executed by unintentional feminists.
   But, really, who remembers these royals for their forward-thinking? Who remembers these women for their achievements and progress, no matter the size, in an oppressive patriarchy, without their efforts being tarnished by misogynist and sexist criticism? Who remembers these rulers as women, and not just vain or vacuous?
   It's been generally accepted that feminism only became prevalent and important during its First-wave. This is a complete fallacy, because the feminist flame has been burning brightly since the time of Cleopatra.
   All in all, women's liberation is extant, immortal, and every other synonym for alive and perpetual. Many royal women are, in fact, due credit for keeping the feminist movement vital over the centuries. So today, on International Women's Day, we honor these royal women.

Christina, Queen of Sweden

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"Who was she?" Christina was a queen, grand princess, and duchess of several different regions in the Scandinavia area. Her father died when she was young, so at six years-old, she became the Queen of Sweden, titled as 'the Girl King'. She had "an insurmountable distaste for marriage" and "an insurmountable distaste for all the things that females talked about and did" (me #af). She slept for less than five hours a night, forgot to comb her hair, dressed herself in a hurry, wore men's shoes for the sake of their convenience, and was primarily occupied with her studies (#itme). Nonetheless, she was said to be charming, and the unruly hair became her trademark. Christina was moody and intelligent (#same), and many were taken aback by her carefree interaction and unguarded conversation with men.
   She decided not to marry, and rebelled against many other set rules, such as choosing which religion she wanted to practice. After converting from Lutheranism to Catholicism, she abdicated her throne and moved to Rome, where she was an advocate for the arts. While many people, the religious in particular, were against women performing in theater, Christina thought it was total nonsense and let the women perform at her home. She was highly respected all over Europe, and was one of the only women buried in the Vatican grotto. #goals

Amina, Hausa Muslim Warrior Queen of Zazzau (Zaria, Nigeria)

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With a badass title like Amina's, you can only imagine what kind of prosperity entailed in Zazzau under this wonder woman's rule. It's claimed to be that she was the first to establish government among her people. 
   She was born a fighter, and wanted to follow in the footsteps of other remarkable women, such as Elizabeth I. Even though Amina was unmarried, legend has it she was said to take a lover from the conquered people after each battle, and kill him the next morning [after their night together]. Girls rule, boys drool.

Empress Teimei of Japan

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Empress Teimei was the mother of Emperor Showa, the emperor of Japan during WWII. Teimei's husband, Emperor Taisho, had a weak physical and mental condition, so she strongly influenced imperial life. Also, she was an active patroness of the Japanese Red Cross Society. Teimei was one hell of a lady, because her husband broke thousands of years of imperial traditions by not taking in any concubines. They had a strong relationship that birthed four sons. She objected Japan's involvement in WWII when her son was emperor, much to his dismay. Well, the woman is always right.

Catherine II, Empress and Autocrat of Russia (Catherine the Great)

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Well, there's a reason why 'Great' proceeds her name. Catherine was the most illustrious, and the longest-reigning female of Russia. Her period of rule, the Catherinian Era, is often known as the Golden Age of Russia, as Catherine was a great admirer of Peter the Great and tried to continue the work he started.
   A native Prussian (German), Catherine came to full rule at the end of the Seven Years' War, after a coup d'état and the assassination of her husband, Peter III (#mankiller). Under her rule, Russia flourished and came to be one of Europe's greatest powers. The empire expanded, including victories over the Ottoman Empire, and the colonization of Alaska. Many towns, cities, hospitals, and museums were founded under her name. Of these institutions, the most renowned one was the Smolny Institute—Russia's first state-financed institute with higher education for women in Europe.
   Catherine fervently believed in equality for all of her people, and she believed in them. She is one of my role models, so what can I say? She didn't take shit from no one.

Empress Dowager Cixi, Regent of the Qing Dynasty (China)

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Cixi was a woman of charisma and power, as well as an imperial concubine, frequently referred to as the 'She dragon'. She cogently controlled the Chinese government from the death of the Xiangfeng Emperor to her own death. Her son succeeded [his father] the Emperor, becoming the Tonghzi Emperor. After dismissing his regents, she became the de facto ruler by assuming regency. Soon after though, her son died, and contrary to the system of dynastic succession at the time, Cixi placed her nephew on the throne and ultimately ruled through him.
   While she was anti-foreign and refused to adopt many Western models of government, she supported technological, institutional and military reforms, and was also very open-minded. Cixi was also widely known as a patriotic spearhead for modernizing a medieval China. In spite of living in an oppressive, misogynist society, Cixi fought strongly for women's rights and liberty. While she was a villain in many's eyes, she remains a wise figure in others.

Cleopatra VII Philopator, Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt

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Cleopatra may just be the most famous female royal throughout the course of time. Many shamed the Ptolemaic descendent as a man-eater and whore for never officially marrying, yet having children with two different men. Regardless of being pharaoh, Cleopatra was constantly the victim of such shaming because of the tyrannical, patriarch-dominated society in which she lived.
   While she was married to her brother at one point, as per Egyptian custom, she bore children with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She is most famous for her suicide, which was a follow-up to Antony's suicide after his loss at the Battle of Actium to Octavius—Caesar's legal heir.
   From defying Ptolemaic traditions of female rulers being subordinate to male rulers and fighting for what she believes in, Cleopatra is truly an eternal figurehead of the feminist movement.

Queen Elizabeth I of England

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England's first solo-ruling Queen. Never married. 'Bastard child'. Protestant. Started the Golden Age in England. Defeated Spain in the Spanish Armada. Lover of theater and the arts. Overcame every obstacle thrown her way in the male-dominated society in which she lived. Need I say more? 

Queen Elisabeth of Austria
Artwork by WRITTEN CITIZEN Editor-in-Chief Zoe G.
Whether these women were known for physically going to battle or refusing marriage, they were all warriors through thick and thin. These women paved the way for future generations of their countries, yet they are so often overlooked. So today, on International Women's Day, we honor and celebrate them, and hope you always respect them and look to their deeds for guidance.

All information and quotes used are from each royal's Wikipedia page and/or off the top of the author's head from novels they have read about them.

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