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It seems counter-intuitive to me that Elizabeth I was a powerful monarch at a time when women were considered inferior to men and when women didn't even have the right to vote in the UK until 1918. I understand that monarchs were believed to rule by divine right and had far-reaching powers, but why did kingdoms like England allow them to rule despite being a patriarchial society? One would think they would just crown a powerful duke if there was no male heir in the line of succession. The same is true for other kingdoms/empires across various cultures as well: Catherine the Great, Cleopatra, and Zenobia to name a few were all powerful women rulers in societies dominated by men.

closed as off-topic by Pieter Geerkens, jwenting, Semaphore Jan 18 at 5:48

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – sempaiscuba Jan 18 at 18:04
  • Possible duplicate of history.stackexchange.com/questions/12273/… – Tom Au Jan 20 at 7:57
  • This doesn't seem like a push question to me; merely naïve. – Spencer Jan 20 at 20:37
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    In many of these societies women could own property, but often only in the absence of a male heir, hence by analogy women could inherit the throne, but only in the absence of a direct male heir. Hence Henry VIII of England was survived by three children, the youngest of whom, being a boy, succeeded him as King Edward VI, in preference to his older sisters. Only when Edward died too young to have produced an heir did his elder sister Mary become Queen, succeeded when she also died childless by the other sister Elizabeth. Women were not equal to men, but not completely without rights either. – Timothy Jan 21 at 18:43
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It seems counter-intuitive to me that Elizabeth I was a powerful monarch at a time when women were considered inferior to men

In which ways? I ask, because that's quite an important caveat; many a King was judged as an inferior person to others without anyone deposing him in favour of the other

and when women didn't even have the right to vote in the UK until 1918.

Neither did many men. And in Tudor times we're talking about a long time before democracy in any case.

but why did kingdoms like England allow them to rule despite being a patriarchial society?

It was a Feudal society first and foremost, and this consideration could override others.

One would think they would just crown a powerful duke if there was no male heir in the line of succession.

Ah, but which one? Welcome to the War of the Roses Mark two. No one wanted that. There was of course the Protestant/Catholic issue, which indeed lead to many attempts to depose Elizabeth.

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    I would add that "Elizabeth I was a powerful monarch" due far more to her personal characteristics than anything else; and that those personal characteristics are generally sex-independent. She employed capable and strong-willed individuals as subordinates, cultivated popularity amongst both the populace and nobility, and led by personal example - all traits generally associated with being a competent monarch. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 17 at 14:26
  • it's a good answer but the Romans in their monarchical period and upon Caesar's death basically did just that (crown a powerful noble) . It also raises the question if Caesar and later Roman emperors could crown obscure relatives why did the English not do the same thing? I'm also not aware of women rulers in Greek Monarchies or the Ottomans or Mongols Japan etc. (sorry if I'm wrong about this) – Hao S Jan 22 at 23:44
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A patriarchal society does not mean that it absolutely disallows the possibility of rule by a female. It's merely made very difficult, and as it's made difficult, only a few ever get a shot at it, as your examples already point out.

  • Indeed. "If grey hairs come with age, how come I'm under thirty and I have two grey hairs now?!" – Luke Sawczak Jan 17 at 12:30
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Usually (?) this rule was presented in a bit different fashion - the law wasn't stating that "a woman cannot rule" but that "Queen cannot rule alone". So the most obvious solution for a capable woman willing to govern her country was either to stay unmarried (like Elisabeth I) or to...crown herself as a King. In this way, she was following the letter of the law bypassing such technicalities as gender.

There are quite a few examples of this: From Sobekneferu and Hatshepsut (there were apparently 5 female pharaohs in total) in the ancient Egypt, through King Jadwiga of Poland (Reign 16 October 1384 – 17 July 1399) and her sister Mary (crowned as a King of Hungary on 17 September 1382) to Maria Theresa (reign 13 September 1745 – 18 August 1765), who officially was (among other titles) a King and Archduke of Hungary. Even still currently ruling Elisabeth II is (again, among other titles) a Duke (not "Duchess") of Normandy, Lord of Mann and during the war, she almost became Prince of Wales.

Another real life examples can be found here

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    @PieterGeerkens I never stated that any English female ruler was a king, and I do understand the difference. Examples presented above are indeed women who were ruling with a masculine title, Queen Elisabeth I was ruling as a queen and was the head of state because she was unmarried – Yasskier Jan 18 at 1:56
  • Great! I just wanted to make sure that no inadvertent errors were occurring. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 18 at 1:57

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