In the realms of royal titles and sovereign ranks, there are a number of lesser-known titles that have been in use for many centuries and yet are sometimes confusing or difficult to define. 

Of course, the main royal titles are clear and easy to understand – most people know the role and power of a king and queen, an emperor and empress, or the Russian equivalents of Tsar and Tsarina. 

These are among the most common, and most ancient royal titles. They are also the sovereign ranks most often used in fables and fairy tales – children the world over will be familiar with the Good Queen character or the powerful King Of The Castle, the supreme ruler of the entire kingdom and domain.  

Among the less common regal roles is the title of Queen Regent. While this royal title is not a new addition to the hierarchy of rulers and sovereigns, it is less frequently seen in popular literature, even though there have been numerous historic and notable characters who have assumed this role throughout the centuries. 

If you’re curious about this unusual yet powerful and uniquely royal rank and position, here are some insights into the definition of a Queen Regent, and the role she plays within the hierarchy of royal command. 

What Is A Regent? 

Regent is a Latin word, meaning ‘to rule’, and in terms of kings, queens and royal power, and so a Regent is a guardian of the absolute monarch who rules over a kingdom or sovereign state in their stead. 

For example, if a king or queen is a minor (younger than 16 or 18 years of age), or if the monarch is absent, for example, abroad fighting in a war, or disabled or incapacitated in some way, ie mental or physical illness. In such scenarios, a Regent would usually be assigned to govern in the name of the crowned sovereign. 

What Is A Queen Regent? 

The definition of a Queen Regent is a female acting in the role of Regent, i.e. temporary royal governance. It is usually the mother or maternal guardian of the crowned king or queen, who assumes royal power on their behalf. 

The most common occasion for a Queen Regent throughout history is for the mother of a child to govern until the child reaches maturity and can govern in their own right. 

For example, throughout the Middle Ages, it was not uncommon for very young children to inherit the throne, perhaps due to the perilous nature of medieval royal life, or the shorter life expectancy of the period. In cases such as these, a Regent would be assigned to act as the official ruler until the child came of age. 

Portrait of Mary of Guise (1515 – 1560), Queen of James V of Scotland and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots whom she acted as regent from 1554 to 1560 – Attributed to Corneille de Lyon, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The reason Queen Regents are more prevalent than King Regents relates to the practice of primogeniture, i.e. the custom of the throne being passed down the male line of succession. Historically, a child would not inherit the throne until the current king had died. Yet a young child may be crowned king or queen with their mother still alive, and this would often create the status of a Queen Regent. 

Does A Queen Regent Have Sovereign Power? 

The specific role and power of a Queen Regent can vary greatly. In some instances, the role is merely a figurehead, in that they represent The Crown at official functions and duties etc. They are the face of the sovereign for all intents, purposes and public appearances. 

Behind the scenes, however, the power of royal rule and governance may be more of a joint effort. Monarchs of all ages have historically had a council of advisors and mentors who assist with the day-to-day decision-making involved in ruling a nation, as well as the bigger challenges such as political policies and rulings. 

A Queen Regent would likely have a similar support team, to assist in the Regency, until the monarch proper assumes the throne. 

Of course, the desire for power and control varies from one individual to another, and this is equally true of the Queen Regents of the ages. Whereas some have opted for a cooperative role in the regency period, there are others who have revelled in their powerful status and set about making considerable changes. 

Are Queen Regents Good Surrogates? 

While the role of Queen Regent is intended to serve and rule on behalf of the absolute monarch, there have also been occasions when the position of power has been too big a temptation and the regent has implemented more self-serving endeavours. 

Throughout the centuries, it has not been uncommon for there to be rivalry and dissent within royal families, and the role of Queen Regent is no exception, even when acting in the name of her own children. 

Yet, the bond between mother and child is traditionally a strong one, and this connection is particularly important in the realm of royal governance. History has seen many occasions when the Queen Regent has carried out her duties not only in service to the nation, but in the best interests of her offspring and descendants. 

What Is The Difference Between A Queen Regent And A Queen Regnant? 

A Queen Regent is a kind of ‘Acting Queen’, a temporary position, serving in the name of the absolute monarch. A Queen Regnant is a queen who is the crowned sovereign in her own right, as opposed to a Queen Consort who is queen only because she is married to the king. 

A Queen Regent may have reduced power and status when compared to a Queen Regnant, who is the undisputed reigning monarch. A Queen Regent is also likely to be relieved of her role in due course, whereas a Queen Regnant will hold the title permanently. 

The status of a Queen Regent may not be as widely known as the more popular titles, yet it has played an important role throughout many great monarchies. Great Queens such as Katherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr acted as Queen Regent on behalf of the reigning king, Henry VIII of England. 

These unique royal roles have historically enjoyed great privilege and power, occupying an esteemed status of governance, and proximity to the heart of the monarchy. 

Though the stories of the Queen Regents of the ages vary as much as those of the reigning kings and queens, this rare regal rank makes for a captivating collection of notable and historic royal wives and mothers.