A Short History of Kings and Queens

by | May 4, 2024 | Aristocracy, Kingdoms, Kings, Nobility, Noble Titles, Queens, Royal Titles

The kings and queens of the ages are one of the oldest and most enduring aspects of social hierarchies the whole world over. 

In modern times, we’re familiar with the status of a king or queen, who usually reside as the eminent social rank in the royal and noble hierarchies that evolved during the Middle Ages. 

Yet, the story of how kings and queens came to occupy – and maintain – these lofty positions as the royal rulers of their realms is as captivating as the individual monarchs themselves. 

Early Kings & Queens

As the nations around the globe evolved, even as the earliest civilisations and ancient cultures emerged in the BC period, historians believe that there were established rulers and monarchies. 

While the exact ranks and titles of the ancient kings and queens are less well documented than the monarchs of modern times, the role of a ruling sovereign has been a classic feature of human evolution for millennia. 

In the earliest times, the precise social ranks of royals and their families were much less formal and clearly defined than they are today. Yet history shares with us a great many legends of the ancient kings and queens that first played these roles in the dawning civilisations of the world. 

One of the most famous of these historic early sovereigns is the iconic Cleopatra, the Queen of Ancient Egypt. The infamous Egyptian queen lived in the period of the first century BC. She was as famous for her romances with powerful men as she was for the rule of her kingdom. 

Yet her story is one of the classic examples of a historic royal ruler, and represents the established rank and status of a queen or king in the early civilisations. 

Medieval Kings & Queens

As the societies of the world blossomed in the earliest centuries AD, this enduring hierarchy of royal rulers became established in countries far and wide. 

As the historic period approached the Middle Ages, the earliest kings and queens of medieval times assumed their roles as royal leaders. While the status, power and wealth of these medieval kings and queens varied from one fledgling nation to another, the common thread of royal rank and supreme sovereignty was woven through the entire tapestry of social evolution around the world from the BC period right through the Middle Ages. 

In comparison to ancient times, there are many more reliable records of this period, and as a result, we have a rich history of the great kings and queens of the Middle Ages. 

Perhaps one of the most infamous monarchs from this period was the English king, Henry VIII, famed for his many wives and his split with the Roman Catholic Church that sent shockwaves around the world and changed the face of European religion forever. 

Portrait of Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve, c. 1531

Portrait of Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve, c. 1531 – Joos van Cleve, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Royalty vs Revolution

The later Middle Ages and the period after the Renaissance were marked by increasing cultural shifts away from the established ideas of absolute power and towards more modern ideas such as egalitarianism, democracy and republicanism. 

Many of these social evolutions were a backlash against the vast wealth of royal rulers, which contrasted starkly with the struggles of the ordinary people of the world – the working classes, the peasants, and the poor. 

In previous centuries, the social and financial disparity between wealthy kings and queens and ordinary people had been commonly accepted as the norm, simply the way things were. Many working people accepted their class and had no ambition to rise through the social ranks or to ask questions about the wealth of their monarchs. 

Very often, peasants and workers were loyal subjects to their kings and queens, often regarding any tales of royal adventures or glimpses of gilded carriages as inspiring and uplifting diversions, welcome distractions from the days of toil and labour. 

Even as the revolutions rumbled around the world, there were still great numbers of people who adored their kings and queens, and had no desire to witness the demise of the monarchy. 

This was partly due to the fact that there have historically been many great sovereigns who were dutiful and generous rulers. The very origins of the social hierarchy that led to kings and queens were based on the idea of the wealthy and powerful leaders taking care of the other members of society. 

While there were undoubtedly many kings and queens who lost sight of this altruistic basis of leadership, there were equally a great many monarchs who did wonderful works for their people, in terms of charitable donations, funding community projects and the arts, even welcoming their subjects into their castles and palaces for celebrations and ceremonies. 

The 18th, 19th and 20th centuries were tumultuous times for kings and queens around the world. Some monarchies experienced rocky times and revolution, whereas others clung on quietly, though no doubt nervous about their place in an uncertain future. 

Modern Monarchies

After the political turbulence of the last few centuries, the modern world has lost some of the great monarchies of old. Yet, there are still some countries that managed to hold onto their royal families and held a place for regal rule within their modern societies. 

Some contemporary societies are even thriving partly due to their enduring royal history and its place in today’s world. Great Britain for example, captured the imagination of the world with its elaborate royal ceremonies of recent years, entertaining and delighting the masses as much today as the kings and queens of the ages would have done. 

Yet the role of monarchs is a much less secure position in the modern world. Even the countries that have maintained a monarchy, especially those in a constitutional role, have to ensure they strike the right balance of inspiration and service. 

Fortunately, the vast majority of modern royals are sensitive to the cultural climate and aware of their role within it. The kings and queens of today may not have the absolute sovereignty that their ancestors enjoyed, yet many still appreciate a valuable devotion and esteem from the subjects that they serve as royal rulers.

If learning about the history of kings and queens has made you curious about acquiring a prestigious Noble Title of your own get in touch using the enquiry form in the sidebar or you can contact our Geneva office directly between 10.00-19.00, Monday to Friday on +41 225 181 360.

Enquiry Form