Throughout time women have been changing history. Some of our best examples of powerful and influential women are royalty, be they princess,
Hatshepsut, King of Egypt
While originally beginning her role as princess and then queen consort, once Hatshepsut’s husband died and her two-year-old nephew took the throne she became regent. During her seventh year as regent, she crowned herself king. The reason for this is unknown, but it seems to have gone unchallenged. Therefore, historians surmise there may have been a political event that required a full-fledged king.
Regardless, Hatshepsut was able to retain her power throughout her entire life. During her ruling as king beside her nephew, who was also king, she was able to attain even more power than he was. It was not until the time near Hatshepsut’s death in her seventies that her nephew began to have nearly as much power as his aunt.
During her reign as king, Hatshepsut accomplished overseeing the development of many building projects, including the famed temple of Deir el-Bahri; promoted foreign trade; embraced the arts; and she was able to successfully maintain peace for the Egyptian empire.
Lakshmi, Rani of Jhansi
Lakshmi Bai became the Rani (queen) of Jhansi when she married Maharaja Gangadhar Rao. However, when he began to pass away without an heir the royal couple adopted a child who was a close relative, as was Hindu tradition. While the child was legally theirs and was a respected practice for a ruler without an heir, the British government took this opportunity to claim the heir as invalid. Queen Victoria rejected the appeal of the Jhansi government, took control of the throne, and seized their state jewels.
The British government continued to hold power over the Jhansi people until a rumor began that the British soldiers were coating their bullets with the blood of cows and pigs, which is unclean for those of the Hindu religion.
When a revolt broke out with the inmates of a local jail participating, not only did they kill the British officers guarding them, they also attempted to kill the innocent family members. Lakshmi gave shelter to these families in her home, protecting them from the revolters. Soon thereafter, the British government was forced to focus elsewhere in India, giving Lakshmi the opportunity to regain her throne and prove herself. When the British attempted to retake Jhansi she was willing to fight for her people and country, so she led a revolt on the front lines.
After battling in a fort for four days with twenty-thousand rebels their defenses fell. With her child strapped onto her back, Lakshmi and her aides fled the area on horseback and went to join the remainder of their forces, which were stationed nearly one-hundred miles away.
Lakshmi once again formed a battalion and readied to overtake the British forces at the fort of Gwalior, which was a few miles away from Jhansi. Despite having the upper hand, the British lost the fort due to Lakshmi’s successful tactics.
Sadly, a few days later the British army once again recaptured the fort, forcing Lakshmi and her son to once again flee. Dressed as a man to disguise herself, on horseback, with a sword in hand Lakshmi fought to get away. Although, the British soldiers were too fast and inflicted mortal wounds upon her before she was able to escape. Before dying in a secluded space she succeeded in saving the life of her son and handed him over to a trusted friend and general.
Marie-Louise, Archduchess of Austria and Empress of France
As Marie-Louise Dutchess of Austria, who was the great-niece of Marie Antoinette, was growing up she was taught to despise France. This was worsened when Napoleon led the French military to her home of Austria, causing devastation to her country and requiring her to flee to Vienna for a year when she was fourteen. The diary of Marie-Louise gives us a look into how she was feeling at the time. She wrote: “the French ogre was said to be the Beast of the Apocalypse” and after mentioning that his death had been predicted for the year, “how happy I would be if this were true“.
A number of years later, after having her mom pass away and father remarry, Maire-Louise was again forced to flee when war once again broke out between Austria and France. We can find more about Napoleon in her diary at this time, her having written: “to see that man would be the worst form of torture“. Yet, she did not know that her family was negotiating with Napoleon who was seeking her as a new wife, in want of a woman who could give birth to an heir.
Once Marie-Louise was finally informed of these negotiations she wrote a friend and simply but bravely said: “I wish only what my duty commands me to wish.” However, she did also mention that she was making “a painful sacrifice” for the good of her country.
Despite being forced into a marriage to bear the child of the man she most hated and who had committed countless atrocities, Marie-Louise went into it willingly and bravely for the sake of her people.
While princesses and queens are seen as something only girls during their early adolescence should aspire to, the actions of these prominent and brave women can inspire us all. Whether we need the courage to get through a difficult day at the office, the loss of a loved one, or when taking on a new endeavor. We can look at these royal women throughout history to encourage and inspire.
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