Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 19 June 2016





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Queens... a sorry segment then and now

Queen Elizabeth 11 of England who just celebrated her 90th birthday may be an exception, but it is regrettable that most queens do not seem to wade in a lucky voyage of life. Queens here mean those who rule a country by their own right. It naturally leaves out those whose status is appended to the regal status of the spouse.


Queen Cleopatra bursts into history via a beautiful body and face, but, alas is finally consumed by a snake. No, the snake does not eat her up but its poison drips into her, killing her. What a horrid death for such a fabulous character! And she lays her life on the altar of love, as many women do, only this time, the lover himself is the famous Italian , Mark Antony.


The story of a princess from the Ptolemy line of Greece, ending up as an Egyptian queen on Cupid's path entails a long story that cannot be accommodated here. The story however, demonstrates how frail the destinies of womankind are, even en route the throne. They become pawns of the stronger male kind. Their paths to power are always hedged, and if they do reach the top, mostly chaos awaits them.

It explains the paucity of queens in the world who rule by their own right. Queen Elizabeth 11 is an exception. Long life, robust health, an ability to withstand the horrors of domestic strife have carried her through, testing her patience. Her spouse provides the humour and the background to bear it all.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria not only was popular in her own country, but in the British colonies too, and tempered the villainy involved in crass imperialism. The red and yellow beauty adorned in Saracen style posing at Eye Hospital junction, Colombo, is said to be a gift from her to the visually handicapped, though the outlying land was a gift by the Zoysa family.

Victoria had been a good correspondent too, replying letters addressed by citizens all over the imperial kingdom, stating their grievances. In fact, in a far away spot in the south of Lanka, I was once surprised to be accosted by her sculpted figure. In a closer area, the regal figure of a British queen looms among the figurines of a temple in Kotahena, once called Ihalawalawwa.

Among our own queens, only a few ruled by their own right. Viharamaha Devi, emblazoned history not so much as the wife of King Kavanthissa, but as the mother of King Dutugemunu. She emerges as the most outstanding female in the history of Sri Lanka. But, even she never achieved queenly status, and appears as King Dutugemunu's mother. Queen Leelawathie, one of the uncommon, has earned the name as a man hunter. Queen Sugala is said to be deft with her sword.


On the whole, the record of queens and female heads of state in the world is poor. During the long dynastic annals of Indian rulers, not a single empress or Maharajini is mentioned, though Kings and Maharajahs abound. If one were to pinpoint the absence of queens in the Middle belt, and ascribe it to female denigration, then what explains the picture in India where once paribrajikas walked about summoning men to verbal disputes?

China, though could boast of many empresses, the only Asian country to do so, they seemed to die off rather ignobly. During my short stay there, I was taken to the ferry to see Fool's handiwork by a Chinese queen, who frittered away money reserved for the extension of the main harbour, to put up an extravagant dressing room in a ship that would take her on joy rides.

Known as the last queen of China, she is blamed for the downfall of her state by her frivolous spending, which was superseded by a communist regime.


I was inspired to attempt this piece after I read the Yung Yang concept, a Chinese philosophy that equates both sexes. It is attached to Mahayana Buddhism. This concept goes on to delve into other religions as regards sex equality and boldly proclaims that it chooses to disregard a certain religion in its study, for it designates males as rulers of females.

The Continent of Europe too was not allergic to queens who ruled by their own right, as is testified by women such as Catherine the Great of Russia. Talking of women rulers parallel to the status of the disparaged Queens, in the world's greatest democracy, the USA , if Trump succumbs to female power, it would lead to three women (not queens, except for Elizabeth) ruling the most powerful states ie. Hillary Clinton - USA, Angela Merkel -Germany and Elizabeth11 (wishing her to be a centenarian).

Angela Merkel illustrates the fact that female stateswomen are best with humanitarian issues. Though the move made her rather unpopular in her own country, her patronage of miserable refugees seeking asylum in Europe is testimony of the mercy of female rulers or queens when compared to the male counterparts. Yet, they have been and always rare, in both, the East and the West and the Middle. The reasons for this, are yet to be explored. Or have they been explored?


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