Women Rulers of the 19th Century

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Powerful Queens, Empresses and Women Rulers 1801-1900

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their 5 children. (Charles Phelps Cushing/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

In the 19th century, as parts of the world saw democratic revolutions, there were still a few powerful women rulers who made a difference in world history.  Who were some of these women?  Here we've listed key 19th-century women rulers chronologically (by birth date).

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Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria, 1861
Queen Victoria, 1861. (John Jabez Edwin Mayall/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Lived: May 24, 1819 - January 22, 1901
Reign: June 20, 1837 - January 22, 1901
Coronation: June 28, 1838

Queen of Great Britain, Victoria gave her name to an era in Western history. She ruled as monarch of Great Britain during a time of both empire and democratization.  After 1876, she also took the title Empress of India. She was married to her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, for 21 years before his early death, and their children intermarried with other royalty of Europe and played major roles in 19th- and 20th-century history.

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Isabella II of Spain

Portrait of Isabella II of Spain by Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz
Portrait of Isabella II of Spain by Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz. (Hulton Fine Art Collection/Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Lived: October 10, 1830 - April 10, 1904
Reign: September 29, 1833 - September 30, 1868
Abdicated: June 25, 1870

Queen Isabella II of Spain was able to inherit the throne because of a decision to set aside Salic Law, whereby only males could inherit. Isabella's role in the Affair of the Spanish Marriages added to the 19th century's European turmoil. Her authoritarianism, her religious fanaticism, rumors about her husband's sexuality, her alliance with the military, and the chaos of her reign helped bring about the Revolution of 1868 that exiled her to Paris. She abdicated in 1870 in favor of her son, Alfonso XII.

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Afua Koba (Afua Kobi)

map showing the Akan Kingdom of Ashanti
An 1850 map showing the Akan Kingdom of Ashanti within the Guinea region and surrounding regions in West Africa. (Rev. Thomas Milner/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Lived: ?
Reign: 1834 - 1884?

Afua Koba was Asantehemaa, or Queen Mother, of the Ashanti Empire, a sovereign nation in West Africa (now South Ghana). The Ashanti saw kinship as matrilineal. Her husband, the chief, was Kwasi Gyambibi. She named her sons asantehene or chief: Kofi Kakari (or Karikari) from 1867 - 1874, and Mensa Bonsu from 1874 to 1883. During her time, the Ashanti fought with the British, including a bloody battle in 1874. She sought to make peace with the British, and for that, her family was deposed in 1884. The British exiled Ashanti leaders in 1896 and took colonial control of the area.

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Empress Dowager Cixi (also rendered Tz'u Hsi or Hsiao-ch'in)

Dowager Empress Cixi
Dowager Empress Cixi from a painting. China Span/Keren Su/Getty Images

Lived: November 29, 1835 - November 15, 1908
Regent: November 11, 1861 - November 15, 1908

Empress Cixi began as a minor concubine of the emperor Hsien-feng (Xianfeng) when she became mother of his only son, she became a regent for this son when the emperor died. This son died, and she had a nephew named heir. After her co-regent died in 1881, she became de facto ruler of China. Her actual power surpassed that of another great Queen who was her contemporary, Queen Victoria.

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Queen Lili'uokalani of Hawaii

Queen Lili‘uokalani
Photo of Queen Lili‘uokalani taken in 1913. (Bernice P. Bishop Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

Lived: September 2, 1838 - November 11, 1917
Reign: January 29, 1891 - January 17, 1893

Queen Lili'uokalani was the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, ruling until 1893 when the Hawaiian monarchy was abolished. She was the composer of over 150 songs about the Hawaiian Islands and translated into English the Kumulipo, the Creation Chant.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Women Rulers of the 19th Century." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/women-rulers-in-19th-century-3530288. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 27). Women Rulers of the 19th Century. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/women-rulers-in-19th-century-3530288 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Women Rulers of the 19th Century." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/women-rulers-in-19th-century-3530288 (accessed March 28, 2023).