Women Rulers – Queens, Empresses, Regents

To mark the occasion of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning British monarch, we have collected selected free chapters from our books highlighting the lives of other women rulers. This collection ranges from Empress Matilda – military leader during the English Middle Ages, to the young Queen Victoria.


Matilda (1102-1167) was an empress, heir to the English crown—the first woman ever to hold the position—an able military general and one of the greatest figures of the English Middle Ages. Although she never sat on the English throne herself, her son become king and her line has continued through every single monarch of England or Britain from that time to the present day.

This chapter, from Catherine Hanley’s Matilda: Empress, Queen, Warrior, describes Matilda’s life as she became the first woman to be be named heir to the throne of England by her father, King Henry I.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) married the king of France, Louis VII, then the king of England, Henry II, and gave birth to two sons who rose to take the English throne—Richard the Lionheart and John. Eleanor traveled on crusades, acted as regent for Henry II and later for Richard, incited rebellion, endured a fifteen-year imprisonment, and as an elderly widow still wielded political power with energy and enthusiasm.

This chapter, from Ralph V. Turner’s Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of France, Queen of England, describes the period where Eleanor served as regent during her husband Henry II’s absence from England.

Queen Anne

Anne (1665-1714) reigned as Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1702-1707. She was the last Stuart monarch and her reign was a period of significant progress for the country: Britain became a major military power on land, the union of England and Scotland created a united kingdom of Great Britain, and the economic and political basis for the Golden Age of the eighteenth century was established.

This chapter, from Edward Gregg’s Queen Anne (part of the prestigious Yale English Monarchs series), describes Anne’s accession to the throne following the death of her father, William III, and the early years of her reign.

Yale English Monarchs

For over thirty years the Yale English Monarchs series has brought the highest standards of historical scholarship to the widest possible readership. Harnessing the latest research, leading historians scrutinize the lives of the kings and queens of England and explore the cumulative impact of the longest permanent governing institution in Europe.

Queen Victoria

Victoria (1819-1901) is one of the most familiar monarchs in British history. Victoria’s reign, known as the Victorian era, of over 63 years was, at the time, the longest of any previous British monarch. This has since been surpassed by the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Victoria’s reign is associated with a period of industrial change, economic progress and the expansion of the British Empire.

This chapter, from Deirdre Murphy’s The Young Victoria, illustrates her accession to the throne at the age of 18.

Featured image by Laine Cooper on Unsplash

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