A typical Monarchy can have a king, queen, or both. What is the term for, like the current British Monarchy, having only one of a king or a queen in power? Surely there is a term that distinguishes that situation from one where there is a King and Queen sitting.

To clarify: The answer to the question is a term, not a historical or political definition. The usage of the term I am looking for would be to illustrate needing to have both a king and a queen, not just one or the other.

In other words: what is the common nomenclature for having a king, or a queen, but not having both? It is irrelevant who has the power. What matters is that the king doesn't have a queen.

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    A queen, where there is a king, has no power. It's still a monarchy. The exception was the joint "monarchy" of William III and Mary II, where they were both sovereign. I guess that would be a joint sovereignty rather than a monarchy.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 16 '14 at 14:27
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is rooted in a misunderstanding about the nature of a system of government.
    – choster
    Apr 16 '14 at 14:38
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    As @ermanen’s answer implies, the term you are looking for is technically monarchy, which implies that there is only one ruler—the case in nearly all modern monarchies, even if there is both a king and a queen. Apr 16 '14 at 16:06
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    Your edit has actually made things worse. Are you looking for the term for a system that has one ruler, either a king or a queen? That's what the title asks, and the answer is Monarchy. Or are you asking about a hypothetical (and unworkable) system that requires a king and a queen, equal in power, at all times? If so, there is no normal term, though various possibilties could be used. Apr 16 '14 at 17:37
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    @oerkelens That's not correct. If a woman inherits the throne from her parents, she is the monarch, she is called the queen and her husband, if she has one, has no specific power and is not called king. If a man inherits the throne from his parents, he is the monarch, he is called the king and his wife, if she has one, has no specific power but is called queen. This is the case in at least the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Imperial Russia. Apr 16 '14 at 17:49

While most monarchs have been male, many female monarchs also have reigned in history; the term queen regnant refers to a ruling monarch, while a queen consort refers to the wife of a reigning king.

Most states only have a single person acting as monarch at any given time, although two monarchs have ruled simultaneously in some countries, a situation known as diarchy.

~Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarchy

To clarify further:

A monarch is a supreme or absolute head of a state government, either in reality or symbolically.

Such a government is known as a monarchy. A monarch typically either inherits sovereignty (often referred to as the throne) by birth or is elected monarch and typically rules for life or until abdication.

Monarchs have various titles — king or queen, prince or princess (e.g., Sovereign Prince of Monaco), emperor or empress (e.g., Emperor of Japan, Emperor of India), archduke, duke or grand duke (e.g., Grand Duke of Luxembourg).

Prince is sometimes used as a generic term to describe any monarch regardless of title, especially in older texts.



A "monarchy," by definition, is a "one person" rule. (Mono= one, archy=rule). In English history, there was the joint rule of "William and Mary" cited by others, but that was the exception, not the rule.

The confusion may arise from the fact that most "monarchs" have spouses. These spouses are referred to as "consorts" and are often given "equivalent" titles that make it seem that they are "co-rulers," but they're not.

A male monarch is called a king. His wife is usually referred to as a "queen," but she would be a "queen consort," that is the "wife of a king," not the other type of queen referred to below.

Queen Elizabeth II (and I) is a type of "queen," known as a queen regnant, or reigning queen. She inherited the job from her father, not a "consortship" from her husband. Her husband, Philip of Greece, is known as Prince Philip, or the Prince Consort. He is an English "prince" by virtue of being a "spouse," not descended from royalty like Elizabeth.

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    As it happens, he was born Prince Philip. He's the grandson of King George I of Greece. Apr 16 '14 at 21:10
  • @SteveJessop: Changed that to English Prince. Ok, he was a Greek prince as well.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 16 '14 at 22:58

Monarchy comes from the Greek for 'one ruler'. So all monarchies have either a king or a queen in power; though the ruler's spouse may be called 'queen' or 'prince consort', the title does not grant equality. If it did, the system would no longer be a monarchy: possibly, as mentioned above, a diarchy.

(Note for historical pedants: though Philip of Spain thought that marrying Mary Tudor made him King of England, he discovered he was mistaken. And though William and Mary were later joint sovereigns, that was a unique situation, where Parliament had tired of the strict monarchical system and issued a carefully worded invitation.)

  • I don't think it had to do with "tired of the strict monarchical system." More likely it was a result of William's Dutch army representing the balance of power in an otherwise English "civil war" between Mary II and her father James II.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 2 '15 at 16:42

I don't think there's a particular term for a monarchy in this situation because there's no difference as to who is ruling. It's just a question of what title is granted to the spouse of the monarch.

In the United Kingdom and its predecessors (at least England), the title granted to the husband of a reigning Queen has never been King. King William III was the husband of the reigning Queen Mary II, but he wasn't King simply because of that, he was King because he was also co-ruler.

However, the title of the wife of a king is Queen. If Queen Elizabeth II were a man then she'd be King Elizabeth II, and the title of that king's wife would (generally) be Queen.

I say "generally" because Prince Charles's wife Camilla is expected not to take the title Queen should he be king. She is currently styled Duchess of Cornwall (he is the Duke of Cornwall) but not Princess of Wales (which she would be entitled to, but she and others felt the association of the title with Diana to be too strong).

So I think there's a false assumption in your question, which is that there are monarchies that "need to have both a king and a queen". If that happens anywhere it isn't the typical case. So it's not a question of needing a queen vs. not needing one, it's a case of the monarch happening to be both male and married, or not.

Who knows, maybe the next difficult question for the royal protocol officers will be how to style the husband of a reigning king, or the wife of a reigning queen ;-)

  • That's likely to be Prince Consort in the first case (precedent: Philip Duke of Edinburgh, husband of a monarch) and by corollary Princess Consort in the second. A rather more pressing question will be what to call Queen Camilla if she is denied the title "Queen". HRH The Princess Consort has been suggested there, too.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 16 '14 at 20:37

why not an "Exclusive Monarchy"

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