The pages of our history books are littered with the names of some of the most powerful men. Yet, from time to time, there have been some women who have stood out as being equally powerful as the male counterparts of their time.
Isabella I of Castile: 1451-1504Isabella I is considered to be one of the most powerful, yet controversial, queens in Spanish history. She is best remembered for sponsoring Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the Western Hemisphere, initiating the Spanish Inquisition, and unifying the remaining independent Spanish kingdoms into one nation. Isabella I co-ruled with her husband, Ferdinand of Aragón, from 1474 up until her death in 1504.
Elizabeth I of England: 1533-1603Elizabeth was truly the first crowned queen to successfully rule with absolute power. She never married and has often been referred to as the “Virgin Queen.” Elizabeth is best remembered for bringing the Renaissance to England. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn and she ruled from 1558 until her death in 1603. She was last monarch of the Tudor Dynasty and her reign is known as the “Elizabethan Era.”
Empress Dowager Cixi: 1835-1908Cixi was probably most powerful woman in China since Empress Wu Zetian of the seventh century Zhou Dynasty. Her rule began in 1861 and lasted until her death in 1908. She was an ambitious and conservative leader. She opposed foreign influence and supported the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. Cixi was the last empress dowager of the ethnic-Manchu Qing Dynasty and the last empress dowager of China.
Catherine II of Russia: 1729-1796Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great. She ruled over Russia which was and still is the world’s largest country geographically. Catherine is remembered for bringing Enlightenment ideas to Russia as well expanding the empire. Her rule lasted or 34 years, beginning in 1762 and ending with her death in 1796
Queen Victoria: 1819-1901Victoria’s empire covered 14.2 million square miles, spanning six continents.Victoria inspired a worldwide trend known as the “Victorian Era.” The Victorian Era influenced conservative religious and social attitudes, fashion, and politics in her country as well as in the United States and other nations abroad. Victoria’s reign began in 1837 and ended with her death in 1901. She ruled for 63 years; the longest of any British monarch.
E. K. Johnston is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several YA novels, including the L.A. Time Book Prize finalist The Story of Owen and Star Wars: Ahsoka. Her novel A Thousand Nights was shortlisted for The Governor General’s Award. The New York Times called The Story of Owen “a clever first step in the career of a novelist who, like her troubadour heroine, has many more songs to sing” and in its review of Exit, Pursued by a Bear, The Globe & Mail called Johnston “the Meryl Streep of YA,” with “limitless range.” E. K. Johnston lives in Stratford, Ontario.
Follow her on Twitter at @ek_johnston.
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