King

King, or king regnant, is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant,[1] while the title of queen on its own usually refers to the consort of a king.

  • In the context of prehistory, antiquity and contemporary indigenous peoples, the title may refer to tribal kingship. Germanic kingship is cognate with Indo-European traditions of tribal rulership (c.f. Indic rājan, Gothic reiks, and Old Irish , etc.).
  • In the context of classical antiquity, king may translate in Latin as rex and in Greek as archon or basileus.
  • In classical European feudalism, the title of king as the ruler of a kingdom is understood to be the highest rank in the feudal order, potentially subject, at least nominally, only to an emperor (harking back to the client kings of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire).[2]
  • In a modern context, the title may refer to the ruler of one of a number of modern monarchies (either absolute or constitutional). The title of king is used alongside other titles for monarchs: in the West, emperor, grand prince, prince, archduke, duke or grand duke, and in the Middle East, malik, sultan, emir or hakim, etc.[3]

The term king may also refer to a king consort, a title that is sometimes given to the husband of a ruling queen, but the title of prince consort is sometimes granted instead.

Etymology

The English term king is derived from the Anglo-Saxon cyning, which in turn is derived from the Common Germanic *kuningaz. The Common Germanic term was borrowed into Estonian and Finnish at an early time, surviving in these languages as kuningas. The English term "King" translates, and is considered equivalent to, Latin rēx and its equivalents in the various European languages. The Germanic term is notably different from the word for "King" in other Indo-European languages (*rēks "ruler"; Latin rēx, Sanskrit rājan and Irish ríg, but see Gothic reiks and, e.g., modern German Reich and modern Dutch rijk). It is a derivation from the term *kunjom "kin" (Old English cynn) by the -inga- suffix. The literal meaning is that of a "scion of the [noble] kin", or perhaps "son or descendant of one of noble birth" (OED).

History

The English word is of Germanic origin, and historically refers to Germanic kingship, in the pre-Christian period a type of tribal kingship. The monarchies of Europe in the Christian Middle Ages derived their claim from Christianisation and the divine right of kings, partly influenced by the notion of sacral kingship inherited from Germanic antiquity.

The Early Middle Ages begin with a fragmentation of the former Western Roman Empire into barbarian kingdoms. In Western Europe, the kingdom of the Franks developed into the Carolingian Empire by the 8th century, and the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England were unified into the kingdom of England by the 10th century.

With the breakup of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, the system of feudalism places kings at the head of a pyramid of relationships between liege lords and vassals, dependent on the regional rule of barons, and the intermediate positions of counts (or earls) and dukes. The core of European feudal manorialism in the High Middle Ages were the territories of the former Carolingian Empire, i.e. the kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire (centered on the nominal kingdoms of Germany and Italy).[4]

In the course of the European Middle Ages, the European kingdoms underwent a general trend of centralisation of power, so that by the Late Middle Ages there were a number of large and powerful kingdoms in Europe, which would develop into the great powers of Europe in the Early Modern period.

Contemporary kings

Currently (as of 2016), fifteen kings are recognized as the heads of state of sovereign states (i.e. English king is used as official translation of the respective native titles held by the monarchs).

Most of these are heads of state of constitutional monarchies; kings ruling over absolute monarchies are the King of Saudi Arabia, the King of Bahrain and the King of Eswatini.[5]

MonarchHouseTitleKingdomest.
Harald V King of NorwayGlücksburgkongeKingdom of Norway11th c.
Carl XVI Gustaf King of SwedenBernadottekonungKingdom of Sweden12th c.
Felipe VI King of SpainBourbonreyKingdom of Spain1978 / 1479
Willem-Alexander King of the NetherlandsOrange-NassaukoningKingdom of the Netherlands1815
Philippe King of the BelgiansSaxe-Coburg and Gothakoning / roi / KönigKingdom of Belgium1830
Salman King of Saudi ArabiaSaudملك malikKingdom of Saudi Arabia1932
Abdullah II King of JordanHashimملك malikHashemite Kingdom of Jordan1946
Mohammed VI King of MoroccoAlaouiملك malikKingdom of Morocco1956
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa King of BahrainKhalifaملك malikKingdom of Bahrain1971
Vajiralongkorn King of ThailandChakriกษัตริย์ kasatKingdom of Thailand1782
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck King of BhutanWangchuckའབྲུག་རྒྱལ་པོ་ druk gyalpoKingdom of Bhutan1907
Norodom Sihamoni King of CambodiaNorodomស្ដេច sdacKingdom of Cambodia1993 / 1953
Tupou VI King of TongaTupouking / tu'iKingdom of Tonga1970
Letsie III King of LesothoMosheshking / morenaKingdom of Lesotho1966
Mswati III King of EswatiniDlaminingwenyamaKingdom of Eswatini1968

See also

Notes

  1. There have been rare exceptions, most notably Jadwiga of Poland and Mary, Queen of Hungary, who were crowned as King of Poland and King of Hungary respectively during the 1380s.
  2. The notion of a king being below an emperor in the feudal order, just as a duke is the rank below a king, is more theoretical than historical. The only kingdom title held within the Holy Roman Empire was the Kingdom of Bohemia, with the Kingdoms of Germany, Italy and Burgundy/Arles being nominal realms. The titles of King of the Germans and King of the Romans were non-landed titles held by the Emperor-elect (sometimes during the lifetime of the previous Emperor, sometimes not), although there were anti-Kings at various points; Arles and Italy were either held directly by the Emperor or not at all. The Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empires technically contained various kingdoms (Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Illyria, Lombardy–Venetia and Galicia and Lodomeria, as well as the Kingdoms of Croatia and Slavonia which were themselves subordinate titles to the Hungarian Kingdom and which were merged as Croatia-Slavonia in 1868), but the emperor and the respective kings were the same person. The Russian Empire did not include any kingdoms. The short-lived First French Empire (1804–1814/5) included a number of client kingdoms under Napoleon I, such as the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Westphalia, the Kingdom of Etruria, the Kingdom of Württemberg, the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Saxony and the Kingdom of Holland. The German Empire (1871-1918) included the Kingdoms of Prussia, Bavaria, Württemberg and Saxony, with the Prussian king also holding the Imperial title.
  3. Pine, L.G. (1992). Titles: How the King became His Majesty. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-56619-085-5.
  4. see e.g. M. Mitterauer, Why Europe?: The Medieval Origins of Its Special Path, University of Chicago Press (2010), p. 28.
  5. The distinction of the title of "king" from "sultan" or "emir" in oriental monarchies is largely stylistics; the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, the State of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are also categorised as absolute monarchies.

References

  • Thomas J. Craughwell, 5,000 Years of Royalty: Kings, Queens, Princes, Emperors & Tsars (2009).
  • David Cannadine, Simon Price (eds.), Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies (1992).
  • Jean Hani, Sacred Royalty: From the Pharaoh to the Most Christian King (2011).
  • Media related to Kings at Wikimedia Commons
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