The Empress of Russia for almost 35 years, Catherine the Great was the country's longest-ruling female leader. An ambitious ruler, she rapidly expanded the Russian Empire and is credited with modernizing the country along Western European lines. She supported the ideals of the Enlightenment and the period of her rule—the Catherinian Era—is considered the Golden Age of Russia.
Many biographers consider Anne, the Queen of Great Britain, a weak and irresolute woman. It is said that she lacked political astuteness and was easily influenced by others. Though she was troubled by poor health throughout her life, she became increasingly obese and ill during her 30s and eventually died at the age of 49.
The mother of 16 children, Maria Theresa was the only female monarch of the Habsburg empire which she ruled with absolute power. She was known for industrial and educational reforms which led to the development of Austria during her 40-year reign. The devout Roman Catholic, who overtly disliked Jews and the Protestants, was sometimes criticized for her religious intolerance.
Catherine I of Russia was the second wife and Empress consort of Peter the Great. She served as the Empress regnant of Russia from 1725 until her death in 1727. The daughter of a peasant, she had an adventurous life as a young woman and eventually married Peter the Great who was taken by her beauty. They had 12 children.
Marie Louise was an Austrian archduchess who reigned as Duchess of Parma from 1814 until her death. The eldest child of Emperor Francis II of Austria and his second wife, Maria Theresa, she grew up during a tumultuous period in the history of Austria. She was married to Napoleon I from 1810 to 1821. She died of pleurisy in 1847.
Daughter of Ivan V and niece of Peter I, Anna of Russia did not have much interest in the governance of her kingdom and left it in the hands of her beloved Ernst Johann Biron and her advisors. Her “dark reign” witnessed costly wars such as the Russo-Turkish War.
The wife of King George II, Caroline of Ansbach served as the queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland from 1727 until her death in 1737. She also became the electress consort of Hanover upon George II's accession in 1727. Caroline is credited with bolstering the House of Hanover's place during a difficult period of political instability in Britain.
German princess Elizabeth Charlotte, also known as Madame Palatine, became the duchess of Orléans as the second wife of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans. Interestingly, she converted from Protestantism to Catholicism just to get married to Philippe I. An ancestress of several royal families, she was also known as the Grandmother of Europe.
Mary of Modena, the second wife of King James II of England, who was also James VII of Scotland, reigned as the queen of England, Ireland, and Scotland. It is believed she induced James to escape to France during the Glorious Revolution, when William of Orange invaded England.
Ahilyabai Holkar was the Queen of the Maratha Empire who reigned from 1767 to 1795. A great pioneer, Ahilyabai is credited with building hundreds of temples throughout India. She is best remembered for rebuilding the famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple which had been plundered, desecrated, and converted into a mosque by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
The only child of George William, the duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle, Sophia Dorothea got married to George Louis, the future King George I of Great Britain, who was also her cousin. She was imprisoned in the castle of Ahlden for infidelity for 32 years and eventually died in captivity.
Zewditu, a 20th-century Ethiopian empress and the eldest daughter of King Menelik of Shewa, scripted history as the first female head of an internationally recognized African state. She was also the first and last empress regnant of Ethiopia. It’s widely believed, she died of shock 2 days after her husband’s death in battle.
Tarabai reigned as the Queen Regent of the famous Maratha Empire from 1700 to 1708. The queen of Rajaram Bhosle I, Tarabai played an important role in fending off the Mughal forces from the Maratha territories after the demise of her husband. Tarabai's life and heroics have inspired films like Shivrayachi Soon Tararani where she was portrayed by Nishigandha Wad.
Maria Carolina of Austria, the wife of King Ferdinand IV of Naples, was also the de facto queen of Naples and Sicily. It is believed, she came under the influence of French-born English Sir John Acton and imposed many pro-British and anti-French reforms. She revoked the ban on Freemasonry and enlarged the navy, too.
The queen consort of Spain Maria Luisa was the wife of Spanish king Charles IV and the daughter of Duke Philip of Parma. She often served as the muse of Spanish artist Goya. She also started the Order of Queen Maria Luisa to reward noble women. She was later exiled with Charles.
The wife of French king Louis Philippe I, Marie-Amélie de Bourbon was the last queen of France. Least interested in politics, she spent most of her life raising her 8 children. She also shunned public life for fear of a new revolution after Louis Philippe became the king following the July Revolution.
The first wife of Emperor Peter I of Russia, Eudoxia Lopukhina was chosen by the emperor’s mother as his bride when the emperor was 17. Unfortunately, the marriage ended disastrously, and her husband left her for a mistress. After the emperor’s death, she was imprisoned in a dungeon before being released later.
Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily lost 8 of her 16 siblings to smallpox in infancy. The eldest child of King Ferdinand IV & III of Naples and Sicily, Maria was also the niece of the infamous French queen Marie Antoinette. A patron of Viennese music, she loved masquerades and balls.