Gender, Nationalism, and the Regent Queens in Colonial India


  • Annie Treesa Joseph



Regent queens, Nawab Sikander Begum, Rani Laxmi Bai, Warrior queens, Nationalism, 1857 Revolution.


Queens in power are “moments of passage” ( Fradenburg 8) and transition. The queen’s rule emanates from an unforeseen circumstance that every dynasty strives to eschew. This explicates the liminality of their political existence. Since queens are upstaged only in times of crisis, they play a significant role in eschewing internal crises and power struggles. Adverting to the idea of saving grace, queens enable the state's transition from chaos to stability in the event of a king’s death. Agency sans official recognition was the mainstay of a queen’s politics. Queens thus acted as a buffer zone that usually worked towards validating the sovereignty of her husband or son. This paper is a comparative study of two regent queens to delineate how nationalist politics reconceptualized the ‘warrior queen,’ to suit their notions of gender and space. In contrast, pro-British queens remained ignored in the national discourses- neither criticized nor acknowledged. The reasons for the divergent reception of anti-British and Pro-British queens in later discourses by looking at the presence and absence of myths and legends about such queens have also been looked into. To clarify this idea, I have looked at Nawab Sikander Begum of Bhopal and Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, who fought on different sides in the 1857 revolution. This paper tries to analyse how the queens who chose a militant response towards the British incursion could be called ‘warrior queens’ and those who chose a diplomatic strategy could be termed as ‘reformer queens’. The latter could be called so, not because warrior queens did not have reformist tendencies, but because the diplomatic strategies finally helped redefine queenship tradition in a way the former could not carry out successfully. This categorization is not absolute and did not come out from the intentions of these queens, but rather from the mode and consequences of their actions. The paper works towards the inference that the difference between the warrior and the reformer queens in this respect is that, while Rani Lakshmi Bai, knowingly or unknowingly, was an agent of her culture and the ensuing nationalist discourse, Sikander made religion and culture, her agents, to rule the principality in her own right.




How to Cite

Annie Treesa Joseph. “Gender, Nationalism, and the Regent Queens in Colonial India”. Samyukta: A Journal of Gender and Culture, vol. 8, no. 1, Apr. 2023, doi:10.53007/SJGC.2023.V8.I1.163.