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Oedipus Rex and Regina: The Queen Mother in Africa1

  • Ronald Cohen

The importance of female title holders, especially that of the Queen Mother, is widespread throughout the state systems of Africa. Royal monarchical power and authority is often linked to a senior woman of the royal line, sometimes a real mother, sometimes not, who is the female counterpart to the male royal person. One writer has suggested that in Africa the monarchy itself involves not simply a King but rather a royal couple—the King and his mother—so that centralized authority is in fact inherent in a mother-son ‘royal duo’ (de Heusch, 1962: 145). The Queen Mother in such a view is not simply ‘important’ but an essential ingredient in the nature of royal power and authority, and therefore of centralized government as this has developed historically on the continent.

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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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