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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