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Signature of King Edward VIIIThe 'R' and 'I' after his name indicate 'king' and 'emperor' in Latin ('Rex' and 'Imperator').
Signature of King Edward VIII
The 'R' and 'I' after his name indicate 'king' and 'emperor' in Latin ('Rex' and 'Imperator').

A king-emperor, the female equivalent being queen-empress, is a sovereign ruler who is simultaneously a king of one territory and emperor of another. This title usually results from a merger of a royal and imperial crown, but recognises that the two territories are different politically or culturally and in status (emperor being a higher rank than king). It also denotes a king's imperial status through the acquisition of an empire or vice versa.

The dual title signifies a sovereign's dual role, but may also be created to improve a ruler's prestige. Both cases, however, show that the merging of rule was not simply a case of annexation where one state is swallowed by another, but rather of unification and almost equal status, though in the case of the British monarchy the suggestion that an emperor is higher in rank than a king was avoided by creating the title "king-emperor" or "queen-empress" instead of "emperor-king" or "empress-queen".

In the British Empire

Further information: Emperor of India

A plaque on the Manchester Central Library records George VI's titles before giving up being Emperor of India.
A plaque on the Manchester Central Library records George VI's titles before giving up being Emperor of India.
Coins of the British Raj featured the title "King Emperor", such as this George V coin.
Coins of the British Raj featured the title "King Emperor", such as this George V coin.

The British Crown had officially taken over the governing of British India from the East India Company in 1858, in the aftermath of what the British called 'the Indian Mutiny'. Henceforth, the new British Raj was ruled directly from Whitehall via the India Office. Following the Delhi Durbar in 1877, Queen Victoria was given Imperial status by the British Government, and she assumed the title Empress of India. She was thus the Queen-Empress, and her successors, until George VI, were known as King-Emperors. This title was the shortened form of the full title, and in widespread popular use.

The reigning King-Emperors or Queen-Empress used the initials R I (Rex Imperator or Regina Imperatrix) or the abbreviation Ind. Imp. (Indiae Imperator/Imperatrix) after their name (while the one reigning Queen-Empress, Victoria, used the initials R I, the three consorts of the married King-Emperors simply used R).

British coins, and those of the British Empire and Commonwealth dominions, routinely included some variation of the titles Rex Ind. Imp., although in India itself the coins said "Empress", and later "King Emperor." When, in August 1947, India became independent, all dies had to be changed to remove the latter two abbreviations, in some cases taking up to a year. In the United Kingdom, coins of George VI carried the title to 1948.

In the German Empire

Further information: German Emperor

In 1871, the North German Confederation united with the Southern German states to form the German Empire. The Constitution stated that the King of Prussia, then Wilhelm I, would be crowned German Emperor (Deutscher Kaiser). Wilhelm had wanted to be proclaimed Emperor of Germany (Kaiser von Deutschland), but this would've caused sovereignty problems with the southern German princes and Austria.

After the devastating loss in the First World War and the German Revolution, Kaiser Wilhelm II attempted to abdicate the throne of Germany while retaining his throne as King of Prussia, believing the Kingdom of Prussia and German Empire to be in a personal union. But after being informed that he couldn't abdicate one throne without the other, Wilhelm was forced to abdicate both thrones and lived the rest of his live in exile in the Netherlands.

In Austria-Hungary

Another use of this dual title was when, in 1867, the multi-national Austrian Empire, which was German-ruled and facing growing nationalism, undertook a reform that gave nominal and factual rights to Hungarian nobility. This reform revived the Austrian-annexed Kingdom of Hungary, and therefore created the dual-monarchic union state of Austria-Hungary and the dual title of "emperor-king" (in German Kaiser und König, in Hungarian Császár és Király).

The Habsburg dynasty therefore ruled as Emperors of Austria over the western and northern half of the Empire (Cisleithania), and as Kings of Hungary over the Kingdom of Hungary and much of Transleithania. Hungary enjoyed some degree of self-government and representation in joint affairs (principally foreign relations and defence). The federation bore the full name of "The Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen".

In the Italian colonial empire

Following the Italian Occupation of Ethiopia in 1936, King Victor Emmanuel III was proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia. Thus, he became King-Emperor (in Italian Re Imperatore), ruling over both the Kingdom of Italy and the Ethiopian Empire.

The King-Emperor was represented by the Viceroy, who was also appointed as Governor-General of Italian East Africa (AOI - Africa Orientale Italiana). The capital city of the Viceroy and Governor-General was Addis Ababa.


See also


  1. ^ Miklosich, Franz (1858). Monumenta serbica spectantia historiam Serbiae, Bosnae, Ragusii ed: Fr. apud Guilelmum Braumüller. p. 154.
  2. ^ James Evans (30 July 2008). Great Britain and the Creation of Yugoslavia: Negotiating Balkan Nationality and Identity. I.B.Tauris. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-85771-307-0.