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 (as in Austria-Hungary), 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" ("queen-empress") instead of "emperor-king" ("empress-queen").

In the British Empire

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

Following the Proclamation of Empire in 1877, when the British Crown took over from the East India Company the administration of British India, Queen Victoria was considered to have gained Imperial status and 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 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 Great Britain coins of George VI carried the title up to 1948.

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).

The Habsburg dynasty therefore ruled as Emperors of Austria over the western and northern half of the country, and as Kings of Hungary over the Kingdom of Hungary. 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

In 1936, with the Italian conquest of Ethiopia, Victor Emmanuel III was proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia. Thus he became King-Emperor (in Italian Re Imperatore), i.e., King of Italy and Emperor of Ethiopia, because conquered Ethiopia was then an Empire. In the following years foreign countries recognized the Italian rule in Ethiopia (UK in 1937).

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


See also


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