For other uses, see King (disambiguation).
Heraldic crown of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period)
The Iron Crown of the Lombards, a surviving example of an early medieval royal crown
12th-century depiction of Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths.
Louis XIV of France, the "Sun King" (Roi-Soleil), who ruled at the height of French absolutism (painting by Hyacinthe Rigaud 1701).

King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant (while the title of queen on its own usually refers to the consort of a king).


Further information: Germanic king, Rex (title), and Knyaz
Look up cyning in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

The English term king is derived from the Anglo-Saxon cyning, which in turn is derived from the Common Germanic *kuningaz. The Common Germanic term was borrowed into Estonian and Finnish at an early time, surviving in these languages as kuningas. The English term "king" translates, and is considered equivalent to, Latin rēx and its equivalents in the various European languages. The Germanic term is notably different from the word for "king" in other Indo-European languages (*rēks "ruler"; Latin rēx, Sanskrit rājan and Irish ríg, but see Gothic reiks and, e.g., modern German Reich and modern Dutch rijk). It is a derivation from the term *kunjom "kin" (Old English cynn) by the -inga- suffix. The literal meaning is that of a "scion of the [noble] kin", or perhaps "son or descendant of one of noble birth" (OED).

English queen translates Latin regina; it is from Old English cwen "queen, noble woman, wife" from the PIE word for "woman" (*gwen-). The Germanic term for "wife" appears to have been specialized to "wife of a king"; in Old Norse, the cognate kvan still mostly refers to a wife generally. Scandinavian drottning, dronning is a feminine derivation from *druhtinaz "lord".


The English word is of Germanic origin, and historically refers to Germanic kingship, in the pre-Christian period a type of tribal kingship. The monarchies of Europe in the Christian Middle Ages derived their claim from Christianisation and the divine right of kings, partly influenced by the notion of sacral kingship inherited from Germanic antiquity.

The Early Middle Ages begin with a fragmentation of the former Western Roman Empire into "barbarian kingdoms". In Western Europe, the kingdom of the Franks developed into the Carolingian Empire by the 8th century, and the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England were unified into the kingdom of England by the 10th century.

With the breakup of the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century, the system of feudalism places kings at the head of a pyramid of relationships between liege lords and vassals, dependent on the regional rule of barons, and the intermediate positions of counts (or earls) and dukes. The core of European feudal manorialism in the High Middle Ages were the territories of the kingdom of France, the Holy Roman Empire (centered on the nominal kingdoms of Germany and Italy) and the kingdoms of England and Scotland.

In the course of the European Middle Ages, the European kingdoms underwent a general trend of centralisation of power, so that by the Late Middle Ages there were a number of large and powerful kingdoms in Europe, which would develop into the great powers of Europe in the Early Modern period.

Contemporary kings

Currently (as of 2016), fifteen kings and two queens regnant are recognized as the heads of state of sovereign states (i.e. English king or queen is used as official translation of the respective native titles held by the monarchs).

Most of these are heads of state of constitutional monarchies; kings ruling over absolute monarchies are the King of Saudi Arabia, the King of Bahrain and the King of Swaziland.[3]

Monarch House Title Kingdom est.
Margrethe II Queen of Denmark Glücksburg dronning Kingdom of Denmark 10th c.
Harald V King of Norway Glücksburg konge Kingdom of Norway 11th c.
Carl XVI Gustaf King of Sweden Bernadotte konung Kingdom of Sweden 12th c.
Felipe VI King of Spain Bourbon rey Kingdom of Spain 1978 / 1479
Willem-Alexander King of the Netherlands Amsberg koning Kingdom of the Netherlands 1815
Philippe King of the Belgians Saxe-Coburg and Gotha koning / roi Kingdom of Belgium 1830
Salman King of Saudi Arabia Saud ملك malik Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 1932
Abdullah II King of Jordan Hashim ملك malik Kingdom of Jordan 1946
Mohammed VI King of Morocco Alaoui ملك malik Kingdom of Morocco 1956
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa King of Bahrain Khalifa ملك malik Kingdom of Bahrain 1971
Vajiralongkorn designate King of Thailand Chakri กษัตริย์ kasat Kingdom of Thailand 1782
Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck King of Bhutan Wangchuck འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་པོ་ druk gyalpo Kingdom of Bhutan 1907
Norodom Sihamoni King of Cambodia Norodom ស្ដេច sdac Kingdom of Cambodia 1993 / 1953
Tupou VI King of Tonga Tupou king Kingdom of Tonga 1970
Letsie III King of Lesotho Moshesh king / morena Kingdom of Lesotho 1966
Mswati III King of Swaziland Dlamini ngwenyama Kingdom of Swaziland 1968

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kings.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Queens regnant.


  1. The notion of a king being below an emperor in the feudal order, just as a duke is the rank below the king, is more theoretical than historical: the only kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire was the Kingdom of Bohemia; the Austrian Empire technically contained the kingdom of Hungary, but the emperor and the king were the same person. The modern Russian Empire and German Empire did not include any kingdoms; only the short-lived First French Empire (1804–1814/5) did include a number of client kingdoms under Napoleon I, such as the Kingdom of Italy or the Kingdom of Westphalia.
  2. Pine, L.G. (1992). Titles: How the King became His Majesty. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-56619-085-5.
  3. The distinction of the title of "king" from "sultan" or "emir" in oriental monarchies is largely stylistics; the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, the State of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are also categorised as absolute monarchies.
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