Mary’s Universal Queenship

Updated: May 30, 2020

The following summary of the theology of Our Lady’s Queenship is presented by the late Father Juniper Carol, O.F.M., founder of the Mariological Society of America. – Ed.

A logical consequence of Mary’s unique mission is her role as universal Queen. Much attention has been devoted to this thesis in recent years, particularly in view of the repeated declarations of the magisterium. In our presentation of the doctrine we shall endeavor to avoid the two extremes sometimes encountered in this connec­tion, namely, exaggerations per excessum, and exaggera­tions per defectum. Our safest guide in the matter will be the magisterium itself. The treatment of this thesis may be conveniently divided into the following sections:

I. Explanation of the terms “king” and “queen” in general;

II. The meaning of “queenship” as applied to Mary;

III. The teaching of the magisterium;

IV. The biblical basis of the doctrine;

V. The voice of Tradition;

VI. The extent and nature of Mary’s Queenship.

I. Explanation of the Terms “King” and “Queen” in General. The words “king” and “queen” are not neces­sarily synonyms differing only in gender. In most cases, according to the usage universally accepted, they imply functions which are formally different. Since queenship is predicated only analogically of Mary and of earthly queens, and since the office of a queen is related to that of the king, we will first describe the latter in order better to understand the former, and then project these con­cepts on the specific case of Our Blessed Lady. (1)

A. Meaning of the Word “King.”

(1) In a purely metaphorical sense the word “king” connotes simply a certain primacy, prominence or excel­lence with reference to others of the same genus. In this sense the lion is often called the king of animals; Demos­thenes the king of orators, and so forth,

(2) In the proper sense a “king” is the man who, on his own authority, rules the members of an organized society and leads them to their common end, exercising his supreme dominion by means of the threefold power: legislative, judicial and coercive.

B. Meaning of the Word “Queen.”

(1) In a purely metaphorical sense the word “queen” connotes only a certain primacy, prominence or excellence with reference to others. Thus theology is called the queen of sciences; charity the queen of virtues, and so on.

(2) In the proper-absolute sense a queen is a woman who, on her own authority, rules the members of an organized society and leads them to their common end. A queen in this sense exercises her supreme dominion over her subjects by means of the threefold power: legislative, judicial, and coercive. Example: the Queen of Holland.

(3) In the proper-relative sense a queen is a woman who shares the dignity and office of a king only in her capacity as the king’s mother or as the king’s consort. Examples: the Queen-Mother of Denmark, the Queen-Consort of Sweden.

II. The Meaning of “Queenship” when Applied to Mary.

A. That Our Blessed Lady may be styled queen in a metaphorical sense is obvious. Because of her unsurpassed sanctity and her unique connection with the Hypostatic Order, she automatically holds the highest possible rank, primacy and dignity in God’s creation.

B. On the other hand, Mary is not queen in the proper-absolute sense of that word. The reason is that Mary is not a “female king,” a king of the feminine sex, such as the Queen of Holland or the Queen of England. Her authority over the subjects of her kingdom is not supreme and independent, but altogether sub­ordinate to that of her Son, the only Supreme Ruler.

C. However, Our Blessed Lady is rightly styled queen in the proper-relative sense of that word. She has a right to that title both as Mother of the King (Christ), and as His intimate consort in His mission of leading the mem­bers of that kingdom to their common end. Like earthly queens in their own sphere, Mary rules her spiritual sub­jects mostly through the efficacy of her influence over the heart of the King (insinuations, suggestions, power­ful intercession on behalf of the subjects). (2) But this is not all.

D. The term “queenship,” when applied to Mary, designates a reality far surpassing the queenly power just described. Mary’s Queenship is utterly unique; it is alto­gether peculiar and proper to this Queen. This becomes evident when we consider the specific manner in which she acquired her dominion, and the unique manner in which she exercises her royal powers.

1. Our Blessed Lady acquired her dominion over her subjects, not only by being the Mother of the King and His associate or consort in His mission of leading the members of His kingdom to their common end, but also by the fact that she formally and actively cooperated with the King in the work of Redemption. It was pre­cisely through the Redemption that Christ and Mary recaptured or conquered their kingdom from the unjust possession of Satan. Just as Christ is King because of the Hypostatic Union and the added title of conquest (i.e., as Redeemer), so Mary is Queen because of her divine Motherhood and her prerogative as Coredemptrix, In other words, she is Queen by divine relationship and by right of conquest.

2. As to the exercise of her Queenship, it may be said that Our Lady participates in the legislative power of her Son in a unique way. Here we must bear in mind that, in the supernatural kingdom of Christ, the law is primarily grace itself, and only secondarily the precepts of the Gospel. It is grace that prompts the subjects of this kingdom to conform to the Ruler’s will; it is mainly by grace that they are led to their common end and wel­fare. (3) Since Our Lady has a certain jurisdiction over the treasury of grace, and since she is the dispenser of all grace, it follows that she shares Christ’s legislative power. As to whether or not she shares also the judicial and executive powers, theologians have expressed differ­ent opinions. Some, like C. Dillenschneider, say that she does not; others, like G. M. Roschini, believe that she shares them indirectly, through her consent and her prayers. (4)

III. The Teaching of the Magisterium. Our Blessed Lady has been openly proclaimed

“Queen” by at least fourteen popes between Gregory II (715-731) and Pius XII. (5) The classical text is found in the address of Pius XII to the faithful gathered in Fatima in 1946. His words are clear and categorical: “He, the Son of God, reflects on His heavenly Mother the glory, the majesty, and the dominion of His kingship; for, having been associated with the King of Martyrs in the ineffable work of human Redemption as Mother and cooperatrix, she remains forever associated with Him, with an almost unlimited power, in the dispensation of graces which flow from the Redemption. Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest; through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election. And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion.” (6) These ideas were repeated, in a more elaborate manner, in his encyclical Ad coeli Reginam. (7) The Sacred Liturgy, too, both in the East and in the West, loudly and frequently proclaims Mary’s universal Queenship. (8) The feast in honor of this Marian prerogative is a significant indica­tion of the mind of the Church on this point. (9)

IV. The Biblical Basis for Mary’s Queenship. The most important biblical passage in support of Mary’s Queenship, understood in the proper sense, is the well-known Protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15). It is here that Our Lady is formally (though implicitly) introduced as Christ’s intimate associate in the work of man’s Redemp­tion. Since it was precisely the Redemption that gave Christ the title of King by right of conquest, it follows that Mary, too, in her capacity as Coredemptrix, shares Christ’s Kingship by right of conquest. (10)

In the New Testament we have two texts which are frequently adduced in support of the Catholic thesis. In Luke 1:30-35 the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to become the Mother of a King who will reign forever. In the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse Our Lady, symbolizing the Church, is portrayed with the moon under her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars (v. 1-2), and as the Mother of a Son who will rule all nations; a Son who is taken up to God and to His throne (v. 7). (11)

There are several other Old Testament passages which have been frequently utilized in connection with Mary’s Queenship; for example: Psalm 45:10; 3 Kings 2:19; Esther 2:17 and 5:3. However, until it is sufficiently established that the Holy Spirit intended to convey the idea of Mary’s Queenship in these passages, we may use them only as adaptations, not as biblical arguments.

V. The Voice of Tradition. In the early centuries of the Church we do not find many explicit and clear statements to the effect that Mary is our Queen. (12) But from the eighth century on, the doctrine becomes increasingly evident in the writings of the Fathers. Thus St. Andrew of Crete (d. c, 727), St. Germain of Constantinople (d. 733), St. John Damascene (d. 749) and Eadmer of Canterbury (d. 1124) frequently style Mary “Queen of the universe,” “Queen of the human race,” etc. (13) In the Middle Ages one of the most articulate champions of Mary’s royal dominion was unquestionably St. Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444). (14) Beginning with the seventeenth century, we find not only the explicit and frequent state­ment of the doctrine, but also its theological elaboration. The most important names in this connection are F. Suárez, S.J. (d. 1617), C. de Vega, S.J. (d. 1672), and especially the Augustinian Bartholomew de los Rios (d. 1652). (15) In the twentieth century several Marian Con­gresses and an imposing number of bishops have openly endorsed the thesis while urging the Holy See to honor Mary’s Queenship with a liturgical feast similar to that of Christ the King. (16)

VI. Extent and Nature of M