Which female heads of state were present on the battlefield

Jul 2019
4
San Diego, CA
In Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra we learn that Cleopatra was present on the battlefield at Actium, more precisely, on her flag ship at sea. I'm not sure if the boat actually went out and engaged with combatants but it is still quite an achievement. Something similar happened around 42BC during one of the battles which was an aftermath of Ceasar's assassination. This raises the question, how many female heads of state or at least very highly ranking have been on the battlefield. I can only think of Bodicea (not sure if she was queen) or Joan of Arc (definitely not a head of state). My mother mentioned Catherine the Great of Russia but I'm not sure if this is true.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,898
Blachernai
Matilda of Canosa comes to mind, and a few twelfth-century elite women accompanied their husbands to war - Sikelgaita, the wife of Robert Guiscard reportedly was present, and Komnenian women were known to be in the camp at least.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,605
Dispargum
When Catherine the Great overthrew Peter III she first made a personal appeal to at least one army regiment. She then led them on a short march. Ultimately Peter III was arrested peacefully, signed an abdication document, and then was murdered. Catherine never came under fire.

Brunhilde of the Franks, circa 580, on at least one occasion was able to win over the hearts of a rebel army that was deployed against her. I don't think any real combat broke out, but the potential was there. She was a brave woman.
 
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Feb 2018
244
US
Mandukhai led her smaller army to victory directly in several important battles on the steppe.

Nur Jahan rode into battle leading a unit atop an elephant.
 
Apr 2019
410
India
This raises the question, how many female heads of state or at least very highly ranking have been on the battlefield.
Does it mean we should only include the women who actually fought on the battleground?
We have accounts of so many female warriors who were either head of their states or high ranking officers in India.

Some of them are:
Rani Durgavati - Wikipedia
She was queen of Gondwana state. She was a fierce warrior who is said to have won 51 battles. She lost her final battle with mighty mughal army of emperor Akbar and preferred to do suicide instead of living with the shame of defeat.

Rudrama Devi - Wikipedia
She was a Kakatiya ruler. She led her army successfully in various battles. She used to dress like men and she lost her life in a combat.

Kittur Chennamma - Wikipedia
Queen Chennama of Kittur was a beautifu woman and was very fond of hunting and archery. She defeated British forces twice but in the third battle she was captured and imprisioned.

Velu Nachiyar - Wikipedia
She was head of small but prosperous Shivaganga estate. She was considered the first Indian to revolt against British. Ultimately she managed to keep her estate free for long time with the aid of great sacrifice of another female warrior Kuyili.

Abbakka Chowta - Wikipedia
Abbakka Chowta was rebellious by her nature and was queen of small but wealthy Ullal. Even with her minuscule army she managed to keep Portuguese army away. But in her last battle she was defeated due to her husband's treachery(they never got along well). She was imprisioned and killed while she was trying to escape ( believed her husband betrayed her again).

Keladi Chennamma - Wikipedia
Queen of Keladi kingdom battled against mughal emperor Aurangzeb and managed to defeat his army.

Nayakuralu Nagamma - Wikipedia
She was prime-minister of her state and according to the sources was very intelligent and brave.

Bibi Dalair Kaur - Wikipedia
She was head of a unit of Sikh female warriors who died while fighting Mughals.


Begum Hazrat Mahal - Wikipedia
She was lady of Awadh. She participated in 1857 rebellion and fought bravely on the battlefield. But ultimiately defeated and lived rest of her life in exile in Nepal.

There are more women whom I would like to include but the post will become too long. There were many female only army units in several Indian states.

The women listed above were not exactly head of large states but still they need to be remembered for their bravery. They were fighting against much more powerful enemies.
 
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Jul 2007
1,678
Australia
Artemisia I of Caria : during the naval battle of Salamis c480BC, she personally commanded her contribution of five ships (source: Herodotus)
 
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rvsakhadeo

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
9,224
India
Does it mean we should only include the women who actually fought on the battleground?
We have accounts of so many female warriors who were either head of their states or high ranking officers in India.

Some of them are:
Rani Durgavati - Wikipedia
She was queen of Gondwana state. She was a fierce warrior who is said to have won 51 battles. She lost her final battle with mighty mughal army of emperor Akbar and preferred to do suicide instead of living with the shame of defeat.

Rudrama Devi - Wikipedia
She was a Kakatiya ruler. She led her army successfully in various battles. She used to dress like men and she lost her life in a combat.

Kittur Chennamma - Wikipedia
Queen Chennama of Kittur was a beautifu woman and was very fond of hunting and archery. She defeated British forces twice but in the third battle she was captured and imprisioned.

Velu Nachiyar - Wikipedia
She was head of small but prosperous Shivaganga estate. She was considered the first Indian to revolt against British. Ultimately she managed to keep her estate free for long time with the aid of great sacrifice of another female warrior Kuyili.

Abbakka Chowta - Wikipedia
Abbakka Chowta was rebellious by her nature and was queen of small but wealthy Ullal. Even with her minuscule army she managed to keep Portuguese army away. But in her last battle she was defeated due to her husband's treachery(they never got along well). She was imprisioned and killed while she was trying to escape ( believed her husband betrayed her again).

Keladi Chennamma - Wikipedia
Queen of Keladi kingdom battled against mughal emperor Aurangzeb and managed to defeat his army.

Nayakuralu Nagamma - Wikipedia
She was prime-minister of her state and according to the sources was very intelligent and brave.

Bibi Dalair Kaur - Wikipedia
She was head of a unit of Sikh female warriors who died while fighting Mughals.


Begum Hazrat Mahal - Wikipedia
She was lady of Awadh. She participated in 1857 rebellion and fought bravely on the battlefield. But ultimiately defeated and lived rest of her life in exile in Nepal.

There are more women whom I would like to include but the post will become too long. There were many female only army units in several Indian states.

The women listed above were not exactly head of large states but still they need to be remembered for their bravery. They were fighting against much more powerful enemies.
You omitted Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, who fought bravely against the British general Sir Hugh Rose in India's first war of Independence 1857-58. She was killed on the battlefield when riding her horse and surrounded by four British cavalrymen, but not before the siege of Jhansi fort was successfully defended by her for a long time.