Tamar of Georgia

Nineteenth-century portrait of Tamar. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Amy-Jane Humphries

Tamar was crowned again after her father’s death when Tamar ascended the Georgian throne as sole monarch. It was due to a quirk of the Georgian language that Tamar was crowned as a King rather than as a Queen Regnant.

There was simply no word for the latter—only for queen consort: ‘dedopali’—therefore, Tamar was known as ‘mepe,’ king. After her first marriage to the exiled Kievan duke, Yuri Bogolyubsky, Tamar’s title was further enhanced. Yuri was crowned ‘mepe’.

Tamar was crowned ‘mepeta-mepe, dedopalta-dedopali’ – king of kings, queen of queens. Yuri was a famously poor match for Tamar. His military capabilities had recommended him as a husband for a monarch whose gender was felt to undermine her ability to rule.

Apparently envious of his wife’s position, Yuri became the worst possible consort for Tamar. Said to be a ‘habitual drunkard’ and in possession of a foul temper, Yuri was even accused of sodomy by his contemporaries – though the truth of that accusation we will never know.

Their marriage was annulled after less than three years and, unsurprisingly, they had no children together. Yuri would further demonstrate his unsuitability by staging a number of unsuccessful coups against his former wife in the coming years.

These coups would be firmly put down by Tamar’s second husband, David Soslan. Together, Tamar and David presided over Georgia’s golden age. The kingdom expanded its borders, became a military titan in a region dominated by the Rum Sultanate, and began to enjoy not only scientific and medical advancement but also artistic and architectural renaissances. Tamar also secured the throne with two heirs, George and Rusudan, who would both go on to rule Georgia. It was for these achievements that Tamar earned the epithet ‘the Great’ – the only female monarch to be awarded such an honour.

Recommended Reading

Irene Carstairs, ‘Tamar the Great: A Biography’, Team Queens, 22 April 2021

Irene Carstairs, “Like an Anvil”: The Language of the Kartlis Tskhovreba and Tamar the Great‘, Team Queens, 15 July 2021

Lois Huneycutt, “Tamar of Georgia (1184-1213) and the Language of Female Power,” in A Companion to Global Queenship, ed. Elena Woodacre, 27-38 (Leeds: Arc Humanities Press, 2018).

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