The Mayan city of Copán, in present-day Honduras, was ruled by Yik’in Chan K’awiil in the eighth century. His wife served as consort queen. Although her birth name is not known, her son referred to her as Yax Ahau Xoc, which translates as ‘A Noble Young Reader.’
She was also known as Chac Nik Ye, or ‘Lady of Palenque.’ Like her husband, Yax Ahau Xoc came from a royal family. Her father was Lord K’inich Hanaab Pacal II of Lakamha. Her brother K’uk Balaam took over this role after their father’s death.
In the seventh and eight centuries, there was a shift in Mayan society that saw women as prominent figures in courtly life. This accompanied the worshipping of female goddesses such as the supreme deity of the moon, Ix Chel.
Yik’in Chan K’awiil and Yax Ahau Xoc married when Xoc was a teenager. After K’awiil died in 463 AD, their son Yax Pasaj Chan Yopat took over the Copán throne. He reigned for fifty-seven years and was the last ruler of the region, before the collapse of the Classic Mayan cities.
Mayan monarchs were referred to as an ‘ahau.’ Kings and queens demonstrated their power through donning regalia such as a double-headed serpent bar, which was held like a staff. They also wore belts, jewellery and crowns decorated with symbolic emblems.
Yax Ahau Xoc has lived on in historical literature. Anna Kirwin’s Lady of Palenque: Flower of Bacal tells the story of the young princess, about to meet her future husband and king of Copán. The powerful city of Copán was occupied for over two-thousand years before its collapse.
Anna Kirwin, Lady of Palenque: Flower of Bacal (New York City: Scholastic, 2004).
Dieter Dütting, “The Great Goddess in Classic Maya Belief,” Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (ZfE) / Journal of Social and Cultural Anthropology 101, 1 (1976): 41-146
Robert J. Sharer and Sylvanus Griswold Morley, The Ancient Maya (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994).