Recently I have been watching the NETFLIX series “The Crown,” a dramatic and intimate look at the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II and the challenges she faced as an emerging leader. Historically it is a fascinating and revealing portrayal of court life, a behind the scenes look at the choice leaders face in the use of power-the tensions between the call to duty and a personal life.
From my perspective as an archetypal consultant, the series reveals clues to a deeper understanding of the symbolic nature of women in power. An archetype is an energy pattern that the collective senses subconsciously, so when the word “Queen” is spoken images of both the light and shadow attributes come to mind. It could be someone “Regal and Royal” or “Demanding and Cruel.” The “Evil Queen” in so many fairy tales holds so tight to power that she disposes of anyone in her way, as in the famous “Off with your head!” of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. The empowered Queen, of whom we have few literary examples, understands her power and makes decisions for the best outcome of the whole, her kingdom.
I am often with women who have the Queen archetype. You will find them as the leaders of educational systems, large organizations, community non-profits, arts groups, and businesses. There is no question when you are in the presence of an empowered queen as the mantle of responsibility is not one assumed lightly. For many women it is part of their life purpose, their Sacred Contract to fulfill in their life time. Leadership always involves the management of power- daily choices of benevolence or tyranny, of ruling by wisdom or fear. The secure Queen makes these choices understanding her power and exercising it with deliberation and compassion. She is charged with making the difficult and painful choices that leaders face when all parties cannot be satisfied and someone or something must be sacrificed for the good of the whole. It is common for a woman in leadership to be denounced for the same decisions her male counterpart chooses as the collective expects maternal responses from a woman and not battle cries. Balancing compassion and holding a vision for the future must be mastered by successful women leaders developing their own style. This will bring her into the empowered Queen archetype.
In the series we are shown the challenge all women in leadership positions symbolically face when accepting leadership. Her grandmother Queen Mary advises her. “You must put your sentiments aside as duty calls…your people need your strength and leadership. As you mourn your father also mourn someone else, Elizabeth Mountbatten, for she is now replaced by Elizabeth Regina. The two Elizabeth’s will frequently be in conflict with one another, but in fact the Crown must win- must always win.” This creates an immediate shift in her relationship to her husband, mother and sister, dramatically portrayed as they each in turn bow to her in recognition of her new power.
At her coronation the Archbishop sanctifies this transformation in a ceremony that also empowers the monarch as a spiritual ruler, with the grace of God to be passed from generation to the next in the line of succession. The new Queen is now an instrument of wisdom, God’s plan, and is forever changed. Her Sacred Contract is now visible to all.
DeCode Your Sacred Contract- Do You (or a coaching client) have a Queen Archetype?
If someone has the Queen archetype it will emerge early and be present throughout her life. She is the one who is the “natural” leader on the playground, the organizer, who assumes responsibility for her siblings, and sometimes her parents. She has ALWAYS been responsible at a deep level as it is coded into her. There is a strong sense of duty as a calling.
As a queen in training, she, like the sovereign she is destined to become, will be offered life tests to experience the light and shadow of decision making. Her choices will reveal her true nature. On the job, she may be frustrated that she is the one who is burdened while others are more casual. She frequently believes that she is the only one who can do the job correctly, an attitude that becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy, as she does not delegate easily. This is a shadow tendency that must be mastered not only for herself but for others to step into their own greatness.
When she is offered the mantle of leadership she may be reluctant to accept as she has become aware of the price on her freedom and family life, yet will feel called to do so. Or conversely she may have been planning and dreaming of this day for years and step in eagerly. As she ages and considers retirement, new issues arise. Queens do not retire until they have a succession plan to ensure the health of their kingdom: many remain in their positions forever. If a Queen retires, her transition to retirement is more challenging than for other people as relinquishing power is not in her nature. She has in fact lost more than others, a piece of her identity larger than her title is gone as the call to duty does not retire with her. Queens in retirement may do well in sharing their expertise, as volunteers, mentors, or consultants, thereby establishing a new “kingdom,” and participating in the development of future leaders, a new way to fulfill the call of duty and responsibility and their Sacred Contract.