Image by Jairo David-Arboleda – Pexels

For many of us, Elizabeth Queen of England has been reigning long before we were born. I grew up knowing there was a beautiful woman who was also kind of our Queen. She controlled her kingdom, and her subjects love and respected her. Ancient and modern African royalty is completely opposite to this.

English royalty vs Nigerian royalty

Concerning Africa, I will always refer to Nigeria because that is my direct experience. But do note that Africa is vast, and I look forward to featuring stories from West, East, North and South Africa in upcoming series.

In Nigeria, royalty is given within the tribes, village or community. It meant every town has her king and every community her chief. As opposed to the English kingship system, the ascension to the throne by a king or head in the traditional Nigerian society works through the patriarchal system (the male line), and such a person must belong to one of the ruling houses that exist within the royal family. There is usually little or no regards on the matriarchal line in the conferment of kingship title to a person.

Ancient Africa

In ancient Africa there were only a handful of well-known queens, so I was happy when I discovered Queen Aminatu of Zaria who ruled Zazzau in Hausaland in Northern Nigeria in the 16th century.

I claim some royal blood through my mum who is a princess, and so was my maternal grandmother. It means that I can trace my mother’s lineage back to a few centuries. Unfortunately, most histories are transmitted orally. To-date, African kingship and other royal titles are great ceremonies and taken very seriously.

God Save the Queen!

Queen Elizabeth was just one queen that ruled a powerful nation – a continuous source of fascination. Indirectly, in blistering, sweltering, sunny, crazy beautiful Nigeria, I became a kind of royalist. Something that is somewhat considered old fashioned and uncool. But there you are!

Image by Aldo De La Paz – Unsplash

When Prince Charles (dad was happy to share the fact that he sowed his wild oats and that he was 33 years old at that time) got married to Diana, it was a great occasion. I continued the tradition when William and Kate got married by inviting friends round to eat, drink and dance. We loved Diana and celebrated her son’s happiness. I made a feast of Suya and plenty of drinks. I could not disappoint when Harry got married the Mehgan. It was emotional, and I was happy at their happiness.

At the same time the marriage of the leading Oba of yoruba land, the Ooni of Ife to a sophisticated ‘girl about town’ whom many traditional Yorubas disapproved of, fascinated me and many Nigerians. We avidly followed their lives on Google. Was she pregnant? Was she not. It was disappointing that she skipped out of that marriage so quickly.

What does it mean to be royalty in Nigeria?

A lot! You have to follow tradition, and be willing to go into native worship and rituals. Obas also tend to marry more than one wife and in times past snatched the ones that please them too. For instance, my maternal grandmother was a beautiful woman whose teenage life ended when she was seized on the street by Oba’s men while running an errand for her mother in the next town. Her father, who was also an Oba, agreed for her to join the royal house and she became a royal wife.

Living and enjoying this dual existence has enriched my life and added a depth that I will continue to celebrate and share.


  • Stella Oni

    Writer, Blogger, Speaker

    Stella was born in Clapham, London, brought up in Nigeria and lives in London.   She has a degree in Linguistics and African Languages from the University of Benin and a MSc in Information Systems and Technology from City University, London. Stella is a writer and speaker. She is the founder of the blog African Britishness where she writes on culture, travel, food, health and wellbeing, As an avid foodie, when she is not writing she is cooking up exotic cuisine or decorating cakes.  Stella’s  dream is to travel to different parts of the world to taste and experience food from different cultures. She believes that her experience of growing within two worlds has given her a unique perspective and she is happy to share this. Stella's crime manuscript, Deadly Sacrifice, a police procedural set in London and Nigeria, was shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize in 2016 and will be published by Jacaranda Books Art Music in 2020. Stella is currently working on the 2nd in the series, writing the first of an exciting brand new series as well as doing some non-fiction writing! Get my 20 best Podcasts and Blogs here