Alchemical symbolism of the King and Queen
In the fairy tales and legends of Europe, the king usually symbolizes the “end-point of all the hero’s travels and adventures on his way to education and maturity. Noble birth is not involved here: the ‘kingship’ of the protagonist, who is usually of modest social origins, consists in his identifying himself symbolically with ‘the finest in the land’ and developing his own abilities as fully as possible“ (Biedermann, pg 196).
“In the symbolism of alchemy the king usually appears in conjunction with the queen, representing the sun-and-moon duality…in accordance with the theory of sulfur and mercury, which together, after alchemist purification, form the ‘philosopher’s stone’, usually represented by the crowned androgyne” (Biedermann). Cirlot writes that the king and queen represent the perfect union or hieros gamos and “–according to Jung-they also signify the spiritual ‘conjunction’ that takes place when the process of individuation is complete, with the harmonious union of the unconscious and consciousness“ (pg 168).
Biedermann writes that “Jungian psychology has subjected the alchemistic tradition to extensive analysis and views the king less as an image of paternal authority (a ‘father imago’) and more as an archetype, in the psyche’s great store of inherited symbols, of higher insight and wisdom“. Cirlot states that “the ‘aged king’ – such as Dhritarashatra, the aged monarch of Vedic epics, or King Lear, or all those aged kings of legends and folktales – is symbolic of the world-memory, or the collective unconscious in its own widest and most all-embracing sense”.
See Bibliography post for references.