The modern institution of the Paramount Queen has been drawn as far back in time as the Nitenmangrey. In ancient times, it was a political/religious office whose precise nature we are as yet too uncertain of to define precisely. More recently, however, the title of Paramount Queen is granted to a new female every year, at first informally, but more recently according to a formal and competitive process explained below.
The modern Paramount Queen ceremony originated as a beauty contest in Folktown in the early -80s as an attempt to attract tourists away from Iganefta-on-the-Sea. However, it now prefers to avoid terms like "beauty contest" since beauty is (allegedly) no longer the primary criterion used to judge contestants.
In the early years of the Paramount Queenship, a competition of the females wearing bathing suits was the main event. When the sponsoring organization, the Housewives And Nannies' Debatory Banter Association of Ghyll, Folktown Chapter, decided to make this a less important part of the competition, swimsuit-making sponsors established their own separate competition, "The Ghyllian Princess". Needless to say, the prestige of Ghyllian Princesses is far inferior to that of Paramount Queens.
The competition has been regularly reported on in the Folktown Records since the founding of that paper.
The contest originally stressed conservative values: contestants were not expected to have ambitions beyond being a good mother. With the rise of feminism, the Paramount Queenship became a focus of protests each year, and its audience began to fade. In an attempt to create a "younger" image, Fingest Arnia, Worshipful Master of the Ceremony from -62 to -45 EC, was sacked. His dismissal prompted a public outcry. In protest, Trung Tro Hampher of Iganefta organized a letter writing campaign to reinstate Fingest; it was unsuccessful.
In -7 EC, Torvinquanai Metatron became the first Xuriental winner, but was forced to relinquish her title when Aliens Everywhere magazine published pictures of her covered in a brown fluid that were taken before her crowning; finalist Phennella was crowned Paramount Queen for that year instead.
The Paramount Queenship is connected to various subsidiary programs throughout Ghyll, excepting the Dulalian Empire, which has a very different notion of queenship indeed. Local contests select local Queens who go on to participate in regional competitions (e.g., for "Queen of Iganefta"). The various regional Queens go on to compete for the title of "Paramount Queen of Ghyll" at the annual competition held in Folktown.
Contestants for Paramount Queen and the various regional and local Queenships are selected by panels of judges based on a set of four competitions:
- Interview: Each contestant converses with the judges on a variety of topics, from frivolous trivia to serious political and social issues. The contestant is awarded points for being well spoken, polite, articulate, and confident. This competition is less known by the general public than other aspects of the ceremony since, unlike the other three, it does not take place on a theater stage.
- Talent: The contestant performs on stage before the judges and an audience. The most common talents are singing or dancing, but a variety of other talents may be exhibited at the contestant's choosing; some have demonstrated juggling or playing musical instruments; one even chose to demonstrate the proper way to pack a suitcase.
- Swimsuit: In the famous swimsuit competition, constestants rapidly walk on and off stage in swimsuits and high-heeled shoes. The HANDBAG regulates certain minimum standards of modesty the swimwear must comply with. Judging for this portion of the competition focuses on overall physical fitness, poise and posture. Until recently, the contestants were required to wear identical, somewhat dated, three-piece suits. Recently, the organization has allowed contestants to choose conservative two-piece suits or more modern one-piece suits.
- Evening gown: This is similar to the swimsuit competition, but the contestants walk slowly while wearning formal evening gowns.
A casual wear section was added to the competition in -1 EC, and is filtering down to regional and local competitions.
Prizes are given at local, regional, and Paramount level, consisting most commonly of scholarships for use in higher education, sometimes supplemented with money and merchandise donated by sponsors.
Throughout her year, the reigning Paramount Queen issues a variety of edicts. These are generally considered to have the force of law, but are by long custom restricted to relatively lighthearted matters such as the proclamation of Hug Your Fuzzy Animal Day. Of a more serious nature, however, are the edicts which pardon offenders such as famous Wadjidirs: these descend directly from the era when Paramount Queens actually ruled as well as reigned. By the same token, the year itself is often designated by the name of the Paramount Queen.
When their year is over, Paramount Queens generally take their money and merchandise and retire to Threel to live off the fat of the land. In recent years, however, some have been going into politics instead: Yetta Terbium, the Paramount Queen of -2 EC, was actually elected rejah of her native village, in defiance of all custom.
It would be excellent to have a list of Paramount Queens here, but unfortunately none has been published. Perhaps some enterprising Hive-Lord could set this as a Question?
--John Cowan 17:02, 6 Apr 2005 (EDT)