Lady Sak K’uk’ – Queen Regnant and mother of the greatest Mayan King

Lady Sak K'uk'
By A.Skromnitsky - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Lady Sak K’uk’ (also known as Queen Muwaan Mat and Lady Beastie) was the second recorded female ruler of the Mayan city of Palenque. She rose to the position of Queen because there were no male candidates who were fit for kingship. In order to legitimize her rule, she declared divinity for herself as a creation goddess. Lady Sak K’uk’ would rule for three years until she abdicated in favour of her son, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal. K’inich Janaab’ Pakal would become known as one of the greatest Mayan Kings.[1]

The birthdate of Lady Sak K’uk’ is unknown. Her name means “Resplendent Quetzal.”[2] Many historians generally believe that she was the daughter of Lady Yohl Ik’nal and Janaab Pakal.[3] However, some historians believe that Lady Yohl Ik’nal may have been her grandmother, and Janaab Pakal may have been either her brother or uncle.[4] King Ajen Yohl Mat may have been her brother.[5] Lady Sak K’uk’ married Kan Mo’ Hix, who was from a noble family.[6] She gave birth to a son named K’inich Janaab’ Pakal.

On 4 April 611 C.E., Palenque was attacked by the Calakmul, who were led by King Scroll Serpent.[7] The Palenque suffered a massive defeat.[8] King Ajen Yohl Mat died sixteen months later, on 8 August 612 C.E. King Ajen Yohl Mat did not name a successor, and there were no male candidates who were suitable to become the next King of the Palenque.[9] The only considerable candidate was Lady Sak K’uk’.[10] Lady Sak K’uk’ was a direct descendant of Lady Yohl Ik’nal, and she had a young son who could succeed her.[11] In order to become Queen of Palenque, she declared divinity on herself as the mother of the maise god.[12]

On 19 October 612 C.E., Lady Sak K’uk’ ascended the throne as the Queen of the Palenque. Her accession name was Queen Muwaan Mat, which meant “Divine Lord of Matwiil.”[13] Events during the reign of Lady Sak K’uk’ remain unknown. She reigned for three years until her son was old enough to rule.[14] On 27 July 615 C.E., Lady Sak K’uk’ formally abdicated as Queen of the Palenque and crowned her son, K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, as the new King of the Palenque.[15] This moment of Lady Sak K’uk’ passing the throne to her son is carved on the Oval Tablet of Palenque.[16] Lady Sak K’uk’ is shown wearing fine jewellery and an ornate shawl and skirt, handing the crown to her son.[17] The coronation was King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal’s favourite moment in his life.[18] Thirty-two years later, he would recall that moment with flawless accuracy.[19] 

Even though Lady Sak K’uk’ was no longer queen regnant, she still wielded political influence on King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal.[20] She died on 12 September 640 C.E. After her death, King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal was worried that his son would not be able to succeed him because he inherited the throne from a woman.[21] Therefore, King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal needed to continue promoting his mother’s divinity.[22] He constructed new buildings and hired artists to carve limestone slabs that depicted Lady Sak K’uk’ as the creation goddess.[23] When his son, Kʼinich Kan Bahlam II, accended the throne as King of the Palenque, no one disputed his rule because he was descended from the creation goddess.[24]

Since it was against tradition for a woman to accend the throne of Palenque, Lady Sak K’uk’ had to declare divinity in order to rule. King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal realised that he had to continue declaring his mother’s divinity in order for his son to succeed him. While very little is known of the reign of Lady Sak K’uk’, it is clear that she was adept at politics and was a capable ruler.[25] She was able to ascend to the throne of Palenque and passed it to her son without any difficulties. Thus, it is clear that Lady Sak K’uk’ was a successful queen.[26] Through King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal’s building projects, the legacy of Lady Sak K’uk’ will continue to live on.[27]


Lyons, M. E., Fash, W. L. (2005). The Ancient American World. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Sharer, R. J., Traxler, L. P. (2006). The Ancient Maya (Sixth ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Skidmore, Joel (2010). The Rulers of Palenque (PDF) (Fifth ed.). Mesoweb Publications. Retrieved on 18 December 2022 from

[1] Skidmore, 2010

[2] Lyons and Fash, 2005, p. 53

[3] Skidmore, 2010

[4] Skidmore, 2010

[5] Sharer, 2006

[6] Sharer, 2006

[7] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[8] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[9] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[10] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[11] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[12] Skidmore, 2010

[13] Skidmore, 2010, p. 67

[14] Sharer, 2006

[15] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[16] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[17] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[18] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[19] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[20] Sharer, 2006

[21] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[22] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[23] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[24] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[25] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[26] Lyons and Fash, 2005

[27] Lyons and Fash, 2005

About Lauralee Jacks 162 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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