- “But maybe I need you.”
Regina Mills, formerly known as the Evil Queen, is the adoptive mother to Henry Mills, the biological son of Emma Swan, daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. Regina and Emma meet through Henry who went looking for his "real mom". Antagonism runs a muck between these two, particularly on Regina's side as she hated that Henry went out and found his birth mother. When Regina learns that Emma is the "Savior", meant to break Regina's curse, she hates Emma even more so.
Emma and Regina continue to fight once the curse is lifted. However, because Henry asked her to, Emma repeatedly saves Regina from the vengeful mob of newly-woken fairytale characters out for her head. In her efforts to save Regina from getting her soul eaten by a Wraith, Emma accidentally triggered Regina's own magic by laying a hand on her arm, and then subsequently fell through a portal to the Enchanted Forest (aka Fairy Tale Land or FTL). Emma's absence gave Regina an opportunity to have Henry to herself forever, but because she made a promise to their son that she would be "better" and earn his love, she absorbed a death curse to save Emma and let her return to Storybrooke.
There were quite a few subsequent issues involving the return of Regina's abusive mother, Cora, a trip to Neverland, evil Peter Pan, the Wicked Witch of the West aka Regina's older sister Zelena, and although they still don't always get along, Emma and Regina now more often than not join forces to protect their family and the town.
The ship came to be when viewers started to notice the evident subtext between these two characters and when they started paralleling many canon true love couples on the show. This ship rivals the Outlaw Queen and Captain Swan pairings, which are both canon.
The pairing quickly gained traction in fandom, drawing femslashers from far and wide. However, as the series went on, fans of the pairing developed a somewhat tense relationship with the show's production team as Swan Queen has several times been cited as an example of queerbaiting, one of very few noted femslash examples of the same. Cranz notes in their History of Femslash:
- “Once Upon a Time’s premise is a little gay. A kid has two moms, and those moms like to argue passionately with one another while looking at each other’s lips. It spawned the major pairing, Swan Queen [...] But the showrunners of Once Upon a Time were not even a little okay with the queer focus of fandom, or the demands hinged on “social justice,” and they went out of their ways to assert the hetero nature of the leads. First by calling any flirtation “unintentional,” and then by trucking out male love interests for both characters, who just happened to be identical to the supposed female love interests apart from how they identify gender-wise”
- —History of Femslash.
On AO3, Swan Queen is the most written ship for both characters, as well as the most written ship within the Once Upon a Time fandom tag.
- Swan Queen won the Zimbio 2018 March Madness ship battle.
|SHIPS||femslash||Brave Swan • Brave Warrior • Dragon Swan • Fairy Queen • Frozen Swan • MadArcher|
Red Queen • Red Warrior • Ruby Slippers • Sleeping Warrior • Snow Queen • Swan Queen
|slash||Captain Charming • Captain Pan • Golden Hook • Mad Hook|
|family||Captain Cobra • Charming Family • Daddy Charming • Knightrook • Mama Snow|
|het||Captain Swan • Darling Fire • Evil Charming • Evilfire • |
Gremma • Henvy • Jaladdin • Kristanna • Mad Swan • Outlaw Queen • Philora
Rumbelle • Snowing • Stable Queen • SwanFire • VioletBeliever