|“||Enough! There will be no new King of Hell. Not today. Not ever. And if anybody wants the job, you can come through me. Understood? So, what's it gonna be? That's what I thought.||”|
The Ruler of Hell (informally King or Queen of Hell) was the title and the highest position of authority in Hell held by either the Archangel Lucifer or a demon in his stead. Following the death of all existing Rulers of Hell, the position was abolished by Sam Winchester under penalty of death. However, the position was reestablished and is currently held by Rowena MacLeod following her death.
It is unclear who was the first ruler of Hell, though Lucifer - as the creator of the demons - as matter of fact had claim to the throne. It is unknown if he ever got to act as ruler, as he was imprisoned soon after Hell was created.
The first known ruler was Prince of Hell Azazel, who took the mantle after the other Princes chose to abandon their duties. In his role as a Prince of Hell, Azazel was simultaneously the general of Hell's army, which he took command of and ruled with tyranny, yet he was said to be a fair ruler.
Azazel's eventual goal was to free Lucifer from his prison, and to do so he needed to free Lilith and create a Special Child who would kill Lilith as part of the 66 seals binding Lucifer. Azazel achieved both tasks before his death, after which the demons struggled to choose sides between the Special Child, Sam Winchester, and Lilith. Lilith ultimately took control and was the ruler of Hell, as well as the Queen of the Crossroads, until Sam fulfilled his destiny and killed her.
Her death set Lucifer free from his Cage and all the demons flocked to his side. Lucifer ordered the demons to work for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as he set about bringing the end of humanity. His defeat and re-imprisonment at Sam's hands left the throne of Hell vacant. Crowley attempted to hand over the throne to Ramiel, one of the Princes, but he refused, instead suggested to Crowley to take it upon himself to become the new King, which Crowley does.
Crowley met minor opposition from the remaining Lucifer-loyalists led by Meg. Crowley managed to outplay his opposition and ruled as the undisputed King of Hell until Abaddon, a Knight of Hell, resurfaced and challenged him, leading to another civil war in Hell as the demons struggled to choose sides again. After Abaddon's death, Crowley reclaimed the throne and punished all those who chose Abaddon's side. Two years later, Lucifer escaped his Cage a second time and took control over Hell, and later Heaven, while Crowley was kept as a prisoner until he managed to escape captivity.
Following the battle with the Darkness, Lucifer lost interest in both Hell and Heaven, leaving the throne vacant as the demons did not wish to accept Crowley anymore. To regain his former position, Crowley hunted Lucifer down and helped the Winchesters defeat him. Believing Lucifer had been re-imprisoned in his Cage, the demons reluctantly returned to Crowley's side. In reality, Crowley had begun torturing Lucifer in a newly-designed vessel meant to obey Crowley's command. Once Lucifer became submissive, Crowley presented his new "dog" to the demons.
Unfortunately for Crowley, Lucifer was still plotting against him and the demons were aware of this. They pretend to cheer on Crowley's "success" and in Crowley's eyes, he has once again become the undisputed King of Hell. When Lucifer does escape, he presumably kills Crowley and regains control over Hell. Crowley survives, and joins the Winchester brothers in defeating Lucifer once more.
Crowley admits to Sam and Dean that he doesn't like being King anymore. He chooses to commit suicide to ensure Lucifer is trapped in an alternate reality. Crowley's death and Lucifer's imprisonment leave the throne of Hell vacant.
A few days later, the Prince of Hell Asmodeus takes the throne of Hell until Lucifer returns. After finding that Lucifer can't be found, Asmodeus states his intention to give the throne to Lucifer's son Jack with Asmodeus as his adviser. Once a weakened Lucifer returns from the alternate reality, he is confronted by Asmodeus and Lucifer demands that he give up his rule. Seeing his father's poor state, Asmodeus decides to fully take on the role as King and imprisons Lucifer and Castiel as he prepares for the invading Michael.
After invading the Men of Letters bunker, Asmodeus was killed by the archangel Gabriel, leaving Hell without a leader once more. Lucifer was subsequently killed by Dean Winchester, leaving the current rule of Hell unclear.
Following the deaths of Azazel, Lilith, Abaddon, Crowley, Asmodeus and Lucifer, Hell is left without any sort of a leader. Due to an encounter with the Apocalypse World Michael, the ambitious black-eyed demon Kipling decides to become the next Ruler of Hell by making a deal with Sam Winchester in front of several demons that fear Sam to have a situation like with how things were with Crowley. Sam refuses the deal and manages to kill Kipling in a fight with the demon-killing knife. Following Kipling's death, Sam announces to the gathered demons that there will be no more Rulers of Hell and if anyone has a problem with that, they will have to go through him. Ultimately, the demons take Sam at his word and show their acquiescence by fleeing their vessels in smoke form.
A year after the position is abolished, the demon Belphegor is revealed to be manipulating the Winchesters and Castiel during the Ghostpocalypse to gain power, having waited for his chance once all of the other Rulers were dead. Belphegor attempts to use Lilith's Crook to draw all of the souls and demons in Hell into himself to gain power, but is beaten down and smote by Castiel, foiling his plan.
After sacrificing herself to seal the Rupture to Hell, Rowena MacLeod manages to take power in Hell for herself as the new Queen of Hell despite only being a damned soul. Despite her new power, Rowena retains her normal personality and friendship with and loyalty to the Winchesters. In turn, the Winchesters are pleased to see Rowena doing well and appear to have no issue with her being the Queen of Hell despite Sam abolishing the position over a year before. The demon Gregor later tells the Winchesters that Rowena now hosts receptions for the newly-condemned souls of Hell, something that he doesn't seem pleased with. While talking with Castiel and Jack, the Crossroad Demon Zack reveals that Rowena had instituted a new rule against making demon deals due to a hard "people end up where they belong" philosophy, effectively putting the Crossroad Demons out of a job.
The ruler of Hell can control the fate of any soul that goes to Hell and has such a high authority that he or she may even trade any number of souls in Hell as per their wish, as seen when Crowley gave Castiel "fifty large," fifty thousand souls from the pit, to make a showing in front of Raphael during the civil war in Heaven.
The King or Queen of Hell can also alter Hell's appearance and how it is run, as Crowley redesigned Hell following Lucifer's reimprisonment and replaced the previous method of extreme physical torture with continuous queuing (which served as a psychological torture for all in Hell). While other demons have ruled Hell previous to them, only Crowley, Abaddon, and Lilith have used this title to describe themselves.
With the exception of Lucifer, a Ruler of Hell must be a powerful demon. None of hell's rulers has come out of the ranks of ordinary, black-eyed demons. Crowley, being a Crossroad Demon, was arguably superior to ordinary demons, especially as, prior to his ascension, Crowley already held a top place in hell's hierarchy, possessing the title of King of the Crossroads and being known as Lilith's right-hand. Moreover, the three legitimate claimants to hell's throne prior to him -- namely, Lucifer, Azazel, and Lilith -- had all been neutralized by the Winchesters by the end of Season 5, thus allowing his rise. And while Cain and three of the four Princes of Hell were still roaming the Earth, and they were all more powerful and ranked higher in hell than Crowley, they'd all retired from hell's affairs by the time of the Apocalypse, with one of the Princes of Hell, Ramiel, even insisting that Crowley take the crown in his place as he himself had no interest in the busy life of a king.
The demons themselves seem capable of voting who they want to serve. This led both Abaddon and Crowley to use torture to convince a demon to choose their side. As the demons will naturally follow Lucifer, Crowley felt he had to display dominance over the archangel in order to earn loyal from all of his subjects.
Following the deaths of Azazel, Lilith, Abaddon, Crowley, Asmodeus and Lucifer, there is no one left in line to become the next Ruler of Hell as revealed in Stranger in a Strange Land and Hell has no leader. As a result, the ambitious black-eyed demon Kipling tries to take the position simply through making a deal with Sam Winchester and getting other demons to follow his lead.
After sacrificing herself to send all of the souls and demons of Hell back where they belong, Rowena MacLeod was able to take power in Hell through unknown means despite only being a damned soul. When questioned if the demons gave her the role, Rowena only stated that she took it, though she doesn't elaborate on how she managed this when she is only a soul and not a demon or an angel like the previous Rulers and attempted Rulers.
Known Rulers of Hell
- Azazel (1-2; deceased)
- Lilith (3-4; deceased)
- Lucifer (5, 11-12; deceased)
- Crowley (6-12; deceased)
- Abaddon (9; deceased)
- Asmodeus (13; deceased)
- Rowena MacLeod (15; deceased, rules as a damned soul)
- Upon Hell's creation and before Azazel, it is unknown who was the ruler of Hell.
- Lucifer is the first non-demon to date to rule over Hell, as he is an Archangel and the creator of the demons.
- Overall, Crowley ruled Hell for the longest (8 years) during the show's run between 2010-2014, then again from 2015-2016 and again for a short period of time in 2017, while Azazel ruled Hell for the longest time, beginning at an unknown period of time prior to at least 1972 and ending in 2006.
- Lilith ruled for two years from 2007-2009.
- Lucifer ruled for one year in 2009-2010, then again for about a year in 2016 and retook control briefly in 2017.
- Abaddon ruled for several months in 2013-2014.
- Asmodeus ruled for several months in 2017-2018.
- Two rulers have killed a member of the Winchester Family: Azazel killed John Winchester and Abaddon killed Henry Winchester.
- Two rulers have resurrected a member of the Winchester Family: Azazel resurrected John Winchester as part of a deal with Mary Winchester and Lucifer resurrected Sam Winchester in hopes of getting closer to his son with Sam's help.
- Abaddon is the only demon whose death was plotted so that the throne of Hell could be vacant. Azazel, Lilith, Crowley, and Lucifer were killed due to more personal reasons.
- Hell and Heaven shared a ruler only once in 2016, when Lucifer took charge of both. This period lasted for about a day.
- Abaddon and Asmodeus are the only Rulers of Hell to rule for only one season.
- Crowley is the only Ruler of Hell to have committed suicide.
- Asmodeus, Lilith and Rowena MacLeod are the only Rulers of Hell to be killed by an archangel.
- The Princes of Hell are the only species where more than one member has been a Ruler of Hell.
- Sam Winchester has been nicknamed the "Boy King" (of Hell) by demons, although he has never taken up the moniker or the throne. He did however abolish the position following the death of all of the existing Rulers.
- Of the seven rulers of Hell, three were killed by Dean Winchester, two by Sam Winchester, one committed suicide, one was killed by the archangel Gabriel and one was killed by Michael.
- Almost all of the Rulers of Hell are killed through different means; just Lilith and Asmodeus share the death by the hands of an archangel:
- Azazel is shot with the Colt.
- Lilith is killed by Sam Winchester with his Special Children powers and later obliterated by Michael with his archangel powers.
- Abaddon is killed with the First Blade.
- Crowley killed himself with an angel blade.
- Asmodeus is incinerated by Gabriel with his archangel powers.
- Lucifer is killed with an archangel blade.
- Additionally, wannabe Ruler of Hell Kipling is killed with the demon-killing knife.
- Belphegor, another wannabe Ruler of Hell, is smote by Castiel.
- Sam fatally stabbed Rowena MacLeod so that she could cast all of the souls and demons of Hell back to where they belonged. In death, she then became the new Queen.
- Lilith and Asmodeus are the only Rulers to be killed by powers rather than a weapon.
- Two of the Rulers are related as Rowena and Crowley are mother and son.
- Rowena is unique in that she became the Ruler of Hell after her permanent death as a human.
- Season 14 is the only season without a Ruler of Hell because the position was abolished by Sam after the death of all the previous rulers and the wannabe Kipling. It was only restored in Season 15 following Rowena's death, something that the Winchesters appear to be content with.