Kingdom: a country ruled by a king (or queen).
Empire: a group of countries (under one ruler).
The Emperor is the King of Kings. Each King in the Minor Arcana reigns over one elemental domain. The King of Cups is the masculine ruler of Water. The King of Pentacles is the masculine ruler of Earth. The Emperor is ruler of all 4 Elemental Kingdoms.
In the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) Deck the Emperor has long white hair and a white beard in stark comparison to his younger Kings who have clean shaven, youthful faces. Unlike The Empress he puts on no show of his wealth and domains. No fertile lands behind him, only a hint of a river running at the foot of mountains that dominate the background view. The overwhelming theme here is one of rock.
The throne he sits upon is square cut, thick, hard stone. There is another King in the RWS deck who sits on a similar throne, The 4 of Pentacles. These cards have the same numerical value and numerological meaning of the number 4; rock solid stability.
As the Empress represents being creative, or expressive, with all the elements combined The Emperor represents the solidification of the elements into a rigid, unchanging, structure. This is where the number 4 links to the number of Death, 13 (1+3=4). To survive we must continuously evolve, adapt and change. The Emperor won't and his aged looks symbolise a man who is nearing his end, who might be a bit stuck in his ways and un-willing to compromise. However he is dependable, reliable, trustworthy, an anchor in a storm.
The Emperor represents masculinity, being in control, leadership and power. It can foretell the advancement of social, or career, status. The Emperor represents a reliable man upon whom others can depend. He is the husband to The Empress. If both of these cards appear in a Tarot spread it can indicate a married couple or a marriage. As the Empress is a mother so the Emperor is a father, or father figure.
Numerology: The Emperor is card number 4 of the major arcana. This is the number of stability and rigitity. This is key to the Emperor's strength but it is also a rigid and restrictive number which can also indicate a risk of stagnation or unwillingness to change. This card can sometimes represent an inflexible, ridged person, or situation, that needs to be worked around or through to reach a goal.
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THE PICTORIAL KEY TO THE TAROT
By Arthur Edward Waite (1911)
He has a form of the Crux ansata for his sceptre and a globe in his left hand. He is a crowned monarch--commanding, stately, seated on a throne, the arms of which axe fronted by rams' heads. He is executive and realization, the power of this world, here clothed with the highest of its natural attributes. He is occasionally represented as seated on a cubic stone, which, however, confuses some of the issues. He is the virile power, to which the Empress responds, and in this sense is he who seeks to remove the Veil of Isis; yet she remains virgo intacta.
It should be understood that this card and that of the Empress do not precisely represent the condition of married life, though this state is implied. On the surface, as I have indicated, they stand for mundane royalty, uplifted on the seats of the mighty; but above this there is the suggestion of another presence. They signify also--and the male figure especially--the higher kingship, occupying the intellectual throne. Hereof is the lordship of thought rather than of the animal world. Both personalities, after their own manner, are "full of strange experience," but theirs is not consciously the wisdom which draws from a higher world. The Emperor has been described as (a) will in its embodied form, but this is only one of its applications, and (b) as an expression of virtualities contained in the Absolute Being--but this is fantasy.