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A queen dowager or dowager queen (compare: princess dowager, dowager princess, or princess mother) is a title or status generally held by the widow of a deceased king. Its full meaning is clear from the two words from which it is composed: queen indicates someone who served as queen consort (i.e., wife of a king), while dowager indicates a widow who holds the title from her deceased husband. (A queen who rules in her own right and not due to marriage to a king is a queen regnant.)

Contents

Distinction from queen mother

A queen mother is a particular type of queen dowager who is simultaneously a former queen consort and the mother of the current monarch. Therefore, every queen mother is by definition also a queen dowager. However, not all queens dowager are queen mothers; they may have a relation other than mother to the reigning monarch, such as aunt or grandmother. For example, Queen Adelaide was queen dowager after her husband William IV was succeeded by his niece Victoria.

Not every mother of a reigning monarch is a queen mother or a queen dowager. For example, the mother of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, the Duchess of Kent, was never a queen dowager because her late husband, the Duke of Kent, had never been king. Similarly, the mother of King George III of the United Kingdom, the former Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, was not a queen dowager because her husband, Frederick, Prince of Wales, was never king. Instead, she held the title of Dowager Princess of Wales.

Finally, it is possible for there to be a queen mother and one or more queens dowager alive at any one time. This situation occurred in the sixteen realms of the Commonwealth in the period between the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952 and the death of her paternal grandmother on 24 March 1953. For slightly over a year, there were three queens in the Commonwealth realms:

  • Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch.
  • Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, the widow of the deceased King George VI and the mother of the reigning queen. Queen Elizabeth, the former queen consort, specifically adopted the appellation Queen Mother to distinguish herself from her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. She reportedly loathed being referred to as a dowager queen.
  • Queen Mary, the widow of King George V, the mother of the former king Edward VIII (the then Duke of Windsor) and of the late King George VI. Queen Mary had been the queen mother between the death of her husband in 1936 and the accession of her granddaughter in 1952. However, she continued to be titled and styled Her Majesty Queen Mary.

A queen dowager continues to enjoy the title, style, and precedence of a queen consort. However, many former queens consort do not formally use the word "dowager" as part of their titles. The Garter King of Arms' proclamation in the United Kingdom of the styles and titles of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at her funeral on 9 April 2002 illustrates her dual status as a queen dowager and a queen mother:

Thus it hath pleased Almighty God to take out of this transitory life unto His Divine Mercy the late Most High, Most Mighty and Most Excellent Princess Elizabeth, Queen Dowager and Queen Mother, Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Lady of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Lady of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, Grand Master and Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order upon whom had been conferred the Royal Victorian Chain, Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Dame Grand Cross of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John, Relict of His Majesty King George the Sixth and Mother of Her Most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth The Second by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, whom may God preserve and bless with long life, health and honour and all worldly happiness

British queens dowager

There were several former queens consort of England, Scotland, and later the United Kingdom, who were never queen mothers. The following queens were dowagers between the given dates, whether queen mothers or not:

Of England:


Of England and Ireland

Of England, Scotland and Ireland

Of the United Kingdom:

Of the Commonwealth realms:

Other

Note that in some of the countries mentioned below it is unusual to indicate a former queen-consort as a dowager.

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China

Denmark

Kingdom of Hawaii

Korea

Jordan

Germany

Württemberg

Bavaria

Spain

Sweden

In Sweden, there has also been another title for a dowager queen, called Riksänkedrottningen, which means Queen Dowager of the Realm. This title was used in the 16th and 17th centuries. The last time the title queen dowager was used was in 1913.

Belgium

In Belgium dowager (or in French "douairière") is not a usual term to indicate a queen-consort that survived her husband. Elizabeth of Belgium was not referred to as "Dowager Queen", although she survived her husband for many years. Neither is the term usual for Fabiola of Belgium after the death of her husband Baudouin.

Malaysia

Tuanku Budriah Tengku Ismail

Fiction

In the fictional book series The Princess Diaries, the character Princess Clarisse Marie Grimaldi Renaldo is the dowager princess of the principality of Genovia. In the film versions, where Genovia is portrayed as a kingdom, Clarisse is portrayed as queen, or dowager queen.

Notes

  1. ^ Catherine Parr continued to use the title Queen Dowager even after her remarriage to Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, the younger brother of the late Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's third wife.

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