Queen Dowager

From Academic Kids

A Queen Dowager or Dowager Queen is a title or status generally held by the widow of a reigning 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 Mother is a particular type of queen dowager who is simultaneously a former queen consort and the mother of the current monarch.1 Therefore, every queen mother is by definition also a queen dowager. However, not all queen dowagers are queen mothers (i.e., the mothers of the reigning monarch). For example, a queen dowager may be the widow of the older brother of the reigning monarch. One example of this is Dowager Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, whose late husband King Baudouin died in 1993 and was succeeded by his younger brother Albert.

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 entirely possible for there to be a queen mother and one or more queen dowagers alive at any one time. This situation occurred in the United Kingdom in the period between the ascension 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 Great Britain:

  • Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch.
  • Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the widow of the recently deceased King George VI and the mother of the reigning queen. Queen Elizabeth, the former queen consort, specifically adopted the appelation "Queen Mother" to distinguish herself from her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
  • 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 ascension 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 queen consorts do not formally use the word "dowager" as part of their titles.

British Queen Dowagers

The article on Queen Mothers provides a list of former British queen consorts who became queen mothers. However, there were several former queen consorts of England, Scotland, and later the United Kingdom, who were never queen mothers. These dowager queens were:

Other Queen Dowagers who were (or are) not also Queen Mothers

Charlotte, Princess Royal of Great Britain and Ireland (29 September 1765 - 5 October 1828), second wife and widow of King Frederick I of Württemberg and stepmother of King William I of Württemberg.

Marie, Duchess in Bavaria (27 January 1805 - 13 September 1877), second wife and widow of King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony and the sister-in-law to King Johan of Saxony.

Fabiola de Mora y Aragón (born 11 June 1928), the widow of King Baudouin of the Belgians and the sister-in-law of the current king, Albert II.

Elizabeth Najeeb Halaby (Noor Al'Hussein) (born 23 August 1951), the fourth wife and widow of King Hussein of Jordan and the stepmother of the current king, Abdullah II.

Notes

1 The Garter King of Arms proclamation 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."

2 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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