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A dowager is a widow who holds a title or property—a "dower"—derived from her deceased husband. [1] As an adjective, dowager usually appears in association with monarchical and aristocratic titles.

A widow is a woman whose spouse has died and a widower is a man whose spouse has died. The treatment of widows and widowers around the world varies.


Dower is a provision accorded by law, but traditionally by a husband or his family, to a wife for her support in the event that she should become widowed. It was settled on the bride by agreement at the time of the wedding, or as provided by law.

Monarchy system of government where the head of state position is inherited within family

A monarchy is a form of government in which a group, generally a group of people comprising a dynasty, embodies the country's national identity and its head, the monarch, exercises the role of sovereign. The power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic, to partial and restricted, to completely autocratic. In most cases the monarch's position is inherited and lasts until death or abdication. In contrast, elective monarchies require the monarch to be elected. Both types have further variations as there are widely divergent structures and traditions defining monarchy. For example, in some elected monarchies family history is the only criterion for eligibility to be monarch, whereas many hereditary monarchies impose requirements regarding the religion, age, gender, or mental capacity. Occasionally this can result in more than one rival claimants, whose legitimacy is subject to election. There have been cases where the term of a monarch's reign either is fixed in years or continues until certain conditions are satisfied: an invasion being repulsed, for instance.


In popular usage, the noun dowager may refer to any elderly widow, especially one of both wealth and dignity.


The Dowager Duchess of Ventadour in full mourning attends the King of France. Louis XIV of France and his family attributed to Nicolas de Largilliere.jpg
The Dowager Duchess of Ventadour in full mourning attends the King of France.
The dowager Empress Eugenie of France in Grand Deuil L'imperatrice Eugenie en deuil 1873.jpg
The dowager Empress Eugénie of France in Grand Deuil

In the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the widow of a peer may continue to use the style she had during her husband's lifetime, e.g. "Countess of Loamshire", provided that his successor, if any, has no wife to bear the plain title. Otherwise she more properly prefixes either her forename or the word Dowager, e.g. "Jane, Countess of Loamshire" or "Dowager Countess of Loamshire" (In any case she would continue to be called "Lady Loamshire").

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

A peerage is a legal system historically comprising hereditary titles in various countries, comprising various noble ranks.

Count (Male), or Countess (Female), is a historical title of nobility in certain European countries, varying in relative status, generally of middling rank in the hierarchy of nobility. The etymologically related English term, "county" denoted the land owned by a count. Equivalents of the rank of count exist or have existed in the nobility structures of some non-European countries, such as hakushaku during the Japanese Imperial era.

The term queen dowager is used in the United Kingdom and several other countries for the widow of a king.

A queen dowager, dowager queen or queen mother is a title or status generally held by the widow of a king. In the case of the widow of an emperor, the title of empress dowager is used. Its full meaning is clear from the two words from which it is composed: queen indicates someone who served as queen consort, while dowager indicates a woman who holds the title from her deceased husband.

In other countries

This form of address is used for noble ladies whose husbands have died. It was used for the late Queen Dowager, Fabiola of Belgium and for the Dowager countess d'Udekem d'Acoz.

Anna Maria Komorowska Polish noble

Countess Anna Maria d'Udekem d'Acoz is a Polish noblewoman and the mother of Queen Mathilde of Belgium.

Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain was known as dowager queen after the death of her husband. [2]

Related Research Articles

British royal family Family consisting of close relatives of the monarch of the United Kingdom

The British royal family comprises Queen Elizabeth II and her close relations. There is no strict legal or formal definition of who is or is not a member of the British royal family.

A courtesy title is a form of address in systems of nobility used for children, former wives and other close relatives of a peer, as well as certain officials such as some judges and members of the Scottish gentry. These styles are used 'by courtesy' in the sense that the relatives, officials and others do not themselves hold substantive titles. There are several different kinds of courtesy titles in the British peerage.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex member of the British royal family

Sophie, Countess of Wessex,, is a member of the British royal family. She is the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Married in 1999, she worked in public relations until 2002 and now is a full-time working member of the royal family who splits her time between her work in support of the Queen and a large number of her own charities and organisations. The Earl and Countess have two children: James, Viscount Severn, and Lady Louise Windsor, who are respectively eleventh and twelfth in line to the British throne.

A prince consort is the husband of a queen regnant who is not himself a king in his own right. In recognition of his status, a prince consort may be given a formal title, such as prince or prince consort, with prince being the most common. However, most monarchies do not have formal rules on the styling of princes consort, thus they may have no special title. Few monarchies use the title of king consort for the same role.

The Order of precedence in the United Kingdom is the sequential hierarchy for Peers of the Realm, officers of state, senior members of the clergy, holders of the various Orders of Chivalry and other persons in the three legal jurisdictions within the United Kingdom:

Empress dowager is the English language translation of the title given to the mother or widow of a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese emperor.

Forms of address used in the United Kingdom are given below. For further information on Courtesy Titles see Courtesy titles in the United Kingdom.

Lady term for a woman

The word lady is a term of respect for a woman, the equivalent of gentleman. Once used to describe only women of a high social class or status, now it may refer to any adult woman. Informal use of this word is sometimes euphemistic or, in American slang, condescending.

British princess Wikimedia list article

This is a list of those who have held the title Princess of the United Kingdom from the accession of George I in 1714. This article deals with both princesses of the blood royal and women who become princesses upon marriage.

A queen regnant is a female monarch, equivalent in rank to a king, who reigns in her own right, as opposed to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king, or a queen regent, who is the guardian of a child monarch and reigns temporarily in the child's stead. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire.

Princess consort is an official title or an informal designation that is normally accorded to the wife of a sovereign prince. The title may be used for the wife of a king if the more usual designation of queen consort is not used.

Patricia Elizabeth Lascelles, Countess of Harewood was an Australian-British violinist and fashion model. She was the widow of George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, eldest paternal first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

Princess María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies Italian princess

María de las Mercedes de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Orléans, Countess of Barcelona (Spanish: Doña María de las Mercedes Cristina Genara Isabel Luisa Carolina Victoria y Todos los Santos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Orléans was the mother of Juan Carlos I, King of Spain from 1975 to 2014.

Adeline Louisa Maria, Countess of Cardigan and Lancastre, was the second wife of the English peer James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, and later the wife of the Portuguese nobleman Don António Manuel de Saldanha e Lancastre, Conde de Lancastre. She was the author of scandalous memoirs, My Recollections, published in 1909, under the name Adeline Louisa Maria de Horsey Cardigan and Lancastre, though strictly speaking she was not allowed by the rules governing the British peerage to join her former and current titles together. Her book detailed events and people coupled with gossip concerning the establishment of Victorian England. After her marriage to the Earl of Cardigan in 1858, Queen Victoria had refused to have her at court because Cardigan had left his first wife.

Mary Wriothesley, Countess of Southampton Lady of English peer and others

Mary Wriothesley, Countess of Southampton, previously Mary Browne, became the wife of Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton, at the age of thirteen and the mother of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Widowed in 1581, she was Dowager Countess of Southampton until 1595, when for a few months until his death she was married to the courtier Sir Thomas Heneage. In 1598 she married lastly Sir William Hervey.

Marie Thérèse de Bourbon French princess

Marie Thérèse de Bourbon was the titular Queen consort of Poland in 1697. She was the daughter of the Prince of Condé. As a member of France's reigning House of Bourbon, she was a princesse du sang.

British queen mothers Wikimedia list article

Queen mother is defined as "a queen dowager who is the mother of the reigning sovereign". The term has been used in English since at least 1560.

Louise de Mérode Mother of the Queen of Spain

Countess Louise de Mérode was a member of the House of Merode by birth and Princess della Cisterna by marriage. She was the mother of Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo, Queen consort of Spain.


  1. "Queen as a Title - History of Titles for Female Rulers". Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  2. "Baudouin et Fabiola, un couple fusionnel". Retrieved 19 March 2017.
<i>New International Encyclopedia</i> American encyclopedia first published in 1902

The New International Encyclopedia was an American encyclopedia first published in 1902 by Dodd, Mead and Company. It descended from the International Cyclopaedia (1884) and was updated in 1906, 1914 and 1926.