Empress dowager

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Empress dowager (also dowager empress or empress mother) (Chinese and Japanese : 皇太后; pinyin : huángtàihòu; rōmaji : Kōtaigō; Korean : 황태후 (皇太后); romaja : Hwang Tae Hu; Vietnamese : Hoàng Thái Hậu (皇太后)) is the English language translation of the title given to the mother or widow of a Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese emperor in the Chinese cultural sphere.


The title was also given occasionally to another woman of the same generation, while a woman from the previous generation was sometimes given the title of grand empress dowager (Chinese and Japanese : 太皇太后; pinyin : tàihúangtàihòu; rōmaji : Taikōtaigō; Korean : 태황태후 (太皇太后); romaja : Tae Hwang Tae Hu; Vietnamese : Thái Hoàng Thái Hậu (太皇太后)). Numerous empress dowagers held regency during the reign of underage emperors. Many of the most prominent empress dowagers also extended their control for long periods after the emperor was old enough to govern. This was a source of political turmoil according to the traditional view of Chinese history.

The title dowager empress was given to the wife of a deceased emperor of Russia or Holy Roman emperor.

By country

For grand empresses dowager, visit grand empress dowager.

East Asia

Chinese empresses dowager

Han dynasty
Jin dynasty
Northern Wei dynasty
Liu Song dynasty
Tang dynasty
Liao dynasty
Song dynasty
Yuan dynasty
Qing dynasty

Japanese empress dowager

Standard of the Japanese Empress Dowager Japan Kou(tai)gou Flag.svg
Standard of the Japanese Empress Dowager

In the complex organization of the Japanese Imperial Court, the title of "empress dowager" does not automatically devolve to the principal consort of an Emperor who has died. The title "Kōtaigō" can only be bestowed or granted by the Emperor who will have acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The following were among the individuals who were granted this imperial title:

Korean empress dowager


Holy Roman dowager empresses

Eleonora Gonzaga was empress dowager from 1657–1686. [5]

Although never referred to as a dowager, Empress Matilda was controversially the Holy Roman Empress and continued to be referred to as "empress" long after the death of her first husband Henry V, and her subsequent remarriage. Despite having abandoned the throne of Sicily for her son Frederick II, Empress Constance widow of Henry VI retained her title as empress dowager till her death.

Russian dowager empresses

Dowager empresses of Russia held precedence over the empress consort. This was occasionally a source of tension. For example, when Paul I was assassinated, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg), for whom this tradition was started, often took the arm of her son Tsar Alexander I at court functions and ceremonies while his wife Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna (Louise of Baden) walked behind, which caused resentment on the part of the young empress. The same thing happened decades later when Emperor Alexander III died, and the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark) held precedence over Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna (Alix of Hesse), which put an enormous strain on their already tense relationship. The power struggle culminated when the Dowager Empress refused to hand over certain jewels traditionally associated with the Empress Consort.[ citation needed ]

There have been four dowager empresses in Russia:

Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna was briefly and concurrently, along with her mother in-law Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, a Dowager empress. She is therefore often forgotten as an Dowager Empress.

South Asia

Indian empresses dowager

Queen-Empress Victoria (1819–1901, r. 1837–1901) was widowed in 1861, before her accession as Queen-Empress of India. Her son, her grandson and her great-grandson all died before their wives, and their widows were known as empresses dowager in this Indian context. Had George VI, the last Emperor of India, died before the independence of India was proclaimed in 1947, his widow would have been known as the dowager empress of India. However, George VI did not die until 1952, some years after India's formal independence and the renunciation of the title Emperor of India by the British monarch (which took place formally in 1948).

Southeast Asia

Vietnamese empresses dowager

Đinh-Early Lê dynasties
  • Empress Dowager Dương Vân Nga (952–1000): In 979, her husband Emperor Đinh Bộ Lĩnh died after an assassination, her son Prince Đinh Toàn ascended to the throne, she became empress dowager and handled all political matters. But later she dethroned her son and ceded the throne to Lê Đại Hành and married him. Once again she took the title of empress consort. Because she was an empress twice with two different emperors, she is called "Hoàng hậu hai triều" (Two-dynasty Empress). [6]
Lý dynasty
Trần dynasty
Nguyễn dynasty

See also


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  1. Ponsonby-Fane (1959), pp. 333–334.
  2. Ponsonby-Fane (1959), pp. 334–335.
  3. Ponsonby-Fane (1959), pp. 335–337.
  4. Ponsonby-Fane (1959), pp. 337–338.
  5. "Souborný katalog AV ČR - Zápas o funkci nejvyššího štolmistra na dvoře císařovny vdovy Eleonory Gonzagové : Edice důvěrné korespondence bratří Ditrichštejnů z roku 1683 = Struggle for the stallmeister's position on the court of the empress dowager Eleonora Gonzaga. : Edition of private correspondence between the Dietrichstein brothers dated 1683 / Jiří Kubeš". www.lib.cas.cz.
  6. VnExpress. "Chuyện về 'hoàng hậu hai triều' Dương Vân Nga - VnExpress".
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Works cited