What is a Dowager Queen?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A Dowager Queen is the widow of a deceased king; you may also see her referred to as a Queen Dowager, depending on stylistic preference. It is also possible to see a Dowager King, who would be the widow of a queen. As a general rule, this woman is treated in the same way that she was when her husband was alive.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A Dowager Queen's title alerts people to the fact that she was the Queen Consort while her husband was alive, rather than the Queen Regnant. This means that she was given her title by virtue of marriage, rather than inheriting the throne as a birthright. As a general rule, a Queen Consort has no political power, although she is granted the same rank and social status as her husband, and this continues after his death.

It is also possible for a Dowager Queen to be a Queen or King Mother, meaning that she is the mother of the current monarch. In some instances, she has held the throne as regent for a temporary period of time until her children or another suitable heir to the throne has matured to an age where he or she may legally take power. However, a Dowager Queen is not legally permitted to take the throne in her own right, and an attempt to wrest control of the throne from the rightful heir would be viewed as treason.

Although a Dowager Queen may be widowed, she still tends to be an active member of society and of the royal family after an appropriate period of mourning has elapsed. Many continue to support the same issues and causes they supported while acting as Queens Consort, and they often act as notable philanthropists. They are also socially aware individuals, who may take advantage of their reduced ceremonial duties to travel and attend a wide assortment of events.

In some instances, a Dowager Queen becomes a formidable entity, drawing upon years of experience as Queen Consort to provide advice and assistance to her children. She may also be given royal honors on her birthday, and she is given a royal funeral upon her death.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Yes, a widowed princess retains her title by way of becoming the Dowager Princess. Catherine of Aragon became the Dowager Princess of Wales when her first husband, Prince Arthur died. After Henry VIII married her, she became Queen of England. When Henry divorced her later in life, he insisted she be called the Dowager Princess and afforded every courtesy of that title.

Catherine is said to have incensed Henry at every turn by continuing to call herself Queen and refusing to answer to Dowager Princess.


I have been learning about Zhao, a ancient Chinese state, and read about the Queen Dowager who ruled for some time. She had no option but to take charge of the state of affairs after her husband's death but had a lot of difficulty because she was getting older and had no experience ruling. She was relying completely on advisers to help her make decisions.

I'm sure this is not true for all Queen Dowagers who temporarily have to rule their state. But unless the Queen comes from a royal family or helps her husband make decisions while he is alive, it won't be easy for them to take on this role overnight.

So why aren't Queens given some formal training in politics and decision-making, in case they might become a ruling Queen Dowager, for still functioning monarchies of course?


Interesting information. I'm curious about several things.

If the King Mother is also a Dowager Queen, is she referred to by both titles, or does she choose which she wants used?

Another question I have is, if a Prince dies, is the Princess called Dowager Princess?

And finally, if the Queen Dowager remarries, does she lose her title and royal treatment?

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