Queen mother

Queen mother

Queen mother is a title or position reserved for a widowed queen consort (a "queen dowager") whose son or daughter from that marriage is the reigning monarch. [A queen mother is defined as "A Queen dowager who is the mother of the reigning sovereign" by both the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's Third New International Dictionary.] The term has been used in England since at least 1577. [O.E.D.] The title arises in nations governed by a royal (inherited) monarchy.

A queen as bride of the king has a royal position of great importance, but does not normally have any rights to succeed him to rule as monarch after the king's death.

The queen's eldest son would normally be crowned as successor upon the king's death, often leaving the new king's mother still alive, but no longer holding any official position. The new king, of course, might already be married, or marry subsequently, and would have his own queen.

Therefore, the title of "queen mother" identifies the widow of the deceased former king, and mother of the currently reigning king or queen. The title distinguishes the queen mother from the current queen, who is the wife of the currently reigning king. It also distinguishes such a person from a mother of the monarch who was not previously queen. For example, Victoria, the Duchess of Kent and Strathearn was "the Queen's mother" when her daughter became queen but not "queen mother".

Another type of queen mother is produced when a queen regnant abdicates in favour of her heir presumptive. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands is an example: after her abdication she was officially styled as Her Majesty Juliana, Queen Mother of the Netherlands, but she wished to be known as HRH Princess Juliana of the Netherlands.

As the king's or queen's mother, the Queen Mother is typically supported throughout her remaining years and given honour as a beloved relative, but had no official position or power and was expected to carefully abstain from any involvement in governance or politics.

Recent British Queen mothers

The following queens became queen mothers, though not all chose to use that style.

* Queen Alexandra (1844–1925) — widow of Edward VII and mother of George V.
* Queen Mary (1867–1953) — widow of George V and mother of kings Edward VIII and George VI (though during Edward VIII's reign, there was no other queen as he was unmarried so she was not queen mother). Queen Mary never used the title "Queen Mother", choosing instead to be known as "Queen Mary" and that style was used to describe her in the Court Circular. But she was "a" queen mother just the same. When her granddaughter acceded to the throne as Elizabeth II in 1952, the new queen's mother became queen mother.
* Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900–2002) — the widow of George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother was so enormously popular she was often referred to as "the Queen Mum", and the term "Queen Mother" remains associated with her after her death.

Other Notable Queen Mothers in History

The title "queen mother" has been widely used. Other well-known queen mothers include:

* Blanche of Castile — Queen mother of France (1226–1252)
* Katarina Kosača-Kotromanić - Queen mother of Bosnia (1463–1478)
* Bona Sforza - Queen mother of Poland-Lithuania (1548– 1557)
* Catherine de' Medici — Queen mother of France (1559–1589)
* Maria of Medici — Queen mother of France (1610–1642)
* Anne of Austria - Queen mother of France (1643–1666)
* Margaret of Savoy — Queen mother of Italy (1900–1926)
* Maria Christina of Austria — Queen mother of Spain (1906–1929)
* Frederica of Hanover - Queen mother of Greece (1964–1981)
* Ingrid of Sweden — Queen mother of Denmark (1972–2000)

Exceptional cases

* Elena of Greece — wife, from 1921–1928, of the future Carol II of Romania, and mother of King Michael of Romania. In circumstances that read like a soap opera, Michael first ruled from 1927–1930, "before" his father was king (and again after his father abdicated), and gave his mother the title. Thus, she became queen mother without having been queen. She subsequently divorced playboy Carol in 1928, before he became king in 1930.
* Similarly, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur was the third wife of her husband, the monarch, but not the mother of his successor, a son by the king's first wife. She however has been accorded the title of Rajmata, or queen mother anyway.
* The Valide Sultan, the mother of an Ottoman Sultan, is sometimes referred to as queen mother.

Erroneous Usage of the Title

* Queen Noor of Jordan is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the queen mother of Jordan. But while she is the widow of King Hussein and was his fourth wife, the current king, Abdullah II, is not her son; he's her stepson. His mother is Princess Muna al-Hussein.

King Mother

Diana, Princess of Wales reportedly once suggested to journalist Andrew Morton (author of "Diana: Her True Story") that when her son, Prince William of Wales became king, she would be known as King Mother. ["Source": Andrew Morton, interviewed by Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show on RTÉ] . No such designation has ever officially existed, nor is there independent evidence that such terminology was ever considered. "Queen mother" means "queen who is mother to the current monarch", not "mother of the queen"; "King Mother" is a contradiction in terms.

However, of note, and possibly Diana's basis for the idea, is the style, held by Lady Margaret Beaufort during her son Henry VII's reign, "My Lady The King's Mother".


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Queen Mother — n [singular] the mother of the ruling king or queen Queen Mother 2 Queen Mother, the (1900 2002) the mother of the British Queen Elizabeth II, whose official title was Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She was one of the most popular members of… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Queen mother — Queen Queen, n. [OE. quen, quene, queen, quean, AS. cw[=e]n wife, queen, woman; akin to OS. qu[=a]n wife, woman, Icel. kv[=a]n wife, queen, Goth. q[=e]ns. [root]221. See {Quean}.] 1. The wife of a king. [1913 Webster] 2. A woman who is the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • queen mother — n. a queen dowager who is mother of a reigning sovereign …   English World dictionary

  • queen mother — ► NOUN ▪ the widow of a king and mother of the sovereign …   English terms dictionary

  • queen mother — noun a queen dowager who is mother of the reigning sovereign • Hypernyms: ↑queen dowager * * * noun : a queen dowager who is mother of the reigning sovereign * * * a queen dowager who is mother of a reigning sovereign. [1570 80] * * * queen… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Queen Mother — N PROPER: the N The Queen Mother is the mother of a ruling king or queen …   English dictionary

  • queen mother — queen′ moth′er n. gov a queen dowager who is mother of a reigning sovereign • Etymology: 1570–80 …   From formal English to slang

  • queen mother — noun Date: 1577 a queen dowager who is mother of the reigning sovereign …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • queen mother — a queen dowager who is mother of a reigning sovereign. [1570 80] * * * …   Universalium

  • queen mother — n. mother of the queen …   English contemporary dictionary

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