Queen Mother

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The term Queen Mother is a title often held by the mother of a reigning monarch. 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 mother indicates the holder of the title's relationship with the current monarch.1 The title is not held by someone unless she is simultaneously a former queen consort and mother of the current monarch—with the exception of Helena of Greece and Denmark (see below).

Princess Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess of Kent, suggested that she hold the title when her daughter Victoria acceded. Not having been queen herself, she was instead described as the Queen's mother.


Recent British Queen Mothers

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

  • Queen Mary (1867-1953)—widow of George V and mother of kings Edward VIII and George VI. When her granddaughter Elizabeth II became monarch in 1952, Queen Mary became Dowager Queen Mother. However, on the death of her husband in 1936, she expressed a preference to continue to be referred to as 'Queen Mary'. That style was used to describe her in the Court Circular.

Other Queen Mothers

The title 'Queen Mother' has been widely used in monarchies. Among other Queen Mothers were:

Exceptional cases

In rare cases, the king of a nation may be divorced or a widower. If he remarries, and his second wife outlives him, but is not the mother of his successor, it is unclear what title this woman assumes, though Queen Dowager or Dowager Queen might be appropriate, under the circumstances.

Queen Noor of Jordan for example was King Hussein's fourth wife, and stepmother of current king Abdullah II. She is still referred to as Queen Noor, although rarely, and then inaccurately, as the "Queen Mother". If anything, she would be the Queen Dowager, although such a title has never been seriously floated.

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.


1 Diana, Princess of Wales suggested to Andrew Morton, a journalist with whom she secretly worked on the book 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.) However no such title does or can exist. She would most likely have remained Diana, Princess of Wales, unless given a new courtesy title, perhaps her son would have simply made her a princess in her own right making her style - H.R.H The Princess Diana.

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