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In loose popular usage, dowager as a stand-alone noun may be used to refer to any elderly widow, especially one who is wealthy or behaves with dignity.
Use 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".)
Dowager Queen is used in the United Kingdom and several other countries.
Historical and current
- Following the annulment of her marriage to King Henry VIII of England, Catherine of Aragon was styled either "Princess Dowager of Wales" or "Dowager Princess of Wales" in consequence of her previous marriage (1501) to Henry's older brother, Arthur, Prince of Wales (died 1502).
- Cixi was referred to as the Empress Dowager of China.
- Helen E. Hokinson, a cartoonist for the The New Yorker, was best known for her sketches of American dowagers from the 1920s though the 1940s.
- Following the death of Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer in 1992, his widow, Raine McCorquodale, ceased to use the style Countess Spencer, becoming Raine, Dowager Countess Spencer. Her stepdaughter-in-law, Victoria, became Countess Spencer.
In media and entertainment
- A great many of the films of the Marx Brothers feature the character of the wealthy dowager, upon whom Groucho Marx's characters expend no little time and effort alternately insulting to their faces, while wooing for their hands in marriage (and the fortune that comes with it). The role was played by Margaret Dumont in The Cocoanuts 1929, Animal Crackers 1930, Duck Soup 1933, A Night at the Opera 1935, A Day at the Races 1937, and At The Circus 1939.
- In the 1997 movie Anastasia, the term is said many times to address the Dowager Empress Marie, Anastasia's grandmother.
- In The Princess Diaries books, Mia's grandmother is the Dowager Princess of Genovia, although she is simply known as "the Queen" in the films.
- In the video game Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for the Nintendo Wii, one can see Ike refer to Lady Almedha as the Dowager Queen of Daein if one can enable the secret conversation regarding Soren in the Epilogue.
- The TV series Downton Abbey features Dame Maggie Smith playing the fictional Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham.
- "The Dowager" is a character in the book 1Q84, often described as an old wealthy widow.
- Dowager Hatt - is the mother of the Fat Controller in the Thomas and Friends children series
- Augusta Longbottom, from the Harry Potter series, is commonly referred to by fans as a Dowager.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld series is rife with references to Brenda Rodley, the Dowager Duchess of Quirm.