English queens dowager

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For British queens dowager since the Union of England and Scotland, see British queens dowager.
Elizabeth Woodville was queen dowager until her death in 1492.
Styles of
Queen mother
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

Queen mother is defined as "a queen dowager who is the mother of the reigning sovereign".[1][2] The term has been used in England since at least 1577[1] and Samuel Pepys refers to Charles II's mother Henrietta Maria as the "Queene Mother".[1] Further, she was described as the Queen Mother in early editions of the Book of Common Prayer and subsequent queen mothers were also so described in later editions.[3]

It is not clear whether earlier English queen mothers were ever referred to by that term, or only as "dowager queen". Elizabeth Woodville was sometimes called "queen dowager".[4]


Further information: queen mother

A queen mother is therefore a person satisfying the following criteria:

  • She is the mother of the current monarch.
  • She has been queen consort.
  • The monarch, if a male, is married; if he is not, his mother retains her title of queen. (This is analogous to the mother of a peer, who is called a dowager if the peer is married but not otherwise.)

Contrary to myth, queen mother does not mean mother of the Queen and applies irrespective of whether the monarch is male or female.

A queen mother retains the style of Her Majesty that she enjoyed as queen, but there is no further coronation ceremony to reflect her changed status.

List of queen mothers[edit]

Following is a list of women who, on the above definition, were entitled to be known as queen mother at some point in their lives.


Following is a list of wives and mothers of English and British monarchs, with an explanation of why each was or was not a queen mother.

11th century[edit]

12th century[edit]

  • Adeliza of Louvain was the second queen consort of Henry I but never had children from this marriage. She survived her husband and died in 1151.
  • Adela of Normandy, daughter to William I and mother of Stephen of England. She is known to have survived enough to see her son become King, being presumed to have died in 1137; however, she was never the widow of a king of England.
  • Matilda of Boulogne was queen consort of Stephen of England but her children never succeeded to the throne. She predeceased her husband in 1152.
  • Berengaria of Navarre was queen consort of Richard I but never had children. She survived her husband and died in 1230.

13th century[edit]

14th century[edit]

  • Philippa of Hainault was the queen consort of Edward III and mother of thirteen children but predeceased her husband in 1369. None of her children rose to the throne but through them Philippa is an ancestor of all English monarchs since 1377.
  • Isabella of Valois was the second queen consort of Richard II but there were no children from this marriage. She survived her husband and died in 1410.

House of Lancaster[edit]

There was one queen mother during the period of the House of Lancaster.

  • Joanna of Navarre was second wife of Henry IV. She outlived her husband, dying in 1437, but they had no children by their marriage.

House of York[edit]

There was one queen mother (for just two months) during the period of the House of York.

  • Lady Eleanor Talbot was said to have secretly married Edward IV c. 1461. This marriage was never publicly announced and Eleanor died childless in 1468, without becoming either queen consort or queen mother. Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, while Eleanor was still alive. Consequently all children of Edward and Elizabeth were declared illegitimate in 1483.

Tudor dynasty[edit]

There were no queen mothers during the Tudor period.

  • Margaret Beaufort was alive throughout the reign of her son Henry VII of England and actually outlived him by two months. But she was never queen consort and hence could not be queen mother. She was instead styled My Lady The King's Mother.
  • Anne of Cleves was fourth wife to Henry VIII but their marriage was never consummated. She was stepmother to Mary I, Elizabeth I and Edward VI but not their natural mother. She died in 1557, having outlived both Henry and Edward.
  • Catherine Howard was fifth wife to Henry VIII and stepmother to Mary I, Elizabeth I and Edward VI. But she was not their natural mother. She died in 1542 before any of her stepchildren rose to the throne.
  • Lady Frances Brandon was mother to Lady Jane Grey and alive during her short and questionable reign (6 July/10 July–19 July 1553), but she was never queen. She outlived her daughter and died in 1559.

House of Stuart[edit]

There was only one queen mother in this period.

  • Mary, Queen of Scots, was mother to James I of England. She claimed the throne of England from 1558 to her death in 1587, but she was never queen regnant of England and James did not become king until 1603.
  • Catherine of Braganza was queen consort of Charles II but was childless. She survived her husband and died in 1705.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Oxford English Dictionary
  2. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary.
  3. ^ http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/Variations.htm
  4. ^ Chambers Biographical Dictionary