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 that make it up: 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).

Table of contents
1 Recent British Queen Mothers
2 Other Queen Mothers
3 Exceptional cases
4 Footnote

Recent British Queen Mothers

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

  • Queen Alexandra - widow of Edward VII and mother of George V.

  • Queen Mary - 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.

  • Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother - the widow of George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II.

Other Queen Mothers

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

  • Blanche of Castile - Queen Mother of France (1226-1252)
  • Catherine de Medici - Queen Mother of France (1559-1589)
  • Maria de Medici - Queen Mother of France (1610-1642)
  • Margrethe of Savoy, Queen Mother of Italy (1900-1926)
  • Helena of Greece and Denmark - wife, from 1921 - 1928, of Carol II of Romania, and mother of King Michael of Romania. Michael first ruled from 1927 - 1930, before his father did, and his mother was given the title of Queen Mother (of Romania) without having ever been a Queen Consort (having divorced Carol in 1928, before he became king in 1930.)
  • Ingrid of Sweden - Queen Mother of Denmark (1972-2000)

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.


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 Dowager Princess of Wales, had the Prince of Wales not married someone else and his new wife outlived him, in which case that would have been his second wife's widowed title and unavailable for use by Diana.