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Dowager Empress

Empress dowager (also Dowager empress or Empress mother) (Chinese: 皇太后; Chinese pinyin: Húang Tài Hòu, Japanese pronunciation: Kōtaigō, Korean pronunciation: Hwang Tae Hu, Vietnamese pronunciation: Hoàng Thái Hậu) was the title given to the mother of a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Vietnamese emperor.

The title was also given occasionally to another woman of the same generation, while a woman from the previous generation was sometimes given the title of Grand empress dowager. Numerous empress dowagers held regency during the reign of an underage emperor. Many of the most prominent empress dowagers also extended their control for long periods after the emperor was old enough to govern. This was a source of political turmoil according to the traditional view of Chinese history.

The title Dowager Empress was given to the wife of a deceased Emperor of Russia, or of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Chinese empress dowager

Han dynasty

Northern Dynasties

Tang Dynasty

  • Empress Dowager Wu, more commonly known as Wu Zetian
  • Empress Dowager Wei, daughter-in-law of Wu Zetian.

Song Dynasty

  • Empress Dowager Xie

Qing Dynasty

Indian empress dowager

Queen-Empress Victoria was widowed in 1861, before her accession as Queen-Empress of India. Her son, her grandson and her great-grandson all died before their wives, and their widows were known as empresses dowager in this Indian context. Had George VI, the last Emperor of India, died before the independence of India was proclaimed in 1947, his widow would have been known as the dowager empress of India. However, George VI did not die until 1952, some years after India's formal independence and the renunciation of the title Emperor of India by the British monarch (which took place formally in 1948).

Japanese empress dowager

In the complex organization of the Japanese Imperial Court, the title "dowager empress" does not automatically devolve to the principal consort of an emperor who has died. The title kōtaigō is bestowed or granted by the monarch who will have acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The following were granted this Imperial title:

Korean empress dowager

Russian dowager empress

Dowager Empresses of Russia held precedence over the Empress-Consort. This was occasionally a source of tension. For example, when Emperor Alexander III died, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark) held precedence over Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna (Alix of Hesse) which put an enormous strain on their already tense relationship. The power struggle culminated when the Dowager Empress refused to hand over certain jewels which were traditionally associated with the Empress Consort.

There have been three Dowager Empresses of Russia. They are:

See also



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