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A queen mother is a former queen, often a queen dowager, who is the mother of the reigning monarch. The term has been used in English since the early 1560s. It arises in hereditary monarchies in Europe and is also used to describe a number of similar yet distinct monarchical concepts in non-European cultures around the world.
"The Queen Mother" usually, in English, refers to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (queen consort, 1936–1952; queen mother, 1952–2002), who was the mother of Queen Elizabeth II and one of the few people to use the term as an official style. However, it is also used as an official title in Thailand where Sirikit, the mother of the present king, is officially styled "The Queen Mother".
A queen mother is often a queen dowager, a widow of a king, who is simultaneously a former queen consort and the mother of the current monarch. As there is only one monarch, there can only be one queen mother.
It is unclear if a queen consort whose husband abdicates the throne, or a queen regnant who abdicates, and is the mother of the current monarch would be the queen mother. In many countries, such as the United Kingdom, a monarch loses the title of king or queen after abdication. For example, Juliana of the Netherlands, who abdicated and was succeeded by her daughter Beatrix, was sometimes colloquially referred to as the queen mother despite declining the title and having reverted to being a princess. Queen Paola of Belgium, whose husband Albert II abdicated but retained the title of king, has generally been referred to as the queen mother of Philippe despite not being a queen dowager.
A former queen consort who is the grandmother of the reigning monarch is sometimes called the queen grandmother. Savang Vadhana of Thailand was known by this style.
Main article: British queen mothers
The title "queen mother" evolved to distinguish a queen dowager from all other queens when she is also the mother of the reigning sovereign. Thus, upon the death of her husband, King George V, Queen Mary became queen mother, retaining the status throughout the reigns of her sons, Edward VIII and George VI.
The title also distinguishes former queens consort from those who are simply the mother of the current monarch. For example, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was "the queen's mother" when her daughter Victoria became queen regnant, but she was not "queen mother" as her husband was never a king. The title in British usage is purely a courtesy title. While the wife of a king is called "queen", there is no constitutional or statutory recognition of "queen mother" as a title.
There is no male equivalent to a queen mother (i.e. "king father"). This would occur only if the husband of a queen regnant outlived the queen and was thereafter father to the new king or queen. Such a situation has never occurred. Since the title "queen mother" derives from the woman's previous title of "queen", it would also be incongruous to call such a father of a monarch the "king father", as the husbands of queens regnant are not given the title "king", but rather titled as a prince. The exact title such a person would assume has not been clarified by royal lineage experts. "Prince father" is a possibility.
Main article: Valide sultan
In the Ottoman Empire, valide sultan (Ottoman Turkish: والده سلطان) or sultana mother was the title held by the mother of a ruling Sultan. The title was first used in the 16th century for Hafsa Sultan, consort of Selim I and mother of Suleiman the Magnificent, superseding the previous title of mehd-i ülya ("cradle of the great"). The Turkish pronunciation of the word Valide is [vaː.liˈde].
The second position the most important position in the Ottoman Empire after the sultan himself and being more powerful in hierarchy than Haseki sultan. As the mother to the sultan, by Islamic tradition ("A mother's right is God's right"), the valide sultan would have a significant influence on the affairs of the empire. She had great power in the court and her own rooms (always adjacent to her son's) and state staff. In particular during the 17th century, in a period known as the "Sultanate of Women", a series of incompetent or child sultans raised the role of the valide sultan to new heights.
The Israelites had in the Kingdom of Judah a title called "Gebirah" which can be translated to Queen Mother. The mother of the Jewish Monarch was given high rank and status among the Israelites.
In India, a queen (usually styled rani, or in the Muslim tradition, begum) who becomes queen-mother is known in Sanskrit and Hindi as a rajamata - literally, mother of the king/monarch.
Main article: Queen mothers in Africa
In Eswatini, the queen mother, or Ndlovukati, reigns alongside her son. She serves as a ceremonial figurehead, while her son serves as the administrative head of state. He has absolute power. She is important at festivals such as the annual reed dance ceremony.
In Lesotho, Queen Mamohato Bereng Seeiso became Queen mother when her son King Letsie III became King. She served as Queen Mother until her death.
There are many other queen mothers in Africa,s tribal monarchies most of whom have served as regents to their sons.
In many matrilineal societies of West Africa, such as the Ashanti, the queen mother is the one through whom royal descent is reckoned and thus wields considerable power. One of the greatest leaders of Ashanti was Nana Yaa Asantewaa (1840–1921), who led her subjects against the British Empire during the War of the Golden Stool in 1900.
In more symbolically driven societies such as the kingdoms of the Yoruba peoples, the queen mother may not even be a blood relative of the reigning monarch. She could be a female individual of any age who is vested with the ritual essence of the departed queens in a ceremonial sense, and who is practically regarded as the monarch's mother as a result. A good example of this is Oloye Erelu Kuti I of Lagos, who has been seen as the iya oba or queen mother of every succeeding king of that realm, due to the activities of the three successors to her noble title that have reigned since her demise.
These mothers of monarchs, and others, albeit not always officially so titled have also been considered equal to queen mothers:
The male equivalent of a queen mother, being a male former monarch or consort who is the father of the reigning monarch, is sometimes known as the "king father" or another variation based on the title of the monarch or consort. If a king abdicates and passes the throne to his child, or if a reigning queen abdicates or dies and is survived by her husband, he might acquire a substantive title.
The following individuals hold a similar role as mothers or fathers of their country's reigning monarchs:
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