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Empress dowager (also dowager empress or empress mother) (Chinese and Japanese: ; pinyin: húangtàihòu; r?maji: K?taig?; Korean: (); romaja: Hwang Tae Hu; Vietnamese: Hoàng Thái H?u) is the English language translation of the title given to the mother or widow of an East Asian (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) emperor, or a Southeast Asian (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 (Chinese and Japanese; pinyin: tàihúangtàihòu; r?maji: Taik?taig?; Korean pronunciation: Tae Hwang Tae Hu; Vietnamese: Thái Hoàng Thái H?u). Numerous empress dowagers held regency during the reign of underage emperors. 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.
For grand empresses dowager, visit grand empress dowager.
In the complex organization of the Japanese Imperial Court, the title of "empress dowager" does not automatically devolve to the principal consort of an Emperor who has died. The title "K?taig?" can only be bestowed or granted by the Emperor who will have acceded to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
The following were granted this Imperial title:
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Although never referred to as a dowager, Empress Matilda was controversially the Holy Roman Empress and continued to be referred to as "empress" long after her husband's death; Although having abandoned the throne for her son Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, Empress Constance widow of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor retained her title as "empress dowager" till her death.
Dowager empresses of Russia held precedence over the empress consort. This was occasionally a source of tension. For example, when Paul I was assassinated, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg), for whom this tradition was started, often took the arm of her son Tsar Alexander I at court functions and ceremonies while his wife Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna (Louise of Baden) walked behind, which caused resentment on the part of the young empress. The same thing happened decades later when Emperor Alexander III died, and 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 traditionally associated with the Empress Consort.
There have been four dowager empresses in Russia:
Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna was briefly and concurrently, along with her mother in-law Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, a Dowager empress. She is therefore often forgotten as an Dowager Empress.
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).