It’s been said time and again that mothers know best. true indeed for the mothers that we'll present in this post are not just moms to their broods, but also moms to their kingdoms and perhaps to the hundreds of thousands of subjects who adored and revered them. This Mother's Day, let's honor the 10 great queen mothers who not only gave birth to kings, queens and leaders but also in lead their kingdoms, even if they were not sovereign rulers.
Queen Alexandra (1844-1925)
Highly popular in the British public for her charities and fashion sense, Queen Alexandra (elder sister of Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia) was the daughter of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, who succeeded as King Christian IX of Denmark. Considered the most beautiful of Britain’s 20th century queens-consort, Alexandra also holds the record as the longest-serving Princess of Wales (1863-1901). She married Albert Edward, Prince of Wales in 1863. In her honor, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, penned an ode in honor of the “Sea King’s daughter.” A fashion icon of her time, Alexandra popularized the wearing of choker necklace and high necklines. Even her limping gait was imitated by society ladies. Alexandra was also admired for enduring her husband’s infidelities. She herself remained faithful throughout their marriage.
Anne of Austria, Queen of France (1601-1666)
|Anne of Austria, Queen of France|
Anne of Austria was a Spanish and Portuguese princess by birth. She was the daughter of King Philip III of Spain and Portugal and Archduchess Margaret of Austria. At the age of 11, she was engaged to King Louis XIII of France. They were married in 1615. Noted for her beauty, her marriage with the king, however, proved difficult and unhappy. With the king’s death in 1614, she served as regent for her son who succeeded as Louis XIV. She entrusted the government to Cardinal Mazarin, who was rumored to be her lover. During Anne’s regency and with the help of Mazarin, the queen quelled the numerous upheavals during her son’s early years, including the Fronde. The regency ended but she retained much of her influence until Mazarin’s death.
Dowager Empress Cixi (1835-1908)
|Dowage Empress Cixi|
Dubbed as China’s Dragon Queen, Cixi was known as the domineering yet charismatic woman who was China’s de facto ruler (1861-1908) during the last years of the Qing Dynasty. A ruthless ruler, Cixi eliminated the regents during the reign of her son, Tongzhi Emperor. When his son died, he installed her nephew, Guangxu Emperor. While resistant to Western innovations, she however supported technological and military reforms and the Self-Strengthening Movement in China. She rejected the Hundred Days’ Reform but with the Boxer Rebellion and Allied invasion, Cixi eventually relented, implementing institutional changes and appointing reform-minded civil servants.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900-2002)
|Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother|
Considered as Great Britain's first British-born queen for centuries, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore. She married Albert, Duke of York in 1924 and was initially known as the "Smiling Duchess" because of her consistent public expression. She became Queen when her husband succeeded as King George VI after his brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry the commoner and twice-divorcee Wallis Simpson. She was her husband’s constant support throughout the Abdication Crisis. During World War II she was an unconquerable spirit that helped boost British morale during the country's darkest hours to the point that Hitler called her “the most dangerous woman in Europe.” With her husband’s death, she remained a popular figure and a favorite royal. Her endearment to the British public was such that she was affectionately called the Queen Mum. Sir Hugh Casson referred to her as "a wave breaking on a rock, because although she is sweet and pretty and charming, she also has a basic streak of toughness and tenacity. ... when a wave breaks on a rock, it showers and sparkles with a brilliant play of foam and droplets in the sun, yet beneath is really hard, tough rock, fused, in her case, from strong principles, physical courage and a sense of duty."
Queen Emma of the Netherlands (1858-1934)
|Queen Emma of the Netherlands|
Queen Emma of the Netherlands was the fourth daughter of Georg Viktor, Reigning Prince of Waldeck-Pyrmont and Princess Helena of Nassau. She was the second wife of King William III of the Netherlands, whom she married in 1879. They only had one child, Wilhelmina, who succeeded as queen when the king died (without any male heir) in 1890. She served as regent for her underage daughter until she assumed majority in 1898. Throughout her regency, the queen remained very popular among her subjects.
Hedwig Elnora, Queen of Sweden (1636-1715)
|Queen Hedwig Elnora of Sweden|
Hedwig Elnora was the daughter of Frederick III, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp and Marie Elisabeth of Saxony. Married to Charles X, King of Sweden, she served as regent for her son (1660-1672), Charles XI, and grandson Charles XII (1697), during their minority. As regent, it was her chief goal to protect her son’s interest and rights toward the Regency Council, which she headed. As Queen Dowager of the Realm, she paid her attention on running the dower lands and in the upbringing of her son rather than to politics. She was described as strict and dominant but was also famous for her humor and for her love of parties.
Isabella, Queen of Hungary (1519-1559)
|Queen Isabella of Hungary|
Daughter of King Sigismund I the Old and the Milanese princess Bona Sforza, Isabella Jagiellon was married to John Zapolya (elected king of Hungary in 1526) in 1539. She ruled Hungary on her son’s behalf throughout his minority. She encountered difficulty during her reign but was praised by historians later on being "the first ruler to issue an edict of universal toleration" in religion. The edict was actually enforced in 1558, forty years before the more famous Edict of Nantes (1598) was passed.
Queen Maria Christina of Spain (1858-1929)
|Queen Maria Christina of Spain|
Technically the first Habsburg to rule over Spain and her empire since the death of Charles II, Maria Christina served as regent of Spain before she gave birth to her son, Alfonso XIII and throughout his minority (1885-1902). She was the daughter of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Teschen and Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria. She married King Alfonso XII of Spain in 1879. During her regency, Spain lost its remaining colonies: Philippines, Cuba and Puerto, at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War (1898), although these loses were offset by her balanced and fair rule, which saw many reforms that prevented political chaos. She retired into the background after her son assumed majority.
Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia (1847-1928)
|Empress Maria Feodorovna|
I consider Maria Feodorovna as the most tragic figure in the history of Russian monarchy. No other imperial figure endured as much as she did. She did not only lose her two sons and other relatives during the Russian Revolution, but also her home and fortune. Born Princess Dagmar to an impoverished princely German family, the status and fortune of Marie’s family gradually improved when her father became heir to the Danish throne. He eventually succeeded as Christian IX, who went on to become the Grandfather of Europe. Her sister would be Queen Alexandra of Denmark while a brother became King George of Greece. Initially betrothed to Tsarevitch Nicholas of Russia, who died in 1865, she eventually married his younger brother in 1866, who ascended in 1881 as Alexander III. During her husband’s and son’s reign, Maria was a popular figure both for her love for balls and gatherings and also for her charities, tact and diplomatic skill.
Queen Mary (1867-1953)
Queen Mary is the daughter of Francis, Duke of Teck, and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a grand daughter of King George III. Initially betrothed to Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, eldest child of Edward VII (then Prince of Wales), with the prince’s death, she eventually married George, Duke of York. As Duchess of York, Princess of Wales and Queen Consort, she was her husband’s constant support, especially through the times of World War I. She endured the death of her youngest son, John, her husband’s passing, the abdication of her son Edward VIII and the scandal that ensued afterwards, and the deaths of her fifth son, the Duke of Kent, and eventually King George VI. Widely popular throughout her lifetime, Chips Channon described her as: "above politics ... magnificent, humorous, worldly, in fact nearly sublime, though cold and hard. But what a grand Queen.”