“The Bath paper one morning announced the arrival of the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple, and her daughter, the Honourable Miss Carteret. . . ” – Jane Austen, Persuasion
I have often wondered about dowagers and their status in Regency society in relation to widows. When did a widow become a dowager? Did all 19th century widows acquire the title? Why or why not?
Mirriam Webster Dictionary provides an answer : “Dowager – The widow of a peer, eg the Dowager Countess of Somewhere. The term was not added to a woman’s title unless and until the new holder of the title married.” The definition contains the clue. Until the new heir married, an aristocratic widow retained the title she acquired on the day of her own wedding.
Widows were legally entitled to a dower share or a third of the value of her husband’s estate after his death, for under the…
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