No one can argue the Duchess was ever Queen. Paola and Sofia are queens, and are mothers of their husbands’ successors. I don’t think anyone suggested expanding the definition to all mothers of kings and queens regnant.
Indeed, the very term QUEEN MOTHER implies precisely that one is first a queen. The question I have to ask is: just how well did King Michael of Romania understand this? That the only way his mother could ever qualify for such a title was that she first had to be a queen? And this was guaranteed only because his father (King Carol I) had backdated his reign to 1928, when his parents were still legally married, not divorced?
It almost seems to me that Michael was displaying the same kind of ignorance the Duchess of Kent did, in conferring the title of Queen Mother upon Helen -- thinking that it automatically applied to the mother of a king. I'm curious as to just how exactly he justified his action.
As for Paola and Sofia: the trouble is that kings normally do not voluntarily abdicate thrones. In the past, they oftentimes were forced or pressured -- e.g. Ludwig I of Bavaria and Leopold III of the Belgians. Because it's an historically rare occurrence, there isn't much of a precedence to go by. It would be interesting to see just how Therese of Bavaria was called, 1848-1854. We know that Astrid of the Belgians was already dead when her husband eventually abdicated the throne (1950).
Another complication is that royal women have normally been averse to being formally styled as Dowager Queen and Queen Mother: it's almost a moot point with Paola and Sofia, each is styled with the title of Queen, followed by her personal name.
It has been repeatedly stressed that Ingrid of Denmark was never styled or referred to as Queen Mother. In fact, it really hasn't been necessary, for a number of royal women who were both wives and mothers of kings. As long as there was no confusion over names (e.g. two queens named Elizabeth), the qualifier of "Dowager" or "Mother" is not important.
I commend the late Countess of Barcelona for her grace of heart in accepting a lesser title than Queen Mother. In this, she was totally unlike the bitter Duchess of Kent. After all, the countess SHOULD have been the queen of Spain, since her husband was the dynastic heir upon whom the royal succession eventually devolved.
And he was still living when Generalissimo Francisco Franco died: as it was, the Count was bypassed in the succession (not formally renouncing his rights to the throne until 1977), thereby raising eyebrows upon legitimist-minded persons. It wasn't as though the would-be King Juan formally renounced his rights on behalf of his son, prior to Franco's death.
As it was, the restoration of the Spanish monarchy was effected only by the FIAT of Franco. So there was nothing anybody could do about the situation ...
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