Widow of an Earl
The widow of an earl is officially known as The Dowager Countess of …….(unless there is already a dowager countess in that family still living in which case the widow of the junior countess is known by her forename eg Elizabeth, Countess of …………).
In practice, many widows prefer to use their forename in place of 'Dowager'. If in doubt, use of the forename is recommended.
If the present holder of the earldom is unmarried, the widow of the previous earl does not use the term of either The Dowager Countess of Bessborough, or Madeleine, Countess of Bessborough, but continues to be known as The Countess of Bessborough.
How to address the Widow of an Earl
The recommended (social) style of address is as follows:
|Beginning of letter||Dear Lady Bessborough|
|End of letter||Yours sincerely|
|Envelope||The Dowager (or Madeleine) Countess of Bessborough|
|Verbal communication||Lady Bessborough|
|Invitation||The Dowager (or Madeleine) Lady Bessborough|
|Description in conversation||Lady Bessborough|
|List of Directors or Patrons||The Dowager (or Madeleine) Countess of Bessborough|
|Place card||The Dowager (or Madeleine) Countess of Bessborough|
|Legal document||The Right Honourable Madeleine Countess of Bessborough|
Widow of an Earl by Courtesy
The same rules apply to the widow as to the wife of an earl by courtesy.