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The title Countess is sometimes held by a noblewoman in her own right through inheritance, but is frequently held by the wife of a Count or an Earl (the latter title being the English equivalent of the continental European title count). In the event of a bereavement, then it is considered usual to prefix either the lady's Christian name or the term dowager with the title. Following a divorce, then the lady usually prefixes her Christian name with the title.

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