What did a lady-in-waiting actually do?
Every queen or princess needed her flock of female attendants, a select few drawn from the high ranks to offer companionship and practical assistance. But what are the origins of the role 'lady-in-waiting'? BBC History Revealed explains…
By the 13th century, there was already a firmly-established female presence at the English court – such as Eleanor of Castile’s ‘women and damsels of the Queen’s Chamber’ – and they were expected to perform certain duties.
There were mundane tasks like making their mistress’s bed, carrying messages, accompanying her on visits or being entrusted with her jewels.
- 11 things you (probably) didn’t know about Anne Boleyn
- 7 things you didn’t know a medieval princess could do
At her coronation, Anne Boleyn’s ladies were on hand to “hold a fine cloth before the Queen’s face” when she needed to spit.
But while everyone hoped that the ‘ladies-in-waiting’, as they were known by the 1700s, would set a good, moral example of how one should behave in court, a royal woman would also use her ladies as confidantes or spies.
This article was taken from the April 2016 issue of BBC History Revealed magazine
Enhance the festive season with a subscription to BBC History Magazine + David Mitchell's latest masterpiece UNRULY - signed and hardback!
As a print subscriber you will also get FREE access to HistoryExtra.com worth £34.99