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…

Ladies-in-waiting

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.

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There were mundane tasks like making their mistress’s bed, carrying messages, accompanying her on visits or being entrusted with her jewels.

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.

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This article was taken from the April 2016 issue of BBC History Revealed magazine