Saturday, April 30, 2016

What did a lady-in-waiting actually do?

History Extra

Margaret of Anjou with her ladies-in-waiting, from a tapestry in St Mary's Hall, Coventry. (The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

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.
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.

Answered by one of our Q&A experts, Emily Brand. For more fascinating questions by Emily, and the rest of our panel, pick up a copy of History Revealed! Available in print and for digital devices.

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