lady in waiting


A lady-in-waiting (also called waiting maid) is a female personal assistant at a noble court, attending to a queen, a princess or other noblewoman. A lady-in-waiting is often a noblewoman of lower rank (i.e., a lesser noble) than the one she attends to, and is not considered a servant. Their duties varied from court to court.

Renaissance England

In Tudor England, ladies-in-waiting were divided into four separate caste systems - great ladies, ladies of the privy chamber, Maids of Honour and chamberers. The ladies of the privy chamber were the ones who were closest to the queen, but most of the other women were the maids of honour. Female relatives were often appointed because they could be trusted confidantes to the queen; Lady Margaret Lee was a Lady of the Privy Chamber to Queen Anne Boleyn, just as Lady Elizabeth Seymour-Cromwell was to Queen Jane Seymour. The duties of ladies-in-waiting at the Tudor court were to act as royal companions, and to accompany the Queen wherever she went. Tudor queens often had a large degree of say in who became their ladies-in-waiting. Sometimes Ladies-in-Waiting would be a lady's older sister who never got married and came to keep her sister company.


This attitude was very different from ladies-in-waiting to French queens under the later Bourbon dynasty. Ladies-in-waiting often acted as glorified but distant companions to the Spanish and Polish wives of Louis XIV and Louis XV. Under France's last Bourbon queen, Marie-Antoinette several of her favourite ladies-in-waiting - namely Yolande, duchesse de Polignac acquired huge influence and wealth for themselves. In later years, the ladies-in-waiting became discreet companions to the royal ladies of Europe, a practice which continues in contemporary practices.

The United Kingdom today

In the Royal Household of the United Kingdom the term Lady-in-Waiting is used to describe a woman attending a female member of the Royal Family other than the Queen Regnant or Queen Consort. An attendant upon one of the latter is styled Lady of the Bedchamber or Woman of the Bedchamber, and the senior Lady in Waiting is the Mistress of the Robes. The Women are in regular attendance, but the Mistress of the Robes and the Ladies of the Bedchamber are normally only required for ceremonial occasions. There were formerly other offices, including Maids of Honour.


In Imperial Japan before World War II, official ladies-in-waiting traditionally could serve as concubines (additional wives or consort) for the Emperor. If the Empress failed to produce a male heir that survived long enough to succeed the Emperor, then the Emperor’s son by one of the official ladies-in-waiting could be named his heir and would be adopted by his wife. In 1901, when Crown Princess Sadako (the future Empress Teimei) gave birth to a son, Hirohito (the future Emperor Shōwa), she was the first official wife of a Crown Prince or Emperor to do so since 1720.


The term is also used in film and stage, to describe an actress whose role consists of very little action or involvement.

Notable ladies-in-waiting


See also

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