(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.
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
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.
- Mary Boleyn
- Sister of the more famous Anne
- Mistress to King Henry VIII in the 152''0s
- Three of Henry VIII's wives
- Jane Parker, Lady Rochford
- Jane Dormer
- Katherine Ashley
- Lettice Knollys
- Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
- Gabrielle de Polastron, comtesse de Polignac
- Favourite courtier of Queen Marie-Antoinette
- Hugely influential member of the queen's household
- She became greatly unpopular and later fled into exile in Switzerland after the Revolution of 1789
- Louise-Elisabeth, Marquise de Tourzel
- Magdalena Rudenschöld
- Countess Sophie Chotek
- Anna Vyrubova
- Murasaki Shikibu
- Attendant to the Japanese Empress Shoshi (Akiko) in 11th century Japan.
- Author of the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji.
- Sei Shōnagon
- Attendant to the Japanese Empress Fujiwara no Teishi from about 993-1000 C.E.
- Author of the notable early Japanese prose collection, Pillow Book.
- Ruth, Lady Fermoy
- Jane Loftus, Marchioness of Ely
- Vibhavadi Rangsit, Lady-in-waiting to Queen Sirikit of Thailand, killed on a helicopter flight she diverted to pick up wounded men in Surat Thani, 16 February 1977.