From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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. Also they can take place of a queen or princess if something.
In Tudor England, ladies-in-waiting were divided into four separate 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 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.
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 favorite 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 practicesTemplate:Fact.
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.
The term is colloquially used in film and stage, to describe an actress whose role consists of very little action or involvement.
- Four of Henry VIII's wives
- Jane Parker, Lady Rochford
- Lettice Knollys, Countess of Essex and Leicester
- Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
- Ulrika Strömfelt
- Gabrielle de Polastron, comtesse de Polignac
- Louise-Elisabeth, Marquise de Tourzel
- Lady Magdalena Rudenschöld
- Countess Sophie Chotek
- Murasaki Shikibu
- Attendant to the Japanese Empress Shoshi (Akiko) in 11th century Japan.
- Author of the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji.
- Lady 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
- 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.