First Lady of the Bedchamber

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Portrait of "Kat" Ashley by an unknown artist. Collection of Lord Hastings

In British Royal Households, First Lady of the Bedchamber is the title of the highest of the Ladies of the Bedchamber, those holding the official position of personal attendants on a queen or princess. The title had its equivalent in several European royal courts, the position is traditionally held by a female member of a noble family.

History[edit]

In the middle ages, Margaret of France, Queen of England is noted to have had seven ladies-in-waiting: the three married ones were called Domina and the four unmarried maid of honour, but no principal lady-in-waiting is mentioned.[1]

During the Tudor dynasty (1485-1603), the First Lady of the Bedchamber was called Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, she had the highest rank among the Ladies of the Bedchamber, and their role was to act as the attendants and companions of the royal woman. The First Lady of the Bedchamber of a queen consort was the equivalent of the post of First Lord of the Bedchamber to a king,[2] the First Lord of the Bedchamber combined his post with the office of Groom of the Stool, who was in charge of the staff of the bedchamber and served as the keeper of the sovereigns stole or official robe.[3]

When the sovereign was female, the post of Groom of the Stoles was given to the First Lady of the Bedchamber,[4] this created some confusion between the office of First Lady of the Bedchamber and the office of Mistress of the Robes, who was originally in charge of the queen's robes or "stoles". The result was a blur between the offices of First Lady of the Bedchamber and Mistress of the Robes, who were often combined during the 17th-century and 18th-century, until a strict organisation was finally set between them in the 1760s.

England[edit]

First Ladies of the Bedchamber under Elizabeth of York[edit]

First Ladies of the Bedchamber and Chief Gentlewomen of the Privy Chamber under Elizabeth I[edit]

Under Elizabeth the role was also known as "Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber", for example during Parry's tenure of it.

United Kingdom[edit]

During the 17th and 18th centuries role often overlapped with or was retitled as Mistress of the Robes, until the latter role replaced it in the 1760s.

First Ladies of the Bedchamber to Anne, Queen of Great Britain[edit]

First Ladies of the Bedchamber to Caroline of Ansbach[edit]

First Ladies of the Bedchamber to Augusta of Saxe-Gotha[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ William J. Thoms: The Book of the Court: Exhibiting the History, Duties, and Privileges of the English Nobility and Gentry. Particularly of the Great Officers of State and Members of the Royal Household, 1844
  2. ^ William J. Thoms: The Book of the Court: Exhibiting the History, Duties, and Privileges of the English Nobility and Gentry. Particularly of the Great Officers of State and Members of the Royal Household, 1844
  3. ^ William J. Thoms: The Book of the Court: Exhibiting the History, Duties, and Privileges of the English Nobility and Gentry. Particularly of the Great Officers of State and Members of the Royal Household, 1844
  4. ^ William J. Thoms: The Book of the Court: Exhibiting the History, Duties, and Privileges of the English Nobility and Gentry. Particularly of the Great Officers of State and Members of the Royal Household, 1844
  5. ^ Alison Weir: Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World
  6. ^ Alison Weir: Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and Her World