Princess Marie Louise of Savoy was lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette of France.

A lady-in-waiting is a female personal assistant at a royal court, attending on a queen, a princess, or a high-ranking noblewoman. Historically, in Europe a lady-in-waiting was often a noblewoman from a family highly thought of in good society, but was of lower rank than the woman on whom she attended. Although she may or may not have received compensation for the service she rendered, she was considered more of a companion than a servant to her mistress. Lady-in-waiting is often a generic term for women whose relative rank, title and official functions varied, although such distinctions were also often honourary. A royal woman may or may not be free to select her ladies, and even when she has such freedom her choices have historically been constrained by the sovereign, her parents, her husband or the sovereign's ministers as, for example, in the so-called Bedchamber crisis.

The duties of ladies-in-waiting varied from court to court, but functions historically discharged by ladies-in-waiting included: proficiency in the etiquette, languages, and dances prevalent at court; secretarial tasks; reading to and writing correspondence on behalf of her mistress; embroidery, painting, horseback riding, music making (vocal and/or instrumental) and participation in other queenly pastimes; wardrobe care; supervision of servants; keeping her mistress abreast of activities and personages at court, and discreetly relaying messages upon command.



Female relatives were often appointed on the presumption that they could be trusted as 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. Usually ladies-in-waiting came from families that were highly thought of in good society, noble families, or trustworthy friends of the dynasty. Ladies in waiting were usually referred to as low royalty.

In the current 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 required only for ceremonial occasions. There were formerly three offices, including Maids of Honour whose service entitled them to the style of The Honourable for life.[1]


Aside from the queen and princesses du sang, the kings' maîtresses-en-titre also had official ladies-in-waiting. Several of Marie-Antoinette's favorite ladies—notably Yolande, Duchesse de Polignac—acquired political influence and wealth.


The Danish Queen employs four Hofdamer or "Court Ladies". The Crown Princess of Denmark has two hofdamer, while other princesses of the Danish Royal Family each have one.

The Netherlands

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has a total of seven Hofdames. They accompany the Queen and the other female members of the Royal House during visits and receptions at the Royal Court. The monarch pays for their expenses, but they do not receive any salary. Not all of these ladies are members of the Dutch aristocracy, but they all have a notable husband. Excellent social behavior and discretion is the most important recommendation for becoming a "Hofdame". The current "Hofdames" are Ietje van Karnebeek - van Lede, Lieke Gaarlandt - van Voorst van Beest, Julie Jeekel - Thate, Miente Boellaard - Stheeman, lady Reina de Blocq van Scheltinga, Elizabeth baroness van Wassenaer - Mersmans and Bibi baroness van Zuylen van Nijevelt - lady den Beer Poortugael. The Grootmeesteres (Grandmastress) is the highest-ranking lady at the Royal Court. Since 1984 the position has been held by Martine van Loon - Labouchere, descendant of the famous bankers family, a former diplomat and dowager of lord Maurits van Loon of the famous Amsterdam canal estate. After their voluntary retirement, "Hofdames" are appointed to the honorary Royal Household. The honorary Royal Household still distinghuishes between "Dames du Palais" and "Hofdames", but the category "Dames du Palais" will become extinct.


In Cambodia, the term 'ladies-in-waiting' refers to high ranking female servants who served food and drink, fanned and massaged, and sometimes provided sexual services to the King. Conventionally, these women could work their way up from being maids to become ladies-in-waiting, concubines, or even to become queen consort. However, the six favorite court ladies of King Sisowath of Cambodia were probably initially drawn from the ranks of classical royal dancers of lower class. He was noted for having the most classical dancers as concubines. The imperial celestial dancer, Apsara, was one of these. This practice of drawing from the ranks of royal dancers began in the Golden Age of the Khmer Kingdom. Srey Snom (Khmer: ស្រីស្នំ) is the Cambodian term used to describe the Khmer 'lady-in-waiting'.

Korea (Joseon)

Gungnyeo (literally "palace women") is a Korean term referring to women waiting on the king and other royalty in traditional Korean society. It is short for "gungjung yeogwan", which translates as "a lady officer of the royal court". Gungnyeo includes sanggung (palace matron) and nain (assistant court ladies), both of which hold rank as officers. The term is also used more broadly to encompass women in a lower class without a rank such as musuri (lowest maids in charge of odd chores), gaksimi, sonnim, uinyeo (female physicians) as well as nain and sanggung.

Notable ladies-in-waiting

Lettice Knollys, Countess of Essex and Leicester

See also


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Honourable". Encyclopædia Britannica. 13 (Eleventh ed.) Cambridge University Press. p.664

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  • Lady in waiting — Lady La dy (l[=a] d[y^]), n.; pl. {Ladies} (l[=a] d[i^]z). [OE. ladi, l[ae]fdi, AS. hl[=ae]fdige, hl[=ae]fdie; AS. hl[=a]f loaf + a root of uncertain origin, possibly akin to E. dairy. See {Loaf}, and cf. {Lord}.] [1913 Webster] 1. A woman who… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lady-in-waiting — n. a lady appointed to attend to a queen or princess. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • lady-in-waiting — [lād′ēin wāt′iŋ] n. pl. ladies in waiting a lady of the court attending, or waiting upon, a queen or princess …   English World dictionary

  • lady in waiting — lady in waiting, or la|dy in wait|ing «LAY dee ihn WAY tihng», plural ladies in waiting, la|dies in wait|ing. a lady of the royal household who accompanies or serves a queen or princess …   Useful english dictionary

  • lady-in-waiting — plural ladies in waiting n a woman who looks after and serves a queen or ↑princess …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • lady-in-waiting — (plural ,ladies in waiting) noun count a woman whose job is to look after a queen or princess …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • lady-in-waiting — ► NOUN (pl. ladies in waiting) ▪ a woman who attends a queen or princess …   English terms dictionary

  • Lady in Waiting — Infobox Album | Name = Lady in Waiting Type = Album Artist = The Outlaws Released = 1976 Recorded = ??? Genre = Southern Rock Length = 40:51 Label = Arista Producer = Paul A. Rothchild Reviews = * Allmusic Rating|3|5… …   Wikipedia

  • lady-in-waiting — noun a lady appointed to attend to a queen or princess • Hypernyms: ↑Lady, ↑noblewoman, ↑peeress * * * ˌlady in ˈwaiting [lady in waiting ladies in waiting] …   Useful english dictionary

  • lady-in-waiting — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms lady in waiting : singular lady in waiting plural ladies in waiting a woman whose job is to look after a queen or princess …   English dictionary

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