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The Lady of the Bedchamber is the title of a lady-in-waiting holding the official position of personal attendant on a British queen or princess. The position is traditionally held by a female member of a noble family. They are ranked between the First Lady of the Bedchamber and the Women of the Bedchamber. They are also styled Gentlewoman of Her Majesty's Bedchamber.

The equivalent title and office has historically been used in most European royal courts (Dutch: Dames du Palais; French: dames or Dame de Palais; German: Hofstaatsdame or Palastdame; Italian: Dame di Corte; Russian: Hofdame or Statsdame; Spanish: dueña de honor; Swedish: statsfru).

History


In the Middle Ages, Margaret of France, the wife of King Edward I of England, is noted to have had seven ladies of the bedchamber: the three married ones were called Dominæ and the four unmarried ones were known as maids of honour.[1] Their task was simply to act as the companions (see lady's companion) and personal attendants to the royal woman.

In a description from 1728, the task of the Ladies of the Bedchamber was to act as the go-between for the queen and the Women of the Bedchamber, who had the task to wait upon the queen by helping her wash, dress and undress, and so forth.[2] A Woman of the Bedchamber worked independently from a Lady of the Bedchamber and did not take orders from her. However, if a Lady of the Bedchamber was present, a Woman of the Bedchamber would always defer to her.[2] If a Lady of the Bedchamber was present when a Woman of the Bedchamber arrived to dress the queen, for example, she would not dress the queen herself, but instead give the garments to the Lady of the Bedchamber, who in turn helped the queen put it on. The procedure was the same in other issues.[2]

The post of a Lady of the Bedchamber was considered prestigious, and the appointments have therefore been subjected to controversies. Queen Anne appointed Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough to this position; the Duchess was widely considered an influential royal favourite. In 1839, concerns that Queen Victoria was determined to surround herself with wives of Whig politicians led to the Bedchamber crisis, preventing the installation of a Tory government under Robert Peel.

List of Ladies of the Bedchamber to the Queens of England


This is an incomplete list of those who have served as Lady of the Bedchamber in the British Royal Household.

Anne of Denmark was Queen Consort to James I of England.

Henrietta Maria was Queen Consort to Charles I of England.

Catherine of Braganza was Queen Consort to Charles II of England

Mary of Modena was Queen Consort to James II of England

Caroline of Ansbach was Queen Consort to George II of Great Britain

Princess Augusta was the wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales

Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz was Queen Consort to King George III of Great Britain

Caroline of Brunswick was the wife of George, Prince of Wales, Prince Regent and from 1820 Queen Consort to George IV of Great Britain. They separated in 1796 and she died in 1821.

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen was Queen Consort to William IV of the United Kingdom

Alexandra of Denmark was Queen Consort to Edward VII of the United Kingdom

Mary of Teck was Queen Consort to George V of the United Kingdom

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was Queen Consort to George VI of the United Kingdom

  • 1937–1947: Mary Wilson, Baroness Nunburnholme
  • 1937–1972: Cynthia Spencer, Countess Spencer
  • 1937–1941: Dorothy Wood, Viscountess Halifax
  • 1937–1994: Patricia Smith, Viscountess Hambleden
  • 1941–1945: Beatrice Ormsby-Gore, Baroness Harlech
  • 1945–1967: Beatrice Ormsby-Gore, Baroness Harlech
  • 1947–1979: Katharine Lumley, Countess of Scarbrough
  • 1973–2002: Elizabeth Beckett, Baroness Grimthorpe
  • 1994–2002: Elizabeth Lumley, Countess of Scarbrough
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