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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. The term “Ladies in waiting” was first initialed in the 1700’s when the Queens “found” that they needed a cortege; train of assistance. They were noticed as the Queen’s personal entourage.

Renaissance England

In Tudor Englandmarker, 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 and thought to be the highest level of unpaid ladies-in-waiting. Most of the other women were considered Maids of Honour. The Maids of honour were the single, unmarried ladies-in-waiting. 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. There were many jobs that required the ladies-in-waiting such as: being proficient in the “modern” dances, languages, instruments, reading, writing letters for the queen, sewing/embroidery, etc. 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 family.


This attitude was very different from ladies-in-waiting to Frenchmarker queens under the later Bourbon dynasty. There, ladies-in-waiting often acted as glorified but distant companions to the Spanishmarker and Polishmarker wives of Louis XIV and Louis XV. Under France's last Bourbon queen, Marie-Antoinette, several of her favorite ladies-in-waiting — notably 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 today .

The United Kingdom today

In the Royal Household of the United Kingdommarker 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 three offices, including Maids of Honour.


The illustration of court lady in Cambodiamarker mostly refers to high ranking female servants who served more closely than any other servant to the Royal Household like food, drink, waving the fan (the khmer style), massage and sometimes the sexuality care for the male royalty. Popularity turned back to the golden age of Khmer Empire when Apsara, the celestial dancer, could be one of the court ladies. King Sisowath of Cambodia was well-known for most of his concubines being from the class of Prime royal ballerina. Court ladies in Khmer royalty may begin in the downstairs class and become concubines and then the mistress of the ruler. The royal ballerina also a part of court lady in Cambodia when they danced for the royals' happiness and did the same activities as the regular court ladies in times of no performance. Srey Snom is the formal word to describe the Khmer court lady.


The term is colloquially used in film and stage, to describe an actress whose role consists of very little action or involvement.

Notable ladies-in-waiting

  • 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.

  • Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, was before as Lady-in-waiting of former King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodiamarker which she known before as Paule-Monique Izzi. She generally as the 33th lady in waiting of King which then elevated to the rank as Concubine after she gave the birth to two son and finally set out recently as the queen of Cambodia.



See also

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