Maid of honour

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A maid of honour is a junior attendant of a queen in royal households. The position was and is junior to the lady-in-waiting. The equivalent title and office has historically been used in most European royal courts.

Contents

Role

Traditionally, a queen regnant had eight maids of honour, while a queen consort had four; Queen Anne Boleyn, however, had over 60.[ citation needed ]

A maid of honour was a maiden, meaning that she had never been married (and therefore was ostensibly a virgin), and was usually young and a member of the nobility. Maids of honour were commonly in their sixteenth year or older, although Lady Jane Grey served as a maid of honour to Queen Catherine Parr in about 1546–48, when Jane was only about ten to twelve years old. Under Mary I and Elizabeth I, maids of honour were at court as a kind of finishing school, with the hope of making a good marriage. Elizabeth Knollys was a maid of the court at the age of nine.

Some of the maids of honour were paid, while others were not. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the term maid of honour in waiting was sometimes used.

The queen mother often also had maids of honour. In 1912, for example, Ivy Gordon-Lennox was appointed a maid of honour to Queen Alexandra. [1]

In 1912, King George V granted maids of honour the style of The Honourable, with precedence next after daughters of barons. [2]

The six maids of honour of Queen Elizabeth II appear with her on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after her coronation Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II - Couronnement de la Reine Elizabeth II (7195940764) (cropped).jpg
The six maids of honour of Queen Elizabeth II appear with her on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after her coronation

At her coronation, Queen Elizabeth II had six maids of honour who attended her throughout the ceremony, especially carrying the trains of her robes. They were: [3]

Terminology

A lady-in-waiting is a woman who attends a female member of the Royal Family other than the queen regnant or queen consort. An attendant upon one of the latter is a Lady of the Bedchamber or Woman of the Bedchamber , and the senior lady-in-waiting is the Mistress of the Robes . The women of the bedchamber are in regular attendance, but the mistress of the robes and the ladies of the bedchamber are normally only required for ceremonial occasions.

At the Tudor and Stuart courts, the women in attendance included gentlewomen, maids of honour, and chamberers. [4]

The term maid of honour is the origin of the American English term maid of honor, usually the best friend of a bride who leads her bridal party.

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References

  1. "No. 28570". The London Gazette . 9 January 1912. p. 209.:"Marlborough House, 1st January, 1912. Queen Alexandra has been graciously pleased to appoint Miss Ivy Gordon-Lennox to be one of the Maids of Honour to Her Majesty in the room of the Honourable Blanche Lascelles, resigned."
  2. "No. 28661". The London Gazette. 8 November 1912. p. 8201.
  3. Sampson, Annabel (13 September 2022). "The day of the Queen's Coronation as remembered by five of her six blue-blooded Maids of Honour". Tatler. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  4. Pam Wright, 'A Change of Direction', David Starkey, The English Court (London, 1987), p. 47.