Daily entries from the 17th century London diary
The L&M Companion entry for Sir William Sanderson says that his wife Bridget (daughter of Baron Tyrrell} "served at court as laundress to Henrietta-Maria and from 1669 as Mother of the Queen's Maid of Honour."
Something must be wrong with the date, as Sam is calling her the Mother of the Maids in 1662.
Mrs Sanderson was probably very proud of having been in charge of the late Queen's Maids of Honour and made sure everyone knew what she had been, so it is natural for Sam to mention in the same breath, so to speak, as her name, what her chief claim to fame had been.(you can imagine her bringing it ever so casually into every other conversation!) Also, as the new Queen is not yet here and has no Royal Household in London yet, Mrs S is maybe the last known holder of this title.
Aargh! I read that date wrong! I read it as 1649 not 69. Please disregard above posting...
Googling around not too productive, except to plant the idea that the Maids of Honour were at court to balance the younger male courtiers surrounding a king--and all that would naturally ensue from that eternal 'balance'. This from wikipedia:
"A lady-in-waiting 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 or other commoner. Their duties varied from monarchy to monarchy. In Tudor England they were divided into four separate caste 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, but most of the other women were the maids of honour. Lady Margaret Lee was a Lady of the Privy Chamber to Queen 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."
As to why the "maids" might need a "mother" at court,
consult Sir Thomas Wyatt, "They flee from me that sometime did me seek," regarding sexual encounters at court.http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/rpo/display/poem...
Present Queen still has Ladies in Waiting. They hang about and collect the bouquets, carry the Royal handbag, organise trips to the loo and so forth.
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