Lever and coucher
The ceremony of the lever (from the French, pronounced ‘lev-ay’) involved waking and dressing the King in preparation for him to receive courtiers and politicians in the state bedchamber. The King would actually sleep in his small, private bedchamber and be brought into the state bedchamber in preparation for the ceremony to begin.
Bed-hopping continued in the evening when the lever was performed at night and the King was put to bed. The ceremony of the coucher (pronounced ‘koo-shay’) involved putting the King to bed at night - this was the whole process of the lever in reverse. Once everyone had left he would then be taken back to his private bedchamber to sleep.
The Ordinances of the Bedchamber
The royal bedchamber was strictly run according to a special set of ordinances or rules, adopted from the time of Charles II. These had originally been introduced by Charles’s grandfather James I – the first great English habitué of the royal bedchamber. They give us clues about how members of court broke the rules from time to time in the pursuit of personal favour or access to the monarch. Whenever the rules were broken they were reissued and pinned up on the bedchamber walls.
Eating in bed
Chocolate, breakfast, informal dinners and even larger dinners would take place in a royal bedchamber as a more informal alternative to the Presence Chamber or the new-fangled dining rooms of the period.
Reading in bed
The lever and coucher were the precursor of a modern statesman's 'breakfast meeting'. At this time the king or queen was very involved in the time-consuming minutiae of government so as well as books for pleasure or enlightenment, letters, petitions, warrants and all manner of documents might be read by or to the monarch in and around the royal bed.