Servants of the bedchamber

Servants of the bedchamber

Master of the Wardrobe, a servant of the royal bedchamber
The servants of the bedchamber ranged from royal dukes as Gentlemen of the Bedchamber, to the Necessary Woman, who emptied the royal chamber pot. The higher ranking positions were often sinecures with little real work required, and were given to titled ladies and gentlemen.

Those who really carried out the hard graft such as the Pages of the Bedchamber, the Laundress of the Body, the Seamstress and Starcher and the King’s Necessary Woman would have either been very young aristocrats or simply 'misters/misses'.

Whilst the work was hard these positions were considered privileges as they offered access to the monarch and the clothes or bedding that came into contact with his body. 

During Charles II’s reign, the higher ranking bedchamber staff often held other jobs, such as positions in Parliament, as well as being landowners. This meant that they often had more ready cash than the monarch, who had to ask Parliament for money!

The Necessary Woman

Silver chamberpotThe Necessary Woman was the King’s personal cleaner. Her title refers to one of her most important tasks – the ultimate privilege of emptying the King’s chamber pot. In addition the Necessary Woman and her team of servants were responsible for cleaning and preparing the King’s private apartments for the day. This included sweeping the floors, dusting and polishing the furniture, lighting the fires. The Necessary Woman was very well paid and received a salary of £60 a year and an allowance of £31  5 shillings for her lodgings and cleaning supplies.

The Pages of the bedchamber

The Pages guarded the bedchamber doors in pairs and were responsible for making sure that everything was prepared for when the King to dress and dine. They wore fine scarlet liveries and carried alarm watches to make sure they were always on time. The Pages received £80 per year as well as generous tips from courtiers who wanted to gain access to royal bedchamber.

The Laundress of the Body, Seamstress and Starcher

The Laundress of the Body, Seamstress and Starcher were highly skilled women, responsible for washing, mending and starching all of the King’s undergarments and bed linen. The King’s linen was very expensive and often decorated with delicate lace. All of these servants had assistants who probably did most of the really hard work. The importance of their work is reflected in their wages – they received a very generous salary of £100 plus an allowance for laundry supplies.

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