A lady-in-waiting is a personal assistant to a queen, princess, or noblewoman at court. They are often of noble birth themselves, but are usually from a lower social rank then the woman they are attending to.
The duties of a lady-in-waiting can vary greatly, as can their relationship with their mistress. They will often help her get dressed, get food, and prepare her for bed, while also accompanying her during courtly activities like dancing or horse riding. Depending on how much the mistress trusts her ladies-in-waiting, they could pass on secret messages for her or act as spies on other members of the court. Ladies-in-waiting can be either viewed as friends by the mistress, or simple tools to use however she sees fit.
If a lady-in-waiting has a close physical resemblance to their mistress, they may be utilized as a Body Double
to throw off possible assassination attempts.
If the lady-in-waiting is older, she may be part of a Maid And Maiden
to The Squire
Other terms that are used instead of lady-in-waiting include lady-of-honor, handmaiden, and lady attendant.
- "Las Meninas" by Diego Velasquez depicts the princess of Spain with her Ladies-of-Honor, another term for a lady-in-waiting.
Film (Live Action)
- Lady Cluck to Maid Marian in the Disney version of Robin Hood. In their first scene they are playing badminton and Cluck jokes "As your lady in waiting, I'm waiting."
Mythology and Religion
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, several ladies-in-waiting serve as minor characters who attend to more major characters. Not surprisingly for this series, they tend to meet with some misfortune due to their positions.
- Queen Cersei Lannister has several attendants, including Jocelyn Swyft.
- Margaery Tyrell has several ladies-in-waiting, including her cousins Megga, Elinor, and Alla. When Cersei frames Margaery for having sex with several men, she likewise frames her cousins since they never leave Margaery's side.
- Lady Ashara Dayne was a lady-in-waiting for Princess Elia Martell. This placed her at the Tourney at Harrenhall, where she became pregnant by an unknown man (rumored to be a Stark). She lost the baby at birth, leading to her suicide.
- In Reflections of Eterna, Louise Aramona, one of the narrators, and her daughter Celine end up as ladies-in-waiting of first Aeris Oakdell (sister of Duke Richard Oakdell) and then Queen Catharine—at the whim of the inscrutable yet all-powerful Duke Roque Alva.
- In War Of The Ancients, Queen Azshara, has a retinue of handmaidens, all of whom dye their hair silver to match that of their queen, but none of them can compare with Azshara's overwhelming beauty.
- In the Doubled Edge novels by Mercedes Lackey, most of young Elizabeth's ladies in waiting are spying on her for other factions.
- In Hawaiian Mythology, the other three Snow Maidens, Lilinoe, Kahoupokane, and and Waia'u, serve as this to their sister Poli'ahu. Lilinoe styes Poli'ahu's hair, Waia'u bathes her, and Kahoupokane is in charge of laundry.
- In Twelfth Night, Maria is a gentlewoman to Olivia, the highest ranking female noble in Illyria. At the end of the play it is announced that Sir Toby Belch has married Maria offstage, which simply wouldn't have happened if she was a commoner maid.
- Diablo III: Queen Asylla, wife of King Leoric, had some handmaidens who were imprisoned and killed along with her as Leoric fell into madness. They were later re-animated by dark magic and rose as the Wretched Mothers.
- In Jane and the Dragon, Jane's mother, Adeline, is a lady-in-waiting. Jane was originally to become a lady-in-waiting as well, if not for her leaping at the opportunity to become a squire, instead.