Sunday, July 27, 2008

Question from Elizabeth - Queens' apartments and daily routines

Does anyone have any info. on the apartments of the Queen's of Henry VIII? Are there any contemporary descriptions of what they looked like? Did all his Queens use the same apartments as their predecessor's or build new ones? Thanks!

Also, does anyone have any information on the daily routine in the Queen's apartments?


Anonymous said...


I wanted to ask he exact same question about their daily lives.

Im under the understanding that the queens inherited the same rooms but redecorated them each time. What i wanted to know is where the queens ladies stayed!

I believe the queens did charity things like sewing shirts for the poor, embroidery, tapestrys. It is believed that Queen Katherine sew king henrys shirts.
Im not sure how many times the Queens where required by law to goto mass but i assume they spent much time in prayer. Espcially Katherine.

Walking in the garden, reading from the bible, accompanying the king hunting. banquets, plays, danceing. Anything that involved keeping the king happy.

Other other thoughts of the subject ppl??

Foose said...

Barbara J. Harris' "English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550" has a great deal of information on the activities of the queens and their attendants. There doesn't seem to be a schedule or listing of daily routine in existence, though.

Here are some snippets from the chapter "Their Brilliant Careers":

-"The queen spent much of her time in the Privy Chamber with her ladies, gentlewomen and maids; ordinarily she also dined with them apart from the king..."
-"In the long hours they spent together, the queen and her ladies devoted considerable time and energy to planning their wardrobes ..."
-"In addition to planning their wardrobes, the queen and her ladies spent considerable time doing fancy needlework, an essential accomplishment ..."
-"...the queen and her servants amused themselves by playing cards, dice, chess and ninepins, and engaged in early forms of bowling. They almost always gambled when they indulged in games of this sort."
-"The queen's ladies and maids were equally, if not more, enthusiastic about dancing. Virtually all the contemporary accounts of activities in her chamber mentioned their dancing together whether they were by themselves or entertaining visitors."
-"Members of the queen's households also diverted themselves by listening to and playing music."

The queen and her ladies also seem to have been on call for performing in masques and participating in diplomatic entertainments. Harris says "English kings expected Maids-of-Honor to be skilled at dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, and if possible, speaking French." That meant that even a crafty queen couldn't protect herself by engaging ugly girls; Henry apparently refused to appoint Katherine Basset because he "would have them that should be fair, and as he thought meet for the room." There's also an amusing anecdote in Susan James' "Catherine Parr" where the king apparently made his displeasure known that the queen's rooms were full of pious Scripture-quoting dowds.

kb said...

I know significantly less about Henry's wives' ladies than Elizabeth's.

Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting were assigned rooms in whatever residence she happened to be in at the moment although regular attendants had 'their usual' rooms in the regular residences.

In theory the lord chamberlain was responsible for handing out room assignments. He was heavily influenced by the pressure the women could exert should they be unhappy with their assignments.

Mary Sidney (Robert Dudley's sister) was not given what she deemed appropriate rooms within one of the residences after a period away from court. So she pressured the chamberlain by threatening to write Cecil and her brother if she didn't get rooms close to the queen within the palace.

There is a tantalizing glimpse of room assignments for the queen and the leading courtiers planned visit to Theobalds in the Cecil papers. Chief ladies were roomed with their husbands adjacent to the queen.

Charles Howard and Katherine Carey Howard sharing with Ambrose Dudley and his wife Anne Russell Dudley were assigned rooms in the Tower. The earl of Leicester had his own room at the end of the Queen’s Gallery next to Henry Carey and his wife Anne. Other members of the court were placed further away under the gallery but the nearest rooms were reserved for the Dudleys and the Careys. See the Cecil Papers (sometimes called Salisbury Papers, or Hatfield House papers) vol.13, p.228, 27 May 1582.

I would also add that Elizabeth's ladies did more than play music, dance and dress the queen, although dressing the queen could take a couple of hours. They maintained extensive correspondence networks with their kinship networks and leading politicians. Elizabeth Knollys Leighton corresponded with her husband's deputy on the Isle of Guernsey discussing everything from the handling of local disputes to the shipment and storage of arms.

Mildred Cecil maintained a correspondence with the Scottish ambassador discussing the finer points of anglo-scottish foreign policy.

I could go on and on - but won't. :)
Hopefully someone else has more information about Henry's court.

Foose said...

Sorry, I left out Harris' assertion that beauty was apparently the chief criterion for choosing a Maid-of-Honor in Henry VIII's time, and the king seems to have been heavily involved in the determination about who was beautiful enough or not.

kb, in your study of Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting, did you come across any evidence that the beauty standards might have been more relaxed because it was the queen doing the picking? I remember Philip of Spain's gentlemen complaining that Queen Mary's ladies were not good-looking, but I don't know whether this was a cultural issue or an accurate observation.

kb said...

In response to foose -

In Mary's court, Margaret Douglas, countess of Lennox was considered a beauty - and also styled as first lady of the court after the queen. Jane Dormer later countess of Feria was supposedly a beauty although in the pale pious way.

I know that the Spanish did not find the English female dresses attractive which may have contributed to their general dismay with the scenery (not to mention the weather).

I have no information on beauty being a criteria for Elizabeth's maids-of-honour. The most pronounced characteristic was kinship. Mothers recruited daughters, nieces, god-daughters, etc. as ladies in waiting, maids of the court, and maids of honour. The queen did the approving of pre-selected candidates.

As most of these candidates were related to the queen, they probably for the most part conformed to the current standards of beauty. Lettice Knollys might have been mistaken for Elizabeth's twin.

If a maid-of-honour did not have a female representative already in place at court, she had a powerful male relative - but these types of demoiselles were much rarer.

There was also Helena Snakenborg who later became marchioness of Northampton. She was the only foreign born lady in waiting, aside from dwarves and other skilled female courtiers, and also quite beautiful in the same fair-skin reddish blonde hair way.

One father (I'm terribly sorry but I can't seem to find the reference at this moment) presented his baby daughter to the queen as a New Year's gift and the queen took her into the court when she reached a more appropriate age.

In Elizabeth's court, maids-of-honour were part of the marriage market and unlike the girls of Henry's court, exempt from being the farm-team of potential royal mistresses.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeths maids-of-honor and ladies in waiting spent a lot of time embroidering, reading and learning new dances. Dressing themselves and the Queen took a lot of time so Thay also would have taken up a lot of the day. I believe ( from the book I am reading at the moment ) that Elizabeth loved hunting and masque balls.