Monday, September 01, 2008

Question from Kelly - Royals being dressed by attendants

Did royalty mind being dressed by their ladies? I know this is a lame question, but this has been on my mind for more than 6 years.


kb said...

I don't think there was an alternative. It would have been impossible to get dressed without help. No zippers. Laces and hooks and eyes across all those pieces of clothing.

So it was pretty much a choice between having ladies dress them and going around in their nightgowns.

I think they minded when the ladies took the opportunity to press their own or their family's suits when the queen just wanted some peace and quiet.

Foose said...

When Elizabeth I's Privy Council was investigating the secret marriage of Edward Seymour and Catherine Grey, the couple denied that anyone else had known about it. The Council refused to believe this, on the grounds that the two could not possibly have consummated their marriage without having servants to help them remove their clothes ... The natural question to ask: Why couldn't they undress and dress each other? But perhaps dressing involved such specialized knowledge that two members of the upper class might not know how to do it correctly.

In general, because servants were so necessary for dressing and undressing, I would think that some aristocrats and gentry would be bound to resent the amount of unavoidable access their body servants had to valuable personal information. You often read of foreign ambassadors and other agents relying on a personage's servants for information on their health, bodily malformations, menstrual regularity, appearance of pregnancy and other intimate matters.

kb said...

The expectations of privacy were very different then.

Foose said...

It's true that privacy was non-existent, especially for royalty, and that having attendants was a definite mark of status so hardly anyone would voluntarily forego them. But it doesn't preclude feelings of resentment or fear at intimate dependency on those whose deliberate or accidental gossip could have damaging repercussions. There are a lot of contemporary stories and plays featuring the false servant, the treacherous servant, etc., and an equal cultural emphasis on the faithful servant, the loyal servant, which suggests anxiety and an ambivalent attitude towards servile intimates.

Margaret of Austria advised her pupils, "Trust in those who offer you service, and in the end, my maidens, you will find yourselves in the ranks of those who have been deceived."

kb, what is your interpretation of the incident when Queen Elizabeth thought she was dying of smallpox and asked that Dudley was to be made Lord Protector, but also that his servant was to be given a very substantial sum of money? Could it have been related to this query about being dressed by attendants?

kb said...

foose - you make such good points. I continually find the dialogue on this site inspiring and though provoking.

I hadn't yet thought of Elizabeth's git to Dudley's servant in this context.

I had just sort of put it in the category of a servant that knew a great deal and had served both Dudley and Elizabeth well - in the sense that he knew a great deal and this was a bribe to take that information to his grave.

I'll have to think about your query some more....good point.

Anonymous said...

back then it was inposibole to get dresed with out eny help all the ladys needid help becose thay wore so many layers of must of benn inposible to dress your self back then.