Thursday, March 03, 2011

Question from Nancy - Daily life of aristocratic lady in Henry VIII's reign

I'm trying to find information about the daily life of an aristocratic lady in London in the reign of HVIII. Not a lady in waiting to the queen, but someone who owned a large manor house.


  1. You might try Alison Sim's The Tudor Housewife.

  2. Also try Barbara Harris's "English Aristocratic Women: 1450-1550". There are several references to aristocratic women who were not at court. Be aware that this research is limited by the availability of the archives. If no documents survived, we know very little. Conversely, using inter-disciplinary and creative research approaches, much can be learned.

  3. If you were a duchess or nobility would you expected to be at court? Or could you just hang around your estates?

  4. If you were a duchess or nobility your attendance at court was contingent on your relationship with the royal family and your husband's responsibilities. You could be summoned to court for big events like receiving foreign ambassadors, court celebrations or any time when the pomp and majesty of the royal court was thought important. The more jeweled and ornately dressed women standing around the royal court, the more impressive it looked.

    If you were a lady-in-waiting you were expected to be at court continuously.

    There were some women who were not suited to court life, either they did not get along with the royal family or they had a delicate constitution or they were needed on their estates more than at court.

  5. Piggybacking on this question, if I may...

    If a noblewoman's husband was usually at court, could she just come along too even if she wasn't summoned and wasn't a lady-in-waiting, but (obviously) had permission to be there? Or did she have to have a reason for being there herself, like being a lady-in-waiting or being summoned to a certain event?

  6. It varied a bit with the different courts. If a nobleman was usually at court, but did not have a household post that required apartments within whatever palace the monarch happened to be at, then he would have other lodgings in town. His wife would likely spend some time at these lodgings. She also might travel back and forth between estates and these lodgings to help manage the family affairs.

    If relations between the woman and the royal family was good, then she might be considered a lady of the presence chamber. This would mean that for the most part she could come and go, attending the public court functions at will. She also might be summoned to attend for specific events as stated before.

    Being a lady-in-waiting was a sworn position. You had to swear an oath. You also might get an annual salary on top of lodging and 'bouge of court' which is roughly the same as food and lodging. Ladies-in-waiting might also be given stabling rights for a specific number of horses. They also were granted lodging and food for some personal attendants.

    Again though, let me reiterate that the personal relationship with the monarch was the key to everything.


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