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Did Queen Mary have ladies?

Queen Mary was one of the most notable Queens in British history, having ruled alongside her husband King William III in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. As a prominent royal figure, Mary was served by ladies-in-waiting throughout her time as Queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Who was Queen Mary?

Queen Mary II was born on April 30, 1662 to King James II and his first wife, Anne Hyde. She became the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland after marrying her cousin, the Dutch prince William III of Orange, in 1677. The two were proclaimed joint rulers after William invaded England in 1688 during the Glorious Revolution, which overthrew Mary’s unpopular Catholic father, James II.

William and Mary ruled jointly from 1689 until Mary’s death from smallpox in 1694 at the age of 32. Although William continued to reign until 1702, Mary’s short tenure as Queen contributed significantly to establishing constitutional monarchy in Britain.

Did Mary have royal courtiers?

As Queen, Mary was attended by ladies-in-waiting who made up her royal household and court. The ladies who served Queen Mary included:

  • Sarah Churchill, Countess of Marlborough – One of Mary’s head ladies and a close confidante. Sister of famous general John Churchill.
  • Elizabeth Villiers – Longtime lady-in-waiting to Mary. Her sister Anne was one of Mary’s Maids of Honor.
  • Frances Talbot, Countess of Tyrconnel – An Irish aristocrat who served as Lady of the Bedchamber.
  • Isabella Bennet, Duchess of Grafton – The widow of King Charles II’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy. She served as Groom of the Stole.
  • Sarah Jennings – Younger sister of Sarah Churchill. One of Mary’s Maids of Honor.

These women came from prominent aristocratic families and were tasked with attending to the Queen’s personal needs. Their duties including dressing her, accompanying her on outings, entertaining her and managing the Queen’s apartments.

What was the role of these ladies?

The ladies who served Queen Mary fulfilled a variety of important roles and duties, including:


The ladies provided friendship and companionship to the Queen. Mary developed close relationships with ladies like Sarah Churchill, who offered loyalty and advice.

Personal care

They assisted Mary with bathing, dressing, grooming and other intimate tasks. Her Wardrobe of Robes was managed by the Groom of the Stole.

Household management

Her ladies oversaw the running of the Queen’s household and chambers. This included organizing servants, managing dining and entertainment.


Some ladies helped the Queen communicate with members of court and maintain correspondence.


They kept the Queen company by chatting, reading, sewing, singing, playing cards/games, music, dancing, etc.


The Queen often sought advice, opinions or information from her knowledgeable ladies on political, religious and personal matters.

Who attended to the Queen?

Mary had a large female court staffed by aristocratic women. Her household consisted of:

Mistress of the Robes

The highest rank held by a married woman. Responsible for the Queen’s clothes and jewels.

Ladies of the Bedchamber

These married ladies handled the Queen’s private life and personal care.

Women of the Bedchamber

Lower-ranked married attendants who assisted the Ladies of the Bedchamber.

Maids of Honour

Unmarried daughters of the nobility who waited on the Queen.

Role Number appointed
Mistress of the Robes 1
Ladies of the Bedchamber 11
Women of the Bedchamber 12
Maids of Honour 12

In total, Mary had around 36 ladies attending to her intimate needs and providing her with companionship.

Were standards implemented for ladies?

All ladies appointed to Queen Mary’s household were required to be of gentle birth. Maids of Honour in particular had to meet strict standards:

  • They must be unmarried daughters of the aristocracy.
  • Aged between 13 and 25 years old.
  • Known for virtuous conduct and demeanor.
  • Physically attractive and accomplished in areas like singing, dancing, reading, handiwork, etc.
  • Required letters of recommendation testifying to their eligibility.

These requirements ensured only respectable young ladies of good breeding and etiquette could serve the Queen intimately. However, Mary showed lenience in some cases, such as appointing her old governess as a Woman of the Bedchamber.

How were the ladies chosen?

There were a few different ways ladies could be selected for appointment in the Queen’s household:

By merit

Outstanding candidates known personally by the Queen often earned positions on merit. Mary appointed Sarah Churchill thanks to their close friendship.

By connection

Recommendations from powerful family members with royal ties helped some women get placed. Anne Villiers gained her role through her sister Elizabeth’s connections.

By patronage

Noble families lobbied for their daughters to be appointed to gain the Queen’s favor. Lucy Apsley’s father petitioned for years before she became Maid of Honour.

By succession

When a lady left her post, recommendations were made to fill vacant positions. Anne Scott was appointed after the death of Mary Crane.

Regardless of how they were selected, most ladies were from aristocratic backgrounds with close proximity to the royal inner circle.

Did Mary’s ladies influence politics?

Some of Queen Mary’s politically savvy ladies attempted to sway her on issues and gain her endorsement for causes, petitions or policies. Key examples of political influence include:

Sarah Churchill

Used intimate pillow talk to push Mary toward appointing cabinet members who opposed James II’s Catholic policies.

Elizabeth Villiers

Lobbied for appointments and pensions for her relatives from William & Mary by leveraging her trusted position.

Frances Apsley

Promoted the interests of the Whig faction by discussing politics while dressing/grooming the Queen.

However, Mary resisted much persuasive influence from ladies on her official decisions as Queen. She reprimanded those who overstepped boundaries into political meddling.


In summary, Queen Mary II certainly had ladies-in-waiting attending to her court as an integral part of her household throughout her reign. These ladies provided intimate care, companionship and entertainment for the Queen. They were rigorously selected from the aristocracy based on merit, connections and respectable reputation. While Mary’s ladies had physical and personal access to the Queen, she rebuffed inappropriate efforts by some to sway her official decisions and policies as monarch.