Woman of the bedchamber
In the Royal Household of the United Kingdom the term Woman of the Bedchamber is used to describe a woman (usually a daughter of a peer) attending either a queen regnant or queen consort, in the role of Lady-in-Waiting.
Queens Regnant or Consort also have Ladies of the Bedchamber (typically wives or widows of peers above the rank of earl), and the senior Lady-in-Waiting is the Mistress of the Robes. In everyday usage, these female attendants of the Queen are termed Ladies-in-Waiting. The Women of the Bedchamber are usually in regular attendance, but the Mistress of the Robes and the Ladies of the Bedchamber are normally only required for ceremonial occasions. More junior female members of the Royal Family also have friends to assist them on public engagements, who are known only as 'Ladies-in-Waiting'.
Current Women of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth II include Lady Susan Hussey and The Hon. Mary Anne Morrison (both of whom were appointed in 1960) along with Baroness Elton (since 1987). Lady Susan is also godmother to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.
One of Lady Susan's predecessors was Dame Margaret Katherine Hay DCVO (née Seymour, 1918–1975), Woman of the Bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth II, who was a granddaughter of 1st Duke of Westminster and the wife of Sir Philip Hay KCVO (1918–1986), Private Secretary to the Duchess of Kent.
Historically, the duties of a Woman of the Bedchamber were to attend the royal woman and help her bathe, get dressed, undressed, and so forth. They were placed in rank below the Ladies of the Bedchamber.
In a description from 1728, a Woman of the Bedchamber worked independently from the Lady of the Bedchamber and did not take orders from her. However, if a Lady of the Bedchamber was present, a Woman of the Bedchamber would always defer to her. If a Lady of the Bedchamber was present when a Woman of the Bedchamber arrived to dress the queen, for example, she would not dress the queen herself, but instead pass the garments to the Lady of the Bedchamber, who in turn helped the queen put them on. The procedure was the same in other respects.
- 'The bedchamber: Women of the Bedchamber 1702-1714', in Office-Holders in Modern Britain, Volume 11 (Revised), Court Officers, 1660-1837, ed. R. O. Bucholz (London, 2006), pp. 24-25. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/office-holders/vol11/pp24-25 [accessed 17 August 2016].