Lady In Waiting
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Basic Information

A Lady In Waiting is, essentially, a female squire - a young woman from a gentle or noble background who is effectively apprenticed to an older noblewoman. Although somewhat in the character of a servant, she is definitely of higher status and her position is somewhere between employment and fostering, divided between some of the cleaner domestic duties and acting as a companion to the lady she is assigned to.

Actual status may vary from little better than a servant, to a tolerated appendage, to a surrogate daughter to a sisterly BFF, depending on the age gap between the girl and her mistress and how well the two get on. Social politics are also likely to fulfill a massive role unless she is the only lady in waiting in the household.

Generally a young woman's parents would put signifcant effort into getting her a good place as a lady in waiting - ideally at court, and if not in the best household they could. The aim of the operation being partly for her to learn how to run a household, partly to network with other nobles and partly to find a husband. Skill sets are likely to include dancing, appropriate crafts (such as weaving or needlepoint), musical instruments, suitable parlour games and correct conversation. Some cultures may also include outdoor pursuits such as archery, riding, hawking and the like if these are considered suitable for ladies. Cooking and the like are probably not included, but she will certainly be learning how to supervise people that do - likewise for gardening. Ideally she will also learn how to control the logistics of a household and keep a set of accounts. In the right context she could well also get practical experience of child rearing and quite possibly be present at a birth - very useful in a role preparing a girl to be a wife and mother. More dangerous courts may also include knowledge of covert operations, poisons and other sinister things.

The job title may be considered something of a pun - although their job involved waiting upon (i.e. serving) their mistress, they were also waiting to become ladies (i.e. wives of gentry and nobles). English is hilarious like that.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • These should be common NPCs in any campaign that touches on a royal court or the household of a great house.
  • Also likely to be caught up in intrigues at court - scandal, spying (knowingly or unknowingly) and all sorts of other things.
  • Once PCs have sufficient social status, these are likely sources of wives … and then, in due course, those wives will need ladies in waiting of their own, and there will probably be daughters who will need places found for them.
  • An older lady in waiting may also be assigned to a young girl as a tutor - indeed a man with a household to run and a very young wife might deliberately seek this sort of person … or inveigle one of his mother's younger attendants from the dower house.
    • More prosaically, this could be cover for the installation of a mistress.
  • In a character generation system, this should be a key development pathway for upper class women.
  • Possibly a good cover for a more practical sort of female PC in the style of Miss Congeniality - which could easily be played for laughs as well.
  • Note that a female PC who is actually involved in the profession of arms should probably have a squire instead (or as well). If the squire is also female this may add to the confusion.
  • Like a male squire, the "graduated but not promoted" lady in waiting may be a thing in some places … women who never married1 but spent their lives in attendance on some noblewoman and then became redundant upon her death. Assuming continuing spinsterhood, such women might spend their remaining years as corrodiennes (if not members) of a nunnery somewhere, but could equally well serve as tutors, chatelaines and housekeepers, either to the upper class or those of the middle with pretensions to gentility.
    • For example, a wealthy merchant guild syndic who wishes his daughters to be sophisticated enough to marry into the gentry might well hire such a person to school them in deportment, courtly etiquette and other appropriate skills.
    • They may also be in demand as spies or other kinds of covert agent.
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