Anne de Courcy

The hazards of attending a queen

Ladies in waiting had to be highly skilled in diplomacy — and prepared to succumb to the advances of the monarch and his own courtiers

Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine, lady in waiting to Catherine of Braganza, and mistress of Charles II. Credit: Alamy

When Queen Alexandra chose her ladies in waiting she prudently surrounded herself with elderly and plainish ones, who did not tempt her susceptible husband Edward VII. ‘These are your wives?’ the Shah of Persia solicitously enquired. ‘They are old and ugly. Have them beheaded and take new and pretty ones.

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