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Meninas

Waiting on her lady's hand and foot

According to Wikipedia, A lady-in-waiting or court lady is a female personal assistant at a court, royal or feudal, attending on a royal woman or a high-ranking noblewoman.

In fiction, a lady-in-waiting's role isn't much more different in theory: she assists her Queen, Princess or Mistress in whatever she needs. The ones of lower origins will tend to carry maid-like duties like helping her with clothes or food or primping, while nobler ones will join her in courtly deals. The lady, on the other hand, can treat them as best friends, enemies / rivals, mere servants or anything else. Some may put such trust on their assistants that they may either ask them to be their spies, spread rumors, pass messages or even be Body Doubles.

In the West the ladies-in-waiting tended to be seen as companions or courtesans, while in the East they were closer to servants or slaves. Some may also double as The Mistress to one of the ladies's male relatives, especially the King (whether he is the lady's dad, husband, etc.)

Older ladies-in-waiting may be portrayed as mother figures to their mistresses. Younger ones are likely to be the Tomboys to their ladies' Girly Girls.

Examples of Lady in Waiting include:

Art

  • The picture above is from Diego de Velásquez's Las Meninas , which shows the Infanta (Spanish princess) and future Empress Consort of the Holy Roman Empire Margaret Theresa of Spain at age 5 with, among others, her ladies-in-waiting María Agustina Sarmiento de Sotomayor (the girl on her knees) and Isabel de Velasco (the girl doing a curtsy), alias the titular meninas.

Anime and Manga

  • Rose of Versailles: There are many ladies-in-waiting featured in one way or another, since this series is right before the French Revolution: This also includes a major antagonist: Martine Gabrielle de Polignac, Marie Antoinette's Poisonous Friend.
    • Oscar's own lady in waiting is a peasant girl named Rosalie Lamorliere, whom she takes in as her companion. She's also the long-lost daughter of Madame de Polignac.
    • Oscar's mother once was caught in the power struggles between then-Princess Marie Antoinette and Madame Du Barry, with the latter trying to pressure her into becoming her LIW. Marie also offered the lady a spot as her companion, and logically Lady Jerjays chose her. As a bonus, Oscar got VERY ANGRY at Du Barry for trying to use her mom in her schemes.
  • Cross Ange has Momoka, Princess Angelise/Ange's former handmaid. Momoka is so loyal to Ange that even after her lady is revealed to be a Norma, disinherited, and sent into exile at Arzenal, Momoka follows her there thanks to Ange using a Loophole Abuse. She even tries a Mutual-Kill with Embryo and herself out of affection for Ange, and barely survives.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms:
  • In Saint Seiya Soul of Gold, an Asgardian young woman named Lyfia starts as Princess Hilda's lady-in-waiting before she becomes The Protagonist of the series.
  • In some Mobile Suit Gundam supplementary materials, Dozle Zabi's mistress Marlene Kahn (the older sister of Haman Kahn) sometimes was the aidé and companion of Dozle's actual wife, Princess Zenna.
    • In Gundam 00, Princess Marina Ismail has Shirin Bakhtiar as this.
  • One way to see Hys/Nanny from GoLion / Lion Voltron in regards to Princess Allura. Even when she's older and more smothering than the standard.
    • In the USA-made last Voltron season, Queen Merla has some handmaids as well.
  • In Anatolia Story, Yuri Ishtar's social circle includes some young ladies who are this to her: the twins and Ninja Maids Ryuhi and Shala, their elder sister Hadi, Princess Alexandra of the Arzawa lands, and a commoner young lady named Ursula. The latter pulls an Heroic Sacrifice for Yuri's sake.

Comic Books

Film

Literature

  • In the Sissi novels by several authors, Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary (aka Sissi) has several noblewomen as her ladies-in-waiting. One of them is the Italian countess Paola di Bellegarde whom Sissi hooks up with the Count of Königsegg-Aulendorf in one of the books.

Myths and Religion

Theater

  • William Shakespeare included maids, handmaids and Ladies in Waiting among his casts. Some examples are Portia's handmaid and best friend Nerissa from The Merchant of Venice, and Iago's wife Emilia for the titular Othello's wife Desdemona.

Video Games

Western animation

  • In Tangled the series, Cassandra is supposed to fill this role regarding Rapunzel, as the daughter of a royal retainer tasked with keeping company to the local Princess.

Real Life

  • The Other Wiki has a list of women who have been this throughout history. Some of these are:
    • France: the aforementioned Comtesse de Polignac, alongside Louise Marie of Savoy-Carignan aka Princess of Lamballe;
    • Japan: The writers and rivals Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon, plus Masako Tozuka aka Lady Saigou (the mistress of Tokugawa Ieyasu), Lady Yoshiko Nakayama (lover of Emperor Hisahito / Koumei and mother of his succesor Mutsuhito / Meiji) and Lady Naruko Yanagihara (Emperor Meiji's lover and mother of his succesor Emperor Yoshihito/Taisho) among others;
    • Austro-Hungarian Empire: the also aforementioned Paola di Bellegarde alongside Countess Wulff, Sofia Esterhàzy-Liechtenstein and Countess Caroline Lamberg, all of them companions to Empress Elisabeth aka Sissi;
    • England: four of Henry VIII's six wives (Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr);
    • Korea: Lady and later Queen Consort Hui-bin Jang;
    • Sweden: Christina Augusta von Fersen/Loewenheim;
    • etc
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