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Court
Tapestry showing the court festivals of Catherine de' Medici
Public DomainTapestry showing the court festivals of Catherine de' Medici - Credit: wikimedia commons

Court was the household of the monarch, and comprised all those who regularly attended on him or her. This included menial servants such as cooks and cleaners, officials, the noble attendants of the monarch (e.g. maids of honour), and those looking to improve their standing or hoping for financial gain (courtiers).

Those who served closest to the ruler, such as the cup bearer, or the person who looked after his or her clothes, would almost always be a noble. Later, many of these titles were preserved, but they lost all but a few of their original duties. For example, the maids of honour (for a queen regnant) or ladies in waiting (for a queen consort) were daughters of the nobility sent to serve the queen but not considered servants. They acted as companions to the queen, wrote letters for her, read to her, sewed and played instruments, and were expected to know all the latest dances. These were extremely important positions, and girls who became maids of honour could expect to make good marriages later in life. Many such roles were filled by the nobility at court.

 

Court was also a place of culture and fashion, setting the latest trends. It saw the richest banquets, the newest entertainment, and the best dances. It was also the centre of political life. For the nobility, court was the place to be in order to advance in society.

 

Siamese envoys at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles
Public DomainSiamese envoys at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles - Credit: wikimedia commons

 

Richmond Palace

Richmond Palace was a royal residence on the bank of the Thames, built in 1501. It is no longer standing.

 

Richmond Palace, 1765
Public DomainRichmond Palace, 1765 - Credit: wikimedia commons

 

 

 

Whitehall Palace

The palace of Whitehall started life as York Place, owned by Cardinal Wolsey. When Wolsey fell from favour, York Place was seized by Henry VIII and turned into a palace. It was a huge, elaborate building, and grew to be the largest palace in Europe. It is no longer standing.

 

The Palace of Whitehall, 1675
Public DomainThe Palace of Whitehall, 1675 - Credit: wikimedia commons