The House of the Portuguese Queens in the 13th and 14th century could be described more or less as the following:

high social class
- donas or ladies-in-waiting (widows or women married to important officials in the King's Household; possessed the highest offices, such as chamberlain)
- damsels or maidens-in-waiting (young, single women of high lineage)

average social class
- criadas da rainha (maidens of humble lineage; they were raised under the queen's rule, would often be given in marriage by her and, in the meantime, acted as servants)

low social class
- nurses (women of humble lineage, though wet nurses could be of a not so humble lineage)
- covilheiras ('grooming maids' or women of the bedchamber; widows or married women of humble and poor lineage)

very low social class
- chamber maids and servants (free women, not nobility, christian)
- servants and slaves (typically of moorish origin, could become free and continue as free women, though still servants; not christian)

Question: Was there in the British Isles the tradition of the Queen raising young noble women of humble lineage who'd spend their lives serving the Queen (before and, in some cases, after being married by the Queen)? If so, did these women have a specific designation?

I'm not looking for a fancy designation, as the Portuguese one itself is anything but. The Portuguese word 'criada', which today means housemaid and is considered outdated, was at this time taken at face value, meaning 'person raised by one's lady/lord'. It's also a fact that the queen became in fact the young woman's legal guardian until she got married, being thoroughly in charge of her education.

Do note that the term 'criada', as well as the notion of referring to a person raised by his lord/lady, with the associated duties of guardianship, lost its original significance shortly after the 14th century. I believe that, if there was a similar situation in the British Isles, it probably didn't survive past the 15th century either.

Edit and clarification:

By "humble lineage" I mean a noble family with low social standing, be it because the family has few properties and little power, is recent and hasn't yet gained prestige, or is ancient but has lost prestige and power.


  1. Ana Maria S. A. Rodrigues, “A mesa, o leito, a arca, a mula. Como se provia ao sustento e itinerância das rainhas de Portugal na Idade Média.” in A Mesa dos Reis de Portugal. pp. 52-60
  2. Rita Costa Gomes, A Corte dos Reis de Portugal no Final da Idade Média.
  • 2
    The classic examples from Henry VIII's wives of poorer aristocrats in royal households were Anne Boleyn in the household of Margaret of Austria and then the queens of France and finally maid in waiting to Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour as maid in waiting to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and Catherine Howard as maid in waiting to Anne of Cleves, having been brought up in the household of the Duchess of Norfolk
    – Henry
    Dec 21, 2016 at 1:54
  • 1
    so a maid in waiting would be of a lower standing than a maiden in waiting. Would you like to propose that as an answer? Dec 21, 2016 at 7:52
  • @MarkC.Wallace: I have added a definition to the question and yes, the edited title seems fine. However, I don't quite understand you point 1), as I had simply put in my own words what I understood Henry to have said, then suggested him to answer. May 23, 2019 at 16:01


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