Throughout the years there have been many royal positions, which may seem if not unnecessary, then at least really weird. There is an official Grand Carver to cut up the roast, a Keeper of the Swans, a Royal Horological Conservator, who winds up all of the clocks in the palace and even a Keeper of the Queen’s Stamps. Sometimes these are just mundane tasks, which are too troublesome for the royals to do themselves and at other times they are fancy, creative titles for everyday jobs around the household. There was one position however, which exceeds all others – The Groom of the King’s Close Stool. .
As the name suggests, this was the person responsible for the King’s toilet. He would make sure there was always a fresh supply of water, towels and a clean washbowl whenever the King would need them. Whether he was actually tasked with cleaning the King after he was done with his business is a subject still open to debate, with some historians in support of the claim, while others believe his duties were not as extreme.
Nevertheless, from today’s perspective this is probably one of the most repulsive jobs imaginable. Incredibly, this was not the case during the age of the Tudors. In those days the Groom of the Stool was the highest, most sought after position within the King’s chambers. It was created by King Henry VII around 1495 and in the beginning was simply attending to the King’s personal needs. Over time these duties expanded and during the time of King Henry VIII the Groom was the head of the whole team responsible for the Kings quarters and was one of his closest confidants. While he had no political power, he did regularly spend time alone with the King and so had a great deal of influence. In later years it was not uncommon for people to petition the Groom as an alternative way of contacting the monarch. One of them, John Stuart, even grew to become Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1762. The role endured for more than 400 years, until in 1901 King Edward VII finally decided to abolish it.
When Queen Elizabeth I took the throne, it was naturally considered not at all proper that a male servant attend her in her most private moments. Therefore, a new position was created, namely the Lady of the Bedchamber.