BEDCHAMBER, LORDS OF THE, are officers of the royal household under the groom of the stole. The number of lords, in the reign of William IV., was twelve, who waited a week each in turn. The groom of the stole does not take his turn of duty, but attends his majesty on all state occasions. There were thirteen grooms of the bedchamber who waited likewise in turn. The salary of the groom of the stole was 2000/. per annum, of the lords 1000/. each, and of the grooms 500/.
The salaries of all officers of the royal household are paid out of a fund appro priated for this purpose in the Civil List, and which is fixed by 1 Viet. c. 2, at 131,260/. per annum.
Chamberlayne, in his Present State of England,' 12mo. 1669, p 249, calls them gentlemen of the bedchamber. " The gentlemen of the Bedchamber," he says, " consist usually of the prime nobility of England. Their office in general is, each one in his turn, to wait a week in every quarter in the king's bedchamber, there to lie by the king on a pallet-bed all night, and in the absence of the groom of the stole to supply his place." In the edition of the same work published in 1716, he adds, " Moreover, they wait n the king when he eats in private; for en the cup•bearers, carvers, and sewers do not wait. This high office, in the reign of a queen, as in her late majesty's, is performed by ladies, as also that of the grooms of the bedchamber, who were called bedchamber women, and were five in number." At present there are in the queen's household, taking their turns of periodical duty, seven ladies of the bedchamber and eight bedchamber women. There are also a principal lady of the bedchamber and an extra lady of the bedchamber. Both the ladies of the bedchamber and the bedchamber women are allied to the nobility. In the house hold of the prince consort there are two lords of the bedchamber.
The title of lords of the bedchamber appears to have been adopted after the accession of the House of Hanover. They
are first mentioned by that title in Cham berlayne's ' State of England' for 1718.
The question whether the ladies of the bedchamber should be regarded as political offices in the hands of the minister, or whether the appointment should depend upon the personal fa your of the queen, formed an important feature in the ministerial crisis which took place in May, 1839. The govern ment of Lord Melbourne had been de feated, and Sir Robert Peel was sent for by the Queen to form a new administra tion, and on proposing to consult her majesty on the subject of the principal appointments held by ladies in the royal household, her Majesty informed him that it was her pleasure to reserve those appointments, conceiving the interference of the minister " to be contrary to usage," while she added it was certainly "repug nant to her feelings." Sir R. Peel being thus denied the advantage of a public demonstration of her Majesty's " hll sup port and confidence," resigned the task of forming a cabinet, and the former minis ters were sent for, when they held a council and came to the following reso lution, which is likely to settle the ques tion on future occasions " That for the purpose of giving to the administration that character of efficiency and stability and those marks of the constittnional support of the crown which are required to enable it to act usefully to the public service, it is reasonable that the great officers of the court, and situations in the household held by members of parlia ment, should be included in the political arrangements made in a change of the administration: but they the ex-minis ters) are not of opinion that a similar principle should be applied or extended to the offices held by ladies in her Ma jesty's household." The defeated minis try was then reinstated.