The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Seven – Historical Tidbit

Do you ever feel like you wish someone would pick up your cup and just hand it to you? Or wish that someone would dress you in the morning? How about someone to help you go to the bathroom? Too far? If you answered yes to all of these questions then you might do well in a royal palace. Personally, this sounds like a nightmare to me, but I wanted to find out more about the people who did these roles. The Historical Tidbit for Chapter 7 of The Prince and the Pauper is focused on…


There are many different types of servants constantly butting in to force their service upon Tom in The Prince and the Pauper. Most of the time he is just annoyed, which adds to Mark Twain’s satire. But I wanted to look into these servants a little bit more. Keep reading or watch the video below for more information.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7 that mentions a number of different servants.

“…for the great post of Diaperers…Tom’s cupbearer was present…My Lord d’Arcy, First Groom of the Chamber, was there, to do goodness knows what; but there he was—let that suffice. The Lord Chief Butler was there, and stood behind Tom’s chair, overseeing the solemnities, under command of the Lord Great Steward and the Lord Head Cook, who stood near. Tom had three hundred and eighty-four servants beside these…”. (p. 35)

What were some servant roles?

In the time of King Henry VIII, there were two main departments that controlled most of the palace operations. The first was the Lord Chamberlain’s department. This group took care of the staterooms or the “seen” areas of the palace. They would focus on the rooms where important people woudl gather and discuss business. The other department was the Lord Steward’s. This department focused on the “below stairs” areas like the kitchens.

Some of the different roles that fell under the responsiblity of the Chamberlain include:

  • Laundress – ensure clothes, sheets, towels, and tablecloths wre clean
  • Chambermaids – tidy up and make rooms ready, prepare fires
  • Groom of the chamber – help put on outer clothes
  • Groom of the stool – helped the king use the toilet 

Some of the roles that fell under the responsiblity of the Steward are:

  • Cook – kitchens and food prep
  • Servers – served food
  • Cupbearers – held cups
  • ‘Spit-boys’ – turned meat on spits in front of the fires
  • Tasters – tested all food/drink for poison

What were the perks of being a servant?

There were many perks to being a servant in Henry VIII’s (and Edward VI’s) household. First of all, you get free food. Palace food was good even for the servants! They also had a ration of candles, wine, and beer. Additionally, they had free lodging. The accommodations where the servants stayed had varying levels of luxury based on the position that they had. Sometimes these rooms (often the more luxurious ones) had their own ‘ensuite’ toilets and chimneys. For those servants without their own toilets, they had access to the “Great House of Easement”, a toilet block that could seat up to 14!

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