Life in Elizabethan England Next

In My Lady's Chamber

The chamber or bedchamber is a very public room in a great house; you receive guests there, play cards or chess, and even dine intimately there with a few close friends. The best bedchamber in the house is the great chamber.

If you want some actual privacy, you retire to your wardrobe or closet — a small, private room off the chamber, used for dressing and other private pursuits such as devotions or letter-writing.

A Lady at her Dressing Table The bed itself is an extravagant affair with embroidered or appliquéd or velvet curtains or hangings. Your bed-clothes include linen or holland sheets and woolen blankets with a decorative coverlet, coverlid or counterpane, and pillows or bolsters. Pillow cases are called pillow-beres.

Along with the bed, your chamber is furnished with one or two chairs, some stools, and an assortment of tables and chests (wooden storage boxes), all made of good English oak.

Your tables may be covered with Turkey carpets, if you can afford them. Each stool has its cushion, embroidered by the ladies of the household.

Your valuables—jewels, perfumed gloves, love letters—are kept in various smaller boxes called coffers or caskets, which might be of metal or wood, often highly decorated. The classic dressing-room picture of Elizabeth Vernon, countess to the 3rd earl of Southampton, shows such a table covering and casket. The other items are jewels and a pin cushion, without which no lady can get dressed.

You probably store your clothing in a press, a wooden cupboard with shelves, sometimes with sliding drawers below. Others simply keep clothes in a chest or hang them on pegs. (There are no built-in closets with hangers.) You may keep smaller items in chests or coffers.

::  Domestic Details
::  The Great House

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28 March 2008 mps