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August 9, 2020

Groom of the Stool, the Unpleasant Royal Job From the 17th Century

The Groom of the Stool, or Groom of the King’s Close Stool, has gone down in history as one of the grossest jobs available. As the name suggests the Groom of the Stool was responsible for assisting the king in excretion and ablution.

(Image courtesy of History Extra)

The word ‘Stool’ was in reference to a portable commode which would have been carried around at all times, along with water, towels and a wash bowl. To ensure he was carrying out his job at peak efficiency, the Groom of the Stool would also have closely monitored the king’s diet and mealtimes, and would have organized his day around the king’s predicted motions.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was the sons of noblemen or members of the gentry that were usually awarded the job. Over time, they came to act more as personal secretaries to the king and were rewarded with high pay and some great benefits such as the right to lodgings in every palace, the Sovereign’s old clothes, and the option to have any used bedchamber furnishings.

Of course, one might hope to be reimbursed handsomely for such a role, especially if the Groom actually cleansed the royal posterior himself. In all fairness though, there are no historical records to suggest that the Groom went to these extremes, although he would have almost certainly helped the monarch undress for each occasion.

A close-stool, ca. 1650. (Hampton Court collection)

Of the monarchs to have most enjoyed this personal attention, it was ‘mad’ King George III who employed the most Grooms throughout a single reign; a total of nine, including John Stuart who would later go on to be Prime Minister of Great Britain!

The last person to hold the title of Groom of the Stole was James Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Abercorn (1838–1913) who served the Prince of Wales, but the job did not continue when King Edward VII decided to abolish it in 1901.

(via Historic UK)

1 comment:

  1. So this is just a trivia website now? Hmmm...I hope not. Too many of those out there already! Sad if so.




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