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The surprising sought-after royal job that no longer exists at the palace

A brand new exhibition has opened at Kensington Palace  


A photo of Kensington Palace against a blue sky© Gareth Cattermole
March 19, 2024
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To help you decide whether the Royal Club is for you, why don't you have a read of an extract from today's post, sharing the behind-the-scenes details of Kensington Palace's brand new exhibition: Untold Lives: A Palace at Work.

I was lucky enough to be guided through the exhibition by one of its spectacular curators, Dr Mishka Sinha. During my tour, Dr Sinha talked me through all the weird and wonderful jobs the palace had to offer over 300 years ago. 

You can watch a teaser of my interview above, but make sure to check out my Substack post for the full video.

Two roles that I was most struck by were the titles: "The Groom of The Stool" and "The Necessary Woman". "The Groom of the Stool" would have been in charge of looking after the King's toilet duties which included wiping him with linen cloths that were rewashed.

Despite the role being on the rather unglamorous side, at the time, it was considered to be a rather senior position.

William III's "close stool"
© Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III
William III's "close stool"

The upholstered box pictured above, which is displayed in the exhibition, will have been the toilet of King William III. Dr Sinha elaborated: "Whilst the King was sitting on the seat, he would have been attended by the Earl of Portland - William Bentinck, at the time - who would have handed the King sheets of linen or may even have wiped the King himself. 

"The linen would have later been washed, so it was very environmentally friendly."

Then Dr Sinha explained the role of "The Necessary Woman" who would have been in charge of cleaning the toilet and, much like "The Groom of The Stool" would have been a very sought-after position, and well-respected within the royal household. 

A portait of "The Necessary Woman"© Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III
A portait of "The Necessary Woman"

"The stool would have been cleaned by somebody known as The Necessary Woman," she explained. "You can hear from the title just how important a job it is. It's a relatively menial job yet it would have been considered a big privilege because what you would have been cleaning was essentially, the poo of the King.

LISTEN: We speak to Mary and George stars Julianne Moore and Nicholas Galitzine

"We have a wonderful portrait of a 'Necessary Woman' known as Bridget Holmes who served the King for many, many years and was painted when she was quite old." 

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