Valet de chambre (French pronunciation: [valɛ də ʃɑ̃bʁ]), or varlet de chambre, was a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages, common from the 14th century onwards. Royal households had many persons appointed at any time. While some valets simply waited on the patron, or looked after his clothes and other personal needs, itself potentially a powerful and lucrative position, others had more specialized functions. At the most prestigious level it could be akin to a monarch or ruler's personal secretary, as was the case of Anne de Montmorency at the court of Francis I of France. For noblemen pursuing a career as courtiers, like Étienne de Vesc, it was a common early step on the ladder to higher offices.
For some this brought entry into the lucrative court business of asking for favours on behalf of clients, and passing messages to the monarch or lord heading the court. Valets might supply specialized services of various kinds to the patron, as artists, musicians, poets, scholars, librarians, doctors or apothecaries and curators of collections. Valets comprised a mixture of nobles hoping to rise in their career, and those—often of humble origin—whose specialized abilities the monarch wanted to use or reward.
The title of valet enabled access to the monarch or other employer; the "chambre" originally referred to rooms such as the throne room, or the Privy chamber where the ruler conducted his more private meetings, but services extended to the bedroom as well. Sometimes, as in Spain and England, different bodies of valets were responsible for the bedroom and the daytime rooms. Often, the moment the ruler went outdoors a whole new division of staff took over.
From the late 14th century onwards the term is found in connection with an artist, author, architect, or musician's position within a noble or royal circle, with painters increasingly receiving the title as the social prestige of artists became increasingly distinct from that of craftsmen. The benefits for the artist were a position of understood status in the court hierarchy, with a salary, livery clothes to wear (in the early period at least), the right to meals at the palace, often in a special mess-room, and benefits such as exclusion from local guild regulations, and, if all went well, a lifetime pension. The valet would frequently be housed, at least when working in the palace, but often permanently. Lump-sums might be paid to the valet, especially to provide a dowry for a daughter; sons were often able to join the court as well.
In the English Royal Household the French term was used, whilst French was the language of the court, for example for Geoffrey Chaucer in the 1370s; but subsequently titles such as Groom of the Chamber, Groom of the Stool, and Groom of the Robes were used for people with different responsibilities. The "Grooms of the Privy Chamber" and of the "Stool" were more important posts, because involving closer access, and usually held by the well-born, often knights. The "Groom-Porter"'s job was to "regulate all matters to do with gaming" at court, providing the cards, and settling disputes.
Other countries used other terms: in Italian usually cameriere, in German-speaking courts Kammerjunker or Hofjunker were the usual titles, though it was Kammerer in the Austrian Habsburg court, and Kammerherr in Bavaria. In Russia Stolnik was broadly equivalent, until Peter the Great introduced new titles in 1722, after which the Камер-юнкер or kammerjunker came 11th out of 14 in the Table of Ranks. "Valet de chambre" also became used outside courts to refer to normal manservants.
The patron retained the services of the valet de chambre-artist or musician, sometimes exclusively, but often not. The degree to which valets with special skills were expected to perform the normal serving tasks of valets no doubt varied greatly, and remains obscure from at least the earlier records. Probably many were expected to be on hand for service on major occasions, but otherwise not often. The appointment gave the artist a place in the court management structure, under such officials as the Lord Chamberlain in England, or the Grand Master of France, usually via an intermediate court officer. In turn the valets were able to give orders to the huissiers or ushers, footmen, pages, and other ordinary servants.
There were some female equivalents, such as the portrait miniaturist Levina Teerlinc (daughter of Simon Bening), who served as a gentlewoman in the royal households of both Mary I and Elizabeth I, and Sofonisba Anguissola, who was court painter to Philip II of Spain and art tutor with the rank of lady-in-waiting to his third wife Elisabeth of Valois, a keen amateur artist. During the Renaissance, the regularly required artistic roles in music and painting typically began to be given their own offices and titles, as Court painter, Master of the King's Music and so forth, and the valets mostly reverted to looking after the personal, and often the political, needs of their patron. In fact Jan van Eyck, one of the many artists and musicians with the rank of valet in the Burgundian court, was already described as a painter as well as a valet.
In England the artists of the Tudor court, as well as the musicians, had other dedicated offices to fill, so that artistic valets or Grooms were mainly literary or dramatic. But these included whole companies of actors, who in practice seem to have gone their own way outside their performances, except for being drafted in to help on specially busy occasions. In August 1604 the King's Men, presumably including Shakespeare, were "waiting and attending" upon the Spanish ambassador at Somerset House, "on his Majesty's service", no doubt in connection with the Somerset House Conference, then negotiating a treaty with Spain — but no plays were performed. Over the previous Christmas, the whole company had been housed at Hampton Court Palace, several miles outside London, for three weeks, in the course of which they gave seven performances.
Some courtier artists took their courtly careers very seriously. Geoffrey Chaucer held a number of roles as a diplomat and what we would now call a civil servant. Diego Velázquez was appointed "King's painter" in 1623, at the age of 24, and held this position until his death at the age of 61. In addition, he progressed through the hierarchy of courtiers as "usher in the royal chamber" in 1627 (equivalent to valet de chambre), "Assistant in the Wardrobe" (1636) and "Assistant in the Privy Chamber" (ayuda de cámera) in 1643. These appointments put him in the "select group" of some 350 top royal servants, out of about 1,700 in total, and probably used up much of his time. In fact Velázquez perhaps saw more of the King than any other servants, as Philip spent long hours in his studio watching him paint. Finally, after the King's first application on his behalf was rejected, and some probable falsification of his family background and career, Velázquez managed in 1659 to obtain entry to the chivalric Order of Santiago, the pinnacle of his courtly ambitions.
When Jean Poquelin arranged for his 18-year-old son, better known as the dramatist Molière, to follow in his footsteps as one of the eight "Tapissiers ordinaires de la chambre du Roi", with a valet de chambre's rank, he had to pay 1,200 livres. But the title required only 3 months' work a year, looking after the royal furniture and tapestries, for a salary of 300 livres, with the opportunity to take commission on a number of lucrative contracts. Poquelin senior ran his successful shop in Paris when not on royal duty. Molière retained the office of valet until his death. The court duties of many valets, specialized or otherwise, followed regular cycles, rotating every quarter between four holders.
Alexandre Bontemps, head of the thirty-six functional ordinary valets de chambre of Louis XIV of France, was a powerful and feared figure, in charge of the troops guarding the royal palaces, and an elaborate network of spies on courtiers. Major courts had a higher layer of courtier attendants, always from the upper nobility, whose French version was the Gentleman of the bedchamber (four, rotating annually), and in England Lord of the Bedchamber. At the increasingly formalized ceremony of the Levée the clothes of the monarch would be passed by the valet to the Gentleman, who would pass it to, or place it on, the monarch himself. Especially in France, several other members of the royal family had their own households, with their own corps of valets.
During the Baroque age the role of valet largely ceased to be a career step for noble courtiers aiming for the highest offices, although the Premier Valets of the Kings of France, now a role usually passing from father to son, were themselves ennobled and wealthy. Livery clothes and the right to meals were converted into extra cash payments by several courts. Constant, valet de chambre to Napoleon I, was one of many who published their memoirs, from the 18th century on. Especially in German lands, honorary titles as kammerer and the variants were now given, mostly to noblemen, with great freedom, but with no payment or services being exchanged; both Vienna and Munich had over 400 by the 18th century.
Mainly painters, unless otherwise stated.
In fact the majority of valets fell under this category in the earlier period. All these appear to have had functional, rather than purely honorary, positions.
Agony in the Garden is a 1405-1408 French painting in the international Gothic style, which has been in the Museo del Prado since May 2012. It was produced in Paris on a Baltic oak panel. The artist is unknown, though it could by Colart de Leon (fl. 1377; died before 27 May 1417), who was painter and 'valet de chambre' to Louis I, Duke of Orléans, shown at bottom left and probably the commissioner of the work.Balthazar Martinot
Balthazar Martinot (1636–1714) was a French clockmaker, and valet de chambre of the queen and of the King.
His daughter Anne Martinot married the king's goldsmith Philippe Van Dievoet.
He was considered in his time to be one of the most famous clockmakers in Europe.
'He was born in Rouen, the son of Balthazar Martinot I (1610–1697), Gouverneur du Gros Horloge at Rouen. His brothers, Claude (1637-after 1697), Etienne (1639–1702) and Gilles (1658–1726) were also clockmakers of repute and in turn Martinot II sired Balthazar-Louis Martinot, who became Ecuyer, Valet de la Garde-Robe du Roi. Unlike his father, Balthazar Martinot worked in Paris from circa 1660, where he was established at rue Galande in 1683 and Quai des Orfèvres in 1697. He retired to Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1710, where he died a few years later. His talent aroused important patronage and gained great prestige. In 1665 he succeeded his father-in-law, Pierre Belon, as Valet de Chambre-Horloger Ordinaire de la Reine, Anne of Austria. He was later appointed Horloger Ordinaire du Conseil du Roi. Garde-Visiteur, 1678–79 and 1693-95. He was patronized by the most influential members of society including Louis XIV, the Grand Dauphin, the Ducs d’Aumont and de La Trémoille, the Prince de Rohan, the Marquis d’Argenson, the Comtesse de Polignac, the Cardinal de Gesvres, the Présidents du Harlay, de Lamoignon, de Maison and many others. He also sold several clocks to the King of Siam in 1685 and supplied a number to Constantinople. An inventory of 1700 revealed that he held the largest stock of clocks in Paris, while five years previously he had organized a significant lottery in association with his colleague, Nicholas Gribelin.
His clocks were not only of the very finest quality but were also housed in exceptionally beautiful cases; notably those made by Jean-Michel Ziegler and André-Charles Boulle. His works are now installed in some of the world’s finest collections including the Musée du Louvre, Musée de Cluny and Musée National des Techniques, Paris; the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Lyons; Musée de Saint-Pierre; Musée de Pau and Château de Champs; the Museum der Zeitmessung Beyer, Zurich; Musée d’Horlogerie de La Chaux-de-Fonds; the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Dresden; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio.'Charles Fleury
Charles Fleury, Sieur de Blancrocher (c. 1605 – November 1652) was a French lutenist. Known principally under the name Blancrocher (Blanrocher, Blancheroche), he was one of the leading performers of his day, active in Paris. Whether he composed or not is unknown; a single dance movement survives, attributed to him, in the so-called Manuscrit Vaudry de Saizenay. His name became well known in the late 20th century, for after his sudden death (he fell down a flight of stairs) as many as four major composers wrote tombeaux in his memory: lutenists Denis Gaultier and François Dufaut, and harpsichordists Louis Couperin and Johann Jakob Froberger. The latter witnessed Blancrocher's death, and the lutenist apparently died in Froberger's arms.
He was the son of Louis, Valet de chambre du roi, and Mathurine de Vallois (+1625). He left six children underage.
His son Charles married Anne de Franchere or de Fransure in 1633.Gentlewoman
A gentlewoman (from the Latin gentilis, belonging to a gens, and English 'woman') in the original and strict sense is a woman of good family, analogous to the Latin generosus and generosa. The closely related English word "gentry" derives from the Old French genterise, gentelise, with much of the meaning of the French noblesse and the German Adel, but without the strict technical requirements of those traditions, such as quarters of nobility.
By association with gentleman, the word can refer to:
A woman of gentle birth or high social position;
A woman attending a great lady (as, for example, the character in William Shakespeare's Macbeth called only 'Gentlewoman', who attends Lady Macbeth). This might be a court appointment as the female equivalent to a valet de chambre.
A woman with good manners and high standards of behaviour.Groom of the Chamber
Groom of the Chamber was a position in the Household of the monarch in early modern England. Other Ancien Régime royal establishments in Europe had comparable officers, often with similar titles. In France, the Duchy of Burgundy, and in England while French was still the language of the court, the title was varlet or valet de chambre. In German, Danish and Russian the term was "Kammerjunker" and in Swedish the similar "Kammarjunkare".
In England after the Restoration, appointments in the King's Household included Groom of the Great Chamber, Groom of the Privy Chamber and Groom of the Bedchamber. The first two positions were appointed by Lord Chamberlain's warrant; the third, of greater importance, was a Crown appointment.Guillaume du Tillot
Léon Guillaume (du) Tillot (Bayonne, 22 May 1711 — Paris, 1774) was a French politician infused with liberal ideals of the Enlightenment, who from 1759 was the minister of the Duchy of Parma under Philip, Duke of Parma and his wife Princess Louise-Élisabeth of France. At a time when both Bourbon France and Bourbon Spain thought of Parma as a strategic point of interest, Tillot favoured French policies abroad and wide-ranging reforms within the Duchy of Parma. He was made marchese di Felino.
Tillot's career was of his own making. The son of a valet de chambre, he studied at the Collège des Quatre-Nations at Paris, then went to the court of Charles III of Spain; after Charles' departure to be King of Sicily, Tillot was attached to the household of Philippe de Bourbon, whose private secretary and treasurer he became. He organised fêtes for Philippe at Chambéry and elsewhere.Jean Marot
Jean Marot (1463 – c. 1526) was a French poet and the father of French Renaissance poet Clément Marot. He is often grouped with the "Grands Rhétoriqueurs".
He was born Jehan Desmaretz at Mathieu, near Caen in 1463. He composed verses and they were liked by Michelle de Saubonne who was the wife of the Lord of Le château du Parc-Soubise situated in Mouchamps. For this she presented him to Anne of Brittany, Queen of France, and in 1506 he obtained the post of escripvain (a cross between poet laureate and historiographer). Clément was the child of his second wife.
Later, Jean became the official poet of the kings Louis XII and Francis I of France. He died in Paris around 1526. His son Clément was then appointed in his place as valet de chambre to the king.Jean Perréal
Jean Perréal (b. after 1450 - d. after 1530) -- sometimes called Peréal, Johannes Parisienus or Jean De Paris -- was a successful portraitist for French Royalty in the first half of the 16th Century, as well as an architect, sculptor and limner of illuminated manuscripts. He was active mostly in France and in Italy and London as well.
Perréal's major patrons were Charles of Bourbon, King Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I, all of France. It is mentioned that in honor of Charles of Bourbon he painted escutcheons for the entry of the nobleman to the city of Lyon, but the date of Charles' birth, 1489, and the time of the artist's residence in Lyons do not coincide accurately. His most remarkable works are often considered to be a portrait of Charles VIII (Musée Condé) and a miniature piece, Pierre Sala, an image of a poet who, like Perréal, was a royal valet de chambre. A letter from Perréal to Margaret of Austria circa 1511 survives describing the relative merits of marble and alabaster, signed 'Jehan Perreal de Paris, votre Valet de Chambre et paintre indigne.'He was an accomplished designer of tombs, medals, theater scenery and ceremonies, including the marriage of King Louis XII and his second wife Mary Tudor. For the marriage, Perréal was sent to London in 1514, where he also executed a portrait of Mary Tudor. Working in a glazed paint pigment on glass, he also crafted a unique portrait of Louis XII, entitled Louis XII of France in Prayer (Walters Art Museum). As a sculptural designer, Perréal sketched the design for the tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, which was executed by the French sculptor Michel Colombe, and is now in the cathedral of Nantes.
In 1516, he painted an allegorical image, la complainte de nature à l'alchimiste errant (The Lament of Nature to the Wandering Alchemist), in which a winged figure with arms crossed, representing Nature, sits on a tree stump with branches that have been intricately shaped, with a fire burning in its base, conversing with an alchemist in an ankle-length coat, standing outside of his stone-laid shoreline laboratory. Live resprouting shoots emerge from either side of the tree stump seat to form a fancifully twined and pleached two-story-tall chair back.His style is noted as keeping to the elegant French tradition, as well as a touch of Flemish realism.Johann Gottfried Schnabel
Johann Gottfried Schnabel (November 7, 1692 – c. 1751–1758) was a German writer best known for his novel Insel Felsenburg. He published his works under the pen name Gisander.
Schnabel was born in Sandersdorf near Bitterfeld, Germany. Orphaned in 1694, he was raised by relatives. After an apprenticeship to a barber from 1706 to 1709, Schnabel worked as a Feldsher, a military barber-surgeon, in the regiments of Wolfenbüttel and Saxony until 1717. In this capacity he took part in the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1719, Schnabel settled as a master barber in Querfurt. From 1724 he was court barber in the County of Stolberg-Wernigerode, where he was promoted to valet de chambre in 1729 and to court agent around 1737. The year 1750 shows the last record of Schnabel's life; his death date and place are unknown.Junker (Russia)
Junker (юнкер in Russian, or yunker) has several meanings in Imperial Russia. The word is from the German language, where it means "young lord".
Junker was a military rank for junior officers of dvoryan descent since 1902.
Junker was the rank for a volunteer at military service (вольноопределяющийся, volno-opredelyayuščiysya) in the Russian Navy in 19th and 20th centuries.
Kamer-Junker (cf. German Kammerjunker) was a courtier title defined in the Table of Ranks, generally equating to valet de chambre or Groom of the Chamber.
Junker was a term for students of any military or junker school in between 1864 and 1917.Louis Constant Wairy
Louis Constant Wairy (1778–1845) was valet to Napoleon, Emperor of the French.
He wrote "Mémoires de Constant, premier valet de chambre de l'empereur, sur la vie privée de Napoléon, sa famille et sa cour." ("Memoires of Constant, valet of the emperor; about his private life, his family and his court.")Nikoloz Gruzinsky
Prince Nikoloz Iakobis Dze Bagration-Gruzinsky (Georgian: ნიკოლოზ იაკობის ძე ბაგრატიონი გრუზინსკი) (1783-1861) was a Georgian royal prince (batonishvili) of Bagrationi dynasty.He was the son of Iakob Gruzinsky. In 1812-1823, he served as Valet de chambre.
Prince Iakob had 4 children:
Aleksandra Gruzinsky (died 1888)
Constantine Gruzinsky (died 1884)
Ivane Gruzinsky (1831-1898)
Pyotr Gruzinsky (1840-1892)He was buried at Vagankovo Cemetery in Moscow.Noël Quillerier
Noël Quillerier (1594 (baptised August 1) - April 3, 1669) was a French painter who also served as a valet de chambre for the king. A native of Orléans, in 1631 he married Charlotte Lerambert, the daughter of sculptor Louis Lerambert. Their daughter Marguerite married the sculptor Antoine Coysevox; their son Jérôme (sometimes called Hiérosme), baptized February 19, 1639, was also listed as a painter, though none of his works are known to have survived. Among Quillerier's pupils was Noël Coypel. He died in Paris.Portrait of a Violinist
Portrait of a Violinist is a 1773 oil on canvas painting by the French artist Anne Vallayer-Coster in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.This painting shows a seated woman with a violin bent over a music book. Vallayer did not marry until 1781 and therefore was probably still working alongside family members when this was painted. Vallayer expert Marianne Roland-Michel has speculated that the woman in the painting was possibly one of her sisters, as Vallayer's rare portraits tended to be from her inner circle. It is unknown whether her sisters were musicians, however. Vallayer was admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1770 on the basis of her still life paintings, several of which are still in the collection of the Louvre, including a still life of musical instruments that shows a similar violin:
This portrait painting was purchased for EUR 903,000 at auction in 2015 by the Swedish museum that also owns two of her still lifes. Its price was a world record for paintings by Vallayer. At the same sale, another world record for a painting by a woman was achieved, and it was a still life by Louise Moillon for EUR 1,083,000.According to the provenance listed by the auction house, the painting was one of many sold in 1783 by Jean-Benjamin de La Borde a violinist and composer who had been premier valet de chambre for Louis XV.Romani (adventurer)
Romani (floruit 1714) was a French adventurer involved in the Affair of the Poisons.
Romani was described as a person credited with great abilities in disguise and persuasion. He was the intended son-in-law of Catherine Monvoisin, who had him engaged to her daughter Marguerite Monvoisin. He did, however, break the engagement after it became known to him that she had been pregnant by another man shortly before their engagement.
He was accused of having conspired with his lover Catherine Monvoisin to assassinate Angélique de Fontanges with poisoned gloves, while he was valet-de-chambre to a lady of the court. It was further claimed that he planned to assassinate Louis XIV by handing him a petition impregnated with poison. He was pointed out for his participation in this affair by Marguerite Monvoisin, who described him as a poisoner and a master of disguises.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment and sequestration in 1682. The date of his death is not known. He was chained to the wall during his imprisonment, and he is last mentioned in 1714, when one of his fellow prisoners removed his chaines out of pity, and was punished for this act.Royal household
A royal household or imperial household is the residence and administrative headquarters in ancient and post-classical monarchies, and papal household for popes, and formed the basis for the general government of the country as well as providing for the needs of the sovereign and their relations. It was the core of the royal court, though this included many courtiers who were not directly employed by the monarch as part of the household.
There were often large numbers of employees in the household, strictly differentiated by rank, from nobles with highly sought-after positions that gave close access to the monarch, to all the usual of servants such as cooks, footmen, and maids. The households typically included military forces providing security. Specialists such as artists, clock-makers and poets might be given a place in the household, often by appointing them as valet de chambre or the local equivalent.
Among many of these households there are certain great offices which have become, in course of time, merely hereditary. In most cases, as the name of the office would suggest, they were held by those who discharged personal functions about the sovereign. Gradually, in ways or for reasons which might vary in each individual case, the office alone survived, the duties either ceasing to be necessary or being transferred to officers of less exalted station.In the modern period, royal households have evolved into entities which are variously differentiated from national governments. Most modern households have become merely titular.Saint Yon
Saint Yon, a family of Parisian butchers in the 14th and 15th centuries. Guillaume de Saint Yon is cited as the richest butcher of the Grande Boucherie in the 14th century. The family played an important role during the quarrels of the Armagnacs and Burgundians. They were among the leaders of the Cabochien Revolt of 1413. Driven out by the Armagnacs, they recovered their influence after the return of the Burgundians to Paris in 1418, but had to flee again in 1436 when the constable, Arthur, Earl of Richmond, took the city. Gamier de Saint Yon was échevin of Paris in 1413 and 1419; Jean de Saint Yon, his brother, was valet de chambre of the dauphin Louis, son of King Charles VI of France. Both were in the service of the king of England during the English domination. Richard de Saint Yon was master of the butchers of the Grande Boucherie in 1460.Valet
A valet (or varlet) is a male servant who serves as personal attendant to his employer. In the Middle Ages and Ancien Régime, valet de chambre was a role for junior courtiers and specialists such as artists in a royal court, but the term "valet" by itself most often refers to a normal servant responsible for the clothes and personal belongings of an employer, and making minor arrangements.
In the United States, the term most often refers to a parking valet.Varlet
Varlet can refer to:
Valet de chambre, a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages
Rogue (vagrant) or unprincipled person