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Spring Cleaning Trail

From miniature tins of polish in Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House to Old Master paintings, take a closer look at how cleaning has been portrayed historically through Royal Collection objects


Letter setting out the duties of a housekeeper

14 May 1844

This letter was written by the Lord Chamberlain to set out instructions for the Housekeeper at Buckingham Palace. The letter reads:

The Housekeeper will have full and undivided authority and control over all the Housemaids in Buckingham Palace – will arrange the distribution of the Work and Herself be responsible for the due execution of the same.

The attention of the Housekeeper will of course be in the first instance directed to the Private Apartments of The Queen and Prince, and to the State Apartments: but it is expected also that she will exert a vigilant Superintenddance [sic] over all the other parts of the Palace including the Servants’ rooms; in these latter she will be careful to ensure the enforcement of the Rules against eating, drinking, smoking, cleaning of Clothes – shoes &c. She will have the general Superintendance [sic] of the Nurseries as far as regards the Work of the Housemaids, subject to the directions of Lady Lyttelton.

She will regulate the Attendance of the Housemaids at Morning Prayers in the Chapel, as to Numbers, cleanliness of Person &c.

She will enforce civility, propriety of language and general decency of Behaviour, Herself of course setting the example.

The Housekeeper will, as soon as she shall have become sufficiently acquainted with the Nature and Extent of the work to be done in the Palace, form her own opinion of the system to be pursued, and will not consider any previous usage as binding upon her, unless the same shall have been established by The Queen or The Prince.

She will, upon any breach of the Rules and Regulations, which she has laid down, Herself admonish the Offender – Should the Offence be of so grave a nature as to require dismissal from the Establishment, she will report it to the Master of the Household, who will communicate the same to the Lord Chamberlain.

She will apply to Mr. Saunders of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for any assistance which she may require in the way of moving Furniture, or in such Work as the Housemaids are unable themselves to perform.

She will report to the Master of the Household any violation of the Rules having reference to the rooms by any of the Domestics, and, generally, any impropriety that may fall under her notice.

The Housekeeper will be careful to see that the Housemaids retire to Bed in good time at night, and rise early for their work in the Morning.

De La Warr
Lord Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain’s Office.
May 14th 1844

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