The Ladies in Waiting - who are those closest to the female royals?

A royal job role
What is a lady in waiting?
What does a lady-in-waiting do?
Is the lady paid for the role?
How many ladies-in-waiting does the Queen have?
The Duchess of Grafton
Lady Farnham
Dame Mary Morrison
Lady Elizabeth Leeming
Susan Rhodes
Virginia Ogilvy, Countess of Airlie
Lady Susan
Mrs Robert de Pass
Richenda Elton, The Lady Elton
Angela Kelly
The Hon Mrs Whitehead, Annabel Whitehead
Dame Annabel Whitehead outshines The Queen
Kathryn Dugdale
Princess Margaret had many ladies in waiting
Lady Anne Glenconner
Remembering Princess Margaret
An integral part of palace life for the late princess
Princess Anne
Leonora, Countess of Lichfield
Araminta Ritchie
Jane Holderness-Roddam
Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall
Close to the monarchy
Diana, Princess of Wales
Sarah, The Duchess of York
Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Kate, Duchess of Cambridge
Low-maintenance Kate
Her first Lady
Catherine Quinn takes over
Lady Laura Meade
Emilia Jardine-Paterson
A royal job role

The Royal etiquette has changed dramatically over the years as the world modernises. But some members of the royal family in the UK do still have ladies in waiting. Who are those nearest and dearest to the female royals at the top?

What is a lady in waiting?

Traditionally, a lady in waiting comes from a gentry family, one whose family tree runs alongside royalty. The ladies chosen to accompany and assist the lead royals are often childhood friends.

What does a lady-in-waiting do?

The job post is basically a personal assistant. The role of the closest to the royal ladies includes anything from carrying items, running errands, organising correspondence and accompanying the royals on engagements, tours and visits.

Is the lady paid for the role?

A lady innwaiting’s job is to be on hand for all the Queen’s and royal ladies’ needs without receiving a penny for it. That’s right, it is an unpaid ‘volunteer’ role.

How many ladies-in-waiting does the Queen have?

The Queen had nine noblewomen serving her. Unfortunately, two of these women died, leaving seven remaining (although numbers are now increasing again as the Queen becomes less able to fulfil her duties due to mobility restrictions). Ladies-in-waiting do not live with the Queen but sometimes will stay with her or near her should their duties require it.

The Duchess of Grafton

Ann Fortune FitzRoy was the Duchess of Grafton. One of The Queen’s closest confidants passed away on December 3 2021. She had been the queen’s Lady of the Bedchamber since 1987 and had accompanied The Queen on numerous overseas visits including Nigeria in 1956, France in 1972, Morocco in 1980 and Russia in 1994.

Lady Farnham

The Queen had a terrible December and sadly lost another of her most trusted ladies. Lady Farnham, died aged 90 on 29th December 2021, after 34 years as a lady-in-waiting. She had ridden with the Queen at her Diamond Jubilee after Prince Philip was hospitalised and attended many affairs with the monarch. At Lady Farnham’s funeral, Dame Mary Morrison represented the Queen at the service, who could not attend.

Dame Mary Morrison

In The Telegraph in 2014, Dame Mary Morrison was described as one of the queen's closest confidantes in the article "Queen leads Royal Family on island cruise". Daughter of a Baron, she received the Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. She has been recognised with the Royal Household Long and Faithful Service Medal 60 year service bar. The Hon Mary Morrison (right in the photo) has decided not to use the title Dame, but exclusively The Honourable.

Lady Elizabeth Leeming

Daughter of an Earl, Lady Leeming is also the Queen’s cousin once removed. One of the later additions to the Queen’s household, she was appointed lady-in-waiting in 2017.

Susan Rhodes

Susan Rhodes was also appointed to office in 2017. Her mother-in-law was actually a bridesmaid to the Queen at her wedding to Prince Philip in 1947. Her services were particularly needed in forming the ‘HMS Bubble’ - a group of people in charge of keeping the Queen safe during the Covid pandemic. She also appeared with The Queen on the balcony (instead of alongside Camilla) when mixing with other households was too risky.

Virginia Ogilvy, Countess of Airlie

Virginia Ogilvy married into her noble title. She married David Ogilvy, 13th Earl of Airlie and then became the Countess of Airlie. The Countess has been seen alongside the Queen on a number of occasions, most notably joining the monarch on trips to the US (Virginia is from New Jersey). She met President and Barbara Bush alongside The Queen at The White House.

Lady Susan

According to Tatler, Lady Susan is known affectionately as ‘Number One Head Girl’ in the Queen’s office. Lady Susan is the youngest daughter of the 12th Earl of Waldegrave and obviously has the right ear of Her Majesty, having been around in the royal household since 1960. She joined at the time of Prince Andrew’s birth, helping The Queen answer letters.

Mrs Robert de Pass

Appointed in 1987 as Extra Woman of the Bedchamber, this lady continues to serve Her Majesty. Most recently, Philippa de Pass was in the news after penning a letter to a six year old girl who wanted the Queen to come to her birthday party. Of course, The Queen would be unable to attend, but de Pass wrote a beautiful letter of apology, hoping the young girl has ‘a lovely time’ at her party.

Richenda Elton, The Lady Elton

Married to a Baron (and former member of the House of Lords), Lady Elton has also served Her Majesty when duty has called. One of the most adorable photos of the lady-in-waiting is when she accompanied Queen Elizabeth on a trip to RAF Markham in Norfolk and paused to admire a very cute Beanie Baby called ‘Scorch’.

Angela Kelly

The Queen’s ‘best friend’ (right in the photo) and royal dressmaker has been moved into Windsor Castle to assist the monarch with her ongoing mobility issues, according to The Sun. One of the closest to Her Majesty, the 69-year-old has been in the royal household for 28 years. Kelly had also been part os HMS Bubble, even giving The Queen a haircut during lockdown.

The Hon Mrs Whitehead, Annabel Whitehead

Another Dame preferring to use her ‘Honourable’ title. Dame Annabel has kept a low profile in her serving The Queen, but was reportedly at Queen Elizabeth’s side during some very challenging months.

Dame Annabel Whitehead outshines The Queen

But during a trip to Commonwealth Games, 71 year-old Dame Annabel caused quite a stir, wearing a hat that seemed to block out the Queen’s view of the swimming pool. The Daily Mail also claimed Dame Annabel’s green outfit was too close for comfort to the Queen’s own garments. Even so, her many years of service have merited her the Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and was even lady-in-waiting to The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret before her death in 2002.

Kathryn Dugdale

Dugdale was one of The Queen's longest serving ladies in waiting and she has certainly appeared alongside Her Majesty at many events, popping up in a number of photos over the years. She joined the royal household in 1955 as Woman of the Bedchamber until she retired in 2002. Kathryn Dugdale died in 2004 at the age of 80.

Princess Margaret had many ladies in waiting

Ladies in waiting serve not only the queen, but also high-ranking women in the royal household. The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret had many. One particularly got the attention of the world press. It was entitled ‘Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown’ and became a New York Times bestseller.

Lady Anne Glenconner

The daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester, Lady Anne Glenconner released a memoir in 2019 about her life as a lady-in-waiting. The book details her service, including the time she served as a maid of honour at the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953 then being appointed extra lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon.

Remembering Princess Margaret

Speaking on her reason for publishing the book to The Times in 2019, she said: "I was so fed up with people writing such horrible things about Princess Margaret.”

An integral part of palace life for the late princess

During her many years of service, Lady Anne accompanied the Princess on many tours abroad including to the United States, Australia and Hong Kong. The lady in waiting even stood in for HRH in the Philippines when Margaret was too ill with pneumonia to attend. The late Princess’ confidant is also portrayed in the Netflix hit, ‘The Crown’ and is played by Nancy Carroll in seasons three and four.

Princess Anne

Princess Anne has a grand total of eleven ladies in waiting. One travels overseas with her. Two of the ladies have worked with Anne for over 50 years, three for over 40 years and five for over 30yrs. The following three ladies have each become Commanders of the Royal Victorian Order.

Leonora, Countess of Lichfield

Born Lady Leonora Grosvenor, the elder daughter of the 5th Duke of WestminsterThe Countess has also been an extra lady-in-waiting to the Princess Royal since 1979. Four years earlier, she had married the 5th Earl of Lichfield and became a Countess. They had three children then divorced in 1968. She was honoured as a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2020 Birthday Honours.

Araminta Ritchie

In 2020, Araminta Mary Ritchie, lady in waiting to The Princess Royal, was promoted to Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. She was married to Charles Ritchie, whose Colonel in Chief was the Princess Royal herself. He sadly died in 2020 but Araminta continues to serve Her Majesty’s daughter. Her jobs have been to pen letters on behalf of the Princess Royal and attending trips alongside her.

Jane Holderness-Roddam

Perhaps it was the horses that brought these two together. Jane is a British event rider who won the gold for the team event at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. She owns a stables, but that doesn’t free her of making time for the Queen’s daughter. Her service brought her Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the 2020 Birthday Honours.

Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall

The Duchess of Cornwall has kept blood close to her as she has spent her life in the spotlight, marrying the future King of England. Her sister, Annabel Elliot was appointed to the lady-in-waiting role.

Close to the monarchy

Her sister was also appointed to the role of ‘interior designer’ for the Duchy of Cornwall, which was a surprise decision in the royal household. Also amongst those closest to the future Queen Consort is her old school friend, Kirsty Smallwood. In fact, Kirsty is a close friend and family. Smallwood is half-sister of Lord Beaverbrook, to whom Camilla is related by marriage.

Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana had also stuck close to family in her transition to royalty. Her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale was appointed to the role. According to the Daily Express Prince William and Kate are close to the Prince’s aunt and reportedly spent a weekend on the 16th anniversary of Diana's death. Diana would appoint five more ladies to the role of lady in waiting during her time as Princess of Wales.

Sarah, The Duchess of York

The Duchess had an Oprah interview in 2010 (yes, Harry and Meghan aren’t the first!). The subject was Prince Andrew’s scandals but conversation took a turn to her ladies in waiting. The Duchess revealed she had six and that they were there to attend her needs, for example if she dropped a kleenex and needed to have it picked up.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex

Sophie joined the royal family slowly. So slowly in fact that she reportedly waited ten years to appoint a lady in waiting. The business woman stuck to what she knew best: old friends. Her former flatmate, Sarah Sienesi was chosen. It’s good to have good friends.

Kate, Duchess of Cambridge

And, finally, we reach the story of Kate’s ladies in waiting. Kate had a ‘no-frills’ approach to being a royal and did not have any lady by her side after she got married. She went unaccompanied by female companionship during her post-wedding royal tour of Canada and California in 2011.

Low-maintenance Kate

“Kate is very low maintenance. She said she doesn’t want a lady-in-waiting. That may change but she’ll see how she copes on this tour,” a source told the Daily Mail at the time.

Her first Lady

Rebecca Deacon was appointed to the role in 2012. However she left the role in 2017. It seems she did a good job but, according to Daily Mail, she left to search new job opportunities after getting married. A statement released by Kensington Palace read. “Their Royal Highnesses are incredibly grateful for all the hard work and support Rebecca has provided over the past ten years, and wish her well in the next phase of her career.”

Catherine Quinn takes over

Catherine, former Chief Operating Officer and Associate Dean for Administration at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School became Kate’s new right hand woman in 2017. They attended engagements together, the first being three months after being appointed to the post, at London’s National Tennis Centre.

Lady Laura Meade

Although not quite a lady in waiting, Lady Laura Meade (left in the photo) certainly is an integral role in Kate’s royal life. The daughter of an Earl, Lady Laura is James Meade’s wife. James is a good friend to Prince William and even gave the best man’s speech at their wedding. Lady Laura is also godmother to Prince Louis.

Emilia Jardine-Paterson

Emilia is an old school friend of Kate’s. She was there when Kate and William split for a short recess in their relationship back in 2007. She took Kate to Ibiza to forget her woes. Emilia is one of Prince George’s godmothers and will be around in the Cambridge’s life for a long time to come.

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