“It feels like the end of an era now they are both gone. But, as the Duke used to say, the trouble with growing old is that you outlive a lot of the people you care about.”
According to Christopher Joll, military and royal historian: “These ladies – technically the Queen’s (or the Queen Consort’s) Ladies and Women of the Bedchamber – were initially political appointments. However, by the reign of King Edward VII, the role had been depoliticised and they were either the daughters or the wives of prominent members of the aristocracy. They weren’t necessarily appointed because they were friends of the Queen, but because they were ladies of the appropriate rank.
“Nonetheless, because of their close proximity to their ‘employer’ some of them became friends, especially those who had served for decades.”
But interestingly, the present Queen’s principal confidantes are probably her dresser, Angela Kelly, and her groom, Terry Pendry, who in the hierarchy of the Royal Household are classed as servants. This intimacy arises because while ladies-in-waiting do not spend much time on the other side of the door into the Private Apartments, or ride out with their employer in the park, servants do.
Ms Kelly, 64, whose official title is Personal Assistant, Adviser and Curator to Her Majesty The Queen (Jewellery, Insignias and Wardrobe), is so close to the Queen that the monarch once remarked to the Liverpudilian docker’s daughter: “We could be sisters.”
Mr Pendry, who has held the role of Stud Groom and Manager to Her Majesty The Queen, at The Royal Mews, Windsor Castle, for more than 25 years, is another figure with whom the Queen communicates on an almost daily basis. Until she recently had to temporarily give up riding owing to an ongoing back problem, the pair would regularly be seen out riding in Windsor Great Park together.
Then there is Paul Whybrew, 64, the Page of the Backstairs – or personal page – who has worked for the Queen for decades. It was “Tall Paul”, who is 6ft 4in, who spoke to Michael Fagan when he broke into the Queen’s bedroom at Buckingham Palace in 1982.
The Duchess of Grafton’s role as Mistress of the Robes remains vacant following her death – and it seems unlikely that Lady Farnham will be replaced with the Queen turning 96 in April.
Yet with the Platinum Jubilee approaching in June – not to mention the ongoing fallout from the Epstein saga and Prince Harry’s autobiography due in the autumn – the Queen is going to need all the support she can get.
Of course, she will always rely on family first, with the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge expected to “step up” even further in the wake of the Duke of Edinburgh’s death, along with the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
But Her Majesty will also increasingly rely on her remaining ladies-in-waiting – as well as the loyal and longstanding servants that formed part of “HMS Bubble” during the pandemic.
Lady Susan Hussey, 82, described in some circles as “number one head girl”, will continue to assist the Queen on official duties. The wife of Marmaduke Hussey, Baron Hussey of North Bradley, who died in 2006, Lady Susan rode alongside the Queen on the way to Prince Philip’s funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, last April. So intimate is the bond between Lady Susan and the royals, she is Prince William’s godmother.