What's The Deal with Ladies-in-Waiting?

We recently received some questions asking what the heck a Lady-in-Waiting is, what the heck it is that these ladies do, and who some of them are. Hopefully this post sheds some light!

The Queen in Australia with a Lady-in-Waiting (via Posie Blogs)
The Queen in Australia with a Lady-in-Waiting (via Posie Blogs)

Simply put, a Lady-in-Waiting is a female personal assistant. Traditionally the role has been granted to aristocratic women who already have a friendship The Queen or whoever it is that requires a Lady-in-Waiting. They are not usually paid for their services, though they can be reimbursed for any travel expenses and some have received clothing allowances.

It is a bit of an arcane title that just doesn’t make much sense (what are they waiting for, to collect flowers?), but let’s run through some of them.

The Queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting

The Queen naturally grew up thinking this was all very normal and she currently has nine Ladies-in-Waiting who help her with such things as keeping up her daily correspondence, collecting flowers, and keeping her company while abroad.

The Queen with her Lady-in-Waiting Lady Dugdale and her cousin Margaret Rhodes in 1968 (via Daily Mail)
The Queen with her Lady-in-Waiting Lady Dugdale, her cousin Margaret Rhodes, and a member of the Queen’s household in 1968 (via Daily Mail)

The British Monarchy’s official website explains the role of the Queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting quite clearly:

The Ladies-in-Waiting are personally chosen by The Queen. The Senior Lady-in-Waiting is Mistress of the Robes, Fortune, Duchess of Grafton, and the other Ladies-in-Waiting are The Countess of Airlie; Diana, Lady Farnham; The Hon Mary Morrison; The Lady Susan Hussey; The Lady Elton; The Hon Mrs Whitehead; Mrs Michael Gordon Lennox and Mrs Robert de Pass.

Their duties are varied and include attending to private and personal matters for Her Majesty, and handling a substantial proportion of The Queen’s general correspondence. The Ladies-in-Waiting accompany Her Majesty on her engagements at home and abroad and, since the beginning of The Queen’s reign, when she is not accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, the Lady-in-Waiting on duty travels with Her Majesty in her vehicle.

The post of Lady-in-Waiting is not open to application. In addition to The Queen, other female Members of the Royal Family appoint their own Ladies-in-Waiting.

One name that stands out to me in that list is Lady Susan Hussey. She had a friendship with Prince Charles and the Queen asked her to help Diana adjust to royal life after the wedding, likely because she was the youngest of all her Ladies-in-Waiting at that time. This explains why she is one of Prince William’s godmothers, though she later had a falling out with Diana (who didn’t at one time or another?) and went back to working for the Queen.

That's Lady Susan Hussey at Prince William's christening. (via Hello!)
Lady Susan Hussey is in the pink dress behind Diana at Prince William’s christening. (via Hello!)

She was also there for Prince William’s confirmation (in green) along with fellow godparents King Constantine of Greece, Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Westminster, and Lord Romsey.

Lady Susan Hussey (Via Pinterest)
Lady Susan Hussey (Via Pinterest)

And oh look! There she is with Sophie and Kate during the Rememberance Day service in 2012.

Sophie, Kate, & Lady Susan Hussey (via msn.com)
Sophie, Kate, & Lady Susan Hussey (via msn.com)

Lady Susan Hussey was made Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in 2013, as was fellow Lady-In-Waiting Mary Morrison. Oh, the stories they could tell!

Princess Diana

Right out of the gate, the new Princess of Wales had three Ladies-in-Waiting to help her with anything from errands to collecting flowers. In fact, the palace announced the ladies Diana had appointed on September 25, 1981 and they were Anne Beckwith-Smith, the Hon. Mrs. Vivian Baring, and Mrs. George Alston-Roberts-West (source). Over time, Diana appointed five more ladies to the role. To me, this is just yet another example of how things have changed since then, at least for the younger generation.

Anne Beckwith-Smith became Diana’s longest serving Lady-in-Waiting and by 1986 she also held the title of Assistant Private Secretary. Here she is on a walk about with Diana in the early ’80’s:

Dian and Lady-in-Waiting Anne Beckwith Smith
Diana and Lady-in-Waiting Anne Beckwith Smith (via Pinterest)

And that’s her in the background of this portrait of Diana, waiting:

Diana sitting for a portrait in 1990 (via
Diana sitting for a portrait in 1990 (via The Royal Digest)

She must be a tough cookie to have worked in the Royal Household for so long. In recognition of her services, she was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in 1990 and now works for the Tate in London.

The most interesting to me of all of Diana’s Ladies-in-Waiting is her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale. Her official title was “Extra Lady-in-Waiting” and she held the post from 1992 to 1997. This appointment especially piques my interest because back in 1977, Sarah dated Prince Charles for a short spell. That ended shortly after she spoke the press (silly girl!) and she even admitted that she was keeping press clippings of any coverage of the relationship. Eek. I mean, I bet anything Carole Middleton has quite a collection herself (and I don’t blame her one bit!) but she’s not sharing that with journalists, thank you very much.

So that was the end of Sarah, and she ended up as Extra Lady-in-Waiting instead of Princess of Wales.

Lady Sarah and Prince Charles in 1977
a haughty Lady Sarah and Prince Charles in 1977

Sarah accompanied Diana on several engagements and there are pictures to prove it. This photo was taken during an engagement at the Great Ormond Hospital in February of 1994.

Diana and Sarah and lots of flowers in 1994
Diana and Sarah and lots of flowers in 1994

The Duchess of York

Next up is Fergie.

Sarah and Oprah sit down for a chat (via The New York Times)
Sarah and Oprah sit down for a chat (via The New York Times)

Back in 2010, the Duchess of York sat down for an interview with Oprah after that whole selling access to Prince Andrew scandal. Over the course of their conversation she revealed that she’d had six ladies in waiting, and that they were there to attend to any of her needs, for example if she dropped a kleenex and needed to have it picked up.

Oprah’s response to this admission? “Get out! No wonder you’re Finding Sarah”,  a reference to the name of the 6-part documentary that Oprah’s network aired on the Duchess.

No kidding! Lordy.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex

Things had changed quite a bit by the time Sophie married Prince Edward in 1999. The Countess of Wessex waited ten years to appoint a Lady in Waiting and when she did it was her old school friend and former flatmate Sarah Sienesi that was chosen. Sarah also apparently helped with the wedding preparations for William and Kate.

While we don’t have any pictures of her and Sophie, we do have a picture of a different Lady-in-Waiting. In July of 2013, Sophie was photographed with Annabelle Galletley at Wimbledon. Annabelle has worked for the Royal household since 1987 (she even has a LinkedIn page that outlines that!) and was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order in 1994 for her services.

Sophie and Annabel (via Hello!)
Sophie and Annabel (via Hello!)

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

When Camilla married Charles it was announced that she’d have three Ladies-in-Waiting. This doesn’t surprise me at all; Charles is old school and he depends on staff for everything (apparently even preparing his tooth brush with toothpaste). One of the ladies is Camilla’s sister, Annabelle Elliot. Anabelle has also been appointed the interior designer for the Duchy of Cornwall, which has caused a wee bit of a stir (source).

Annabelle and Camilla (via Daily Mail)
Annabelle and Camilla (via Daily Mail)

Another Lady-in-Waiting is her old school friend, Kirsty Smallwood. This whole school chum thing is a nice tradition and makes a lot of sense.

The Duchess of Cambridge

Well, she earned the nickname ‘Waity Kaity’ for dating William for going on ten years and while she doesn’t have a formal Lady-in-Waiting, her assistant Rebecca Deacon fills that role as far as helping out on walkabout is concerned.

Rebecca is seated in black behind Kate and the Queen (via Hello!)
Rebecca is seated in black behind Kate and the Queen (via Hello!)

Rebecca seems totally delightful and must be kept on her toes all the time. You can read more about her in our post on Kate and William’s staff here if you like. Obviously she would never do it, but a book all about Rebecca’s experiences would be fascinating, no?

Hard at work (via Hello!)
Collecting flowers (via HRHDuchessKateBlogspot!)

So, what do you think – will the Lady-in-Waiting role be phased out in the next few decades or will Kate and William keep it going? And are there any other royalty-related questions we could help answer? Do tell!

Preparing for the Royal Tour & A Travelling Wardrobe for Kate

As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Jubilee tour is just around the corner, it’s gotten us thinking about the planning that has gone into the trip in general and the travelling wardrobe that Kate will need. Let’s jump in!

The Travelling Team

As far as the staff that will be accompanying Kate and William, here’s what we know so far. The Duke and Duchess will reportedly have nine members of staff accompany them and this number may include Kate and William’s private secretaries.  We spoke about them in our post on Kate and William’s staff which you can read here. They include:

  • Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, Principal Private Secretary and Equerry to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Jamie has been speaking to the press about the travels plans, and was one of the few staff members included on the North American tour last year.

  • Rebecca Deacon, Private Secretary to the Duchess of Cambridge
  • Miguel Head, Private Secretary to the Duke of Cambridge

Of these two, I’d guess (and am hoping) that at least Rebecca will be there. Kate will reportedly not have a dresser, but perhaps Rebecca will be able to pitch in with some of those duties on top of the rest of her work. I had the opportunity to speak to a former dresser to the Queen a few months ago, and she recounted her astonishment that Kate did so well without one on the North American tour. She thought that there must have been someone there who was helping out behind the scenes. I though that was interesting…she would know, after all!

  • Amanda Cook Tucker, hairdresser for Kate

The Daily Mail is reporting that Amanda Cook Tucker will join the tour as Kate’s hairdresser.  Amanda apparently cut Harry and William’s hair when they were children, and they very much appreciate both her talent and discretion. James Pryce, who did Kate’s wedding hair and was along for the North American tour, has not been so discrete.

  • Private Protection Officers, which most likely includes Kate’s officers Emma Probert and Karen Llewellyn, who we spoke about here.

The Tour Schedule 

Here’s what we know about their schedule so far:

  • September 11th: Singapore

On their first day in Singapore, the Duke and Duchess will visit Singapore Botanic Gardens where orchids have been named after them and Diana, Princess of Wales. That night, they will attend a dinner with the President of Singapore where Prince William will give a speech on behalf of the Queen.

Note on the Weather: The weather report for Singapore on the days that Kate and William will be there is currently calling for scattered thunderstorms, rain, some sun, and highs of 87 degrees fahrenheit.

  • September 12th: Singapore

Their second day will be spent at the Gardens by the Bay where they will plant a tree.

Dorky Memory Moment: Their first joint tree planting took place in Ottawa, Canada

That afternoon, they will visit the special needs school the Rainbow Center where they will take part in art therapy and gym classes. The day will end with a reception at the High Commissioner’s residence.

  • September 13th:  Malaysia

The Singapore leg of the tour will end at the Krani War Cemetery, where the royals will lay a wreath. They will then travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Their first engagement will be lunch with the Prime Minister, followed by a visit to a hospice. Kate will give her second speech as a working royal during the visit. As Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton explained, “The Duchess is keen to learn more about the hospice movement in Malaysia...The Duchess wanted to establish contacts between her charities here and charities overseas, and she hopes that a legacy of this visit will be to get a dialogue going between EACH and Hospis Malaysia.

That night, the couple will attend a dinner hosted by the King  of Malaysia, Abdul Halim of Kedah.

Fingers crossed this will be the second appearance of the Cartier Halo Tiara on Kate’s head. Please.

Weather Note: The weather report for Kuala Lumpur for these two days calls for more sun, rain, and scattered thunderstorms. A high of 87 degrees fahrenheit is expected.

  • September 14th: Malaysia

The day will begin at a cultural event in Kuala Lumpur Park, followed by lunch with the British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce. Next up is a Diamond Jubilee tea hosted by the High Commissioner. In the evening, they will attend a reception in Kota Kinabulu.

  • September 15th: Malaysia 

The couple will visit the rainforest- what Lowther-Pinkerton referred to as “a quick shimmy in the jungle“- and help to raise awareness about endangered orangutangs.

  • September 16th: Solomon Islands

After arriving in the Solomon Islands, the couple will attend a service of thanksgiving at the Church of Melanesia for Her Majesty the Queen. That evening they will attend an island feast hosted by the Governor General. I’m thinking that this is where we can expect Kate and William to wear some traditional costumes. Jamie Lowther Pinkerton revealed that the Duke and Duchess “will wear traditional garb at some of the dinners” and that throughout the tour “their dress will reflect local customs.” Kate will not be showing up in anything risque, but then we already knew that!

September 17th: Solomon Islands

The following day, Kate and William will divide and conquer:  Kate will attend a reception for women’s groups and Prince William will award Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards to Solomon Islanders and one from Vanuatu.

They will then attend a memorial and a lunch reception before flying out to the final leg of the tour, Tuvalu.

  • September 18th: Tuvalu

The couple will take part in two welcome ceremonies, which will be all the more special because a member of the Royal Family hasn’t visited since the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were there in 1982. As far as how that will go, Lowther-Pinkerton admitted “We have really have no idea what to expect.” That must be rare!!

While there, the couple will enjoy another traditional dinner, where we’ll likely see the royals in more costume.

Kate’s Wardrobe

So what else will Kate wear? Seeing as it is a very hot climate and we know Kate doesn’t like to wear pants unless they are jeans or for working out, I think we can expect a lot of easy, breazy cotton dresses and many more sightings of those wedges.

Our very dog eared copy of Dressing Diana by Tim Graham and Tamsin  Blanchard gives some insight into the effort that went into the Princess of Wales’ wardrobe for trips abroad.

An excerpt from the chapter entitled ‘A Travelling Wardrobe’ reads:

“Planning for a major tour abroad was like a military operation for the Palace, not least when it came to putting together a wardrobe for the Princess that would cover all possibilities of weather change and social function…After months of work with designers such as Catherine Walker on some new outfits for the trip, and after deciding what in her existing wardrobe would be appropriate, the outfits were packed into wardrobe trunks and chests, each one labelled and numbered.”

To give an idea of the scale of packing that is involved, here is what Diana took on her tour of Australia and America in 1985. Of course, that tour was munch longer that William and Kate’s, but still:

  • 29 daytime outfits
  • 12 hats
  • over a dozen evening dresses
  • 15 pairs of shoes and matching bags
  • 19 pairs of earrings
  • 2 tiaras(!)
  • 8 necklaces

Here’s a shot of the Prince and Princess of Wales during the Australia leg of that tour:

On the American leg, the Princess wore this gorgeous velvet Victor Edelstein gown to the White House:

For this tour, the Princess of Wales brought her dresser Evelyn Dagley, who kept track of when each outfit was for when and had them in tip top shape for the princess to get dressed for each outfit change.

As far as we can tell, Kate will need:

  • At least 9 summery dresses for daytime to be safe – no silk, wrinkly linen, or anything too heavy for the heat!!

This one doesn’t quite fit the bill, but maybe it will make the trip:

And this is silk but, apart from that, my goodness it’s perfect for a botanical garden visit so what the heck I’m throwing my hat in the ring for this one:

As far as new purchases go, this cotton number of LK Bennet would do the trick. It has a cinched waist and a high neck, which we know Kate likes:

Here’s a bigger picture of it:

  • 1 evening gown for dinner with the King of Malaysia. If she does a repeat, we vote for this lightweight, bright beauty:

  • 4 evening outfits appropriate for receptions, and possibly to be worn under or with traditional dress. Kate wore this bird print dress to a reception in Ottawa, and it seems to be a favourite. She also wore it to the last rehearsal the night before her wedding, so it might just show up again!
  • A sporty, casual ensemble for shimmying about in the jungle. Let’s say a cute pair of capris and a sleeveless polo. Yes, Diana inspired that one, but she got it soooo right!

  • Shoes for the jungle – maybe those boat shoes will make another appearance?

  • Every day shoes – we’re going to guess those wedges will be back

And these, which she wore in Santa Barbara for a polo match, for an evening reception or two:

Maybe she’ll be brave enough to bring out these super high wedges as well:

  • Traditional dress, which will likely be presented as a gift.
  • A tiara and formal earrings. Please. Heck, let’s hope that Kate’s wedding earrings will show up with the Cartier Halo tiara. And I bet we’ll see Kate wear some sort of floral head wreath, too!
  • A swimsuit and cover up for ‘off time’ in Tuvalu…the couple are said to want to do some snorkelling. It doesn’t seem like there’d be much time for that, but they might be able to sneak some in on that last morning before they depart.
  • Something black to wear in the event of a death. Princess Elizabeth was caught off guard in Kenya when her father died and she suddenly became queen. She had not packed anything appropriate, so when her plane arrived in London, a black dress was brought on board for the new Queen to put on before she disembarked. Diplomat Sir Evelyn Shuckburgh said, “I have heard that Queen Mary has laid it down as a principle of life never to go anywhere without a black dress – ‘in case something should happen.’” We hope you have taken note, Kate and Rebecca Deacon.

Any more thoughts or guesses on the trip?