Camilla, the new Queen Consort, has broken with centuries of tradition and appointed six of her closest friends as “Queen’s Companions”, replacing the role of royal ladies-in-waiting.
While their role will entail many of the same responsibilities as their predecessors, the symbolic move is being seen as part of a wider attempt by the new king and queen to streamline and modernise the royal household.
Who are they?
The Times described the new “Queen’s Companions” as “six longstanding confidantes from the King and Queen’s inner circle”.
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They include: Sarah Troughton, a cousin of the late Queen; Jane von Westenholz, the mother of the woman who introduced Prince Harry to Meghan Markle and wife of one of King Charles’s oldest friends; Fiona, the Marchioness of Lansdowne, an interior designer; Lady Katharine Brooke; Baroness Carlyn Chisholm, a non-affiliated peer; and Lady Sarah Keswick, whose husband, Sir Chips Keswick, retired as Arsenal football club chairman in 2020.
Some of the women will make their first public appearance with Camilla at a Violence Against Women and Girls reception this week at Buckingham Palace.
The ladies-in-waiting who worked for the late Queen, including her closest confidante Lady Susan Hussey, who is godmother to Prince William, as well as Mary Morrison and Dame Annabel Whitehead, will now be known as “ladies of the household” and help King Charles host events at Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace also announced that, as well as her private secretary and deputy private secretary, the Queen Consort has appointed her first equerry, Major Ollie Plunket, who will act as a personal assistant looking after her diary and accompanying her to official events.
What will they do?
“Ladies-in-waiting have been a mainstay of royal life going all the way back to the Middle Ages and are typically companions from aristocratic backgrounds, who assist the Queen with her duties, including attending events and replying to correspondence,” said Stylist magazine.
While Sky News said it is “believed their duties will be similar to those carried out by the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting”, the role of the new companions will be “a more occasional and informal position, supporting the Queen Consort at official engagements and not involved in replying to letters or day-to-day planning”, reported the BBC’s royal correspondent Sean Coughlan.
According to The Times, Camilla’s “gang of six” will “occasionally assist with hosting events and engagements, where they will chat to guests, accept flowers on her behalf and help boost the Queen Consort’s humour and energy levels”. The paper added that, on occasion, “they will join Camilla on an engagement instead of a private secretary”. But The Times believes that much of the more official work that ladies-in-waiting used to do “will now be carried out by Camilla’s private secretaries and other aides in her private office”.
The companions will, however, accompany her to the coronation next May at Westminster Abbey, and to the next state opening of parliament.
As with historical ladies-in-waiting, who were usually drawn from the upper echelons of the aristocracy, they will not receive a salary but their expenses will be covered.
Why did the Queen Consort scrap ladies-in-waiting?
The move marks “a significant departure in style from the late Queen, whose ladies-in-waiting were in constant attendance wherever she went,” said The Times.
While The Washington Post called the decision “an early symbolic break with the past”, it is “not a complete overhaul,” added the paper. “The new role will be similar to what it has been: a member of the queen’s dutiful and trustworthy inner circle. But now, it will be a less all-encompassing position, involving less regular attendance, waiting that is, on the queen.”
Stylist said this “more modern approach” comes amid reports that King Charles favours the idea of a “slimmed down” monarchy, “which could potentially involve fewer working royals, and is planning a scaled-back coronation for next summer, as the event will be publicly funded during a cost-of-living crisis.”
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