Queen Elizabeth II Is Mourning Two of Her Longtime Ladies-in-Waiting

Queen Elizabeth II wearing a blue hat
Photo by Alan Crowhurst via Getty Images

As if the passing of Prince Philip, her husband of 74 years, weren’t enough, it turns out Queen Elizabeth II suffered even more losses last year. On Sunday, the Telegraph reported that the 94-year-old monarch is mourning two of her longtime ladies-in-waiting. The month of December began with the death of Fortune FitzRoy, Dowager Duchess of Grafton, at 101, and ended with the death of Diana Maxwell, Lady Farnham, at 90. The Queen has yet to publicly acknowledge the losses, but the tabloid managed to track down a mysterious royal source who began by stating the obvious: “It has not been a good year for the Queen—losing her husband and then the Duchess of Grafton and now Lady Farnham,” they said. The pair, the source continued, were “dear friends who supported the Queen on official duties.”

If you were unaware that ladies-in-waiting are a thing, think of Fortune and Diana as the Queen’s hand-picked confidants and close friends. Technically, they’re still known as Ladies of the Bedchamber, but the role has changed quite a bit since Middle Ages-era royals started calling on their subjects to tend to their bedroom-related needs. (Though they still choose only the best, which is to say mainly aristocrats.) You were much more likely to find Fortune and Diana joining the Queen for lunch at Buckingham Palace, greeting her guests, or escorting her to events. For Fortune, the Mistress of the Robes (aka lady-in-waiting-in-chief), those responsibilities stretched all the way back to 1953.

Fret not: The Queen still has company. Several ladies-in-waiting remain at her service, including “no. 1 head girl” Lady Susan Hussey, who escorted her to Philip’s funeral. It’s unclear just how many, but it seems safe to assume the number is lower than the 15th-century-era queen Elizabeth of York’s 36.