Who Were Queen Elizabeth II’s Closest Friends And Ladies-In-Waiting?

Her Majesty had a team of loyal friends around her throughout her life.


by Marianna Manson |
Updated on

While the Queen's personal life was always a thing of mystery for most of us (that is until Netflix’s The Crown dramatized the lives of the Royal family), Her Majesty had a team of loyal friends around her throughout her life, from her appointed ladies-in-waiting to close friends and confidences.

What Is A Lady-In-Waiting?

Lady-in-waiting is the name given to the important women who surround the Queen and make up her inner circle. Ladies-in-waiting to the Queen or Queen Consort have existed for hundreds of years and their symbolic titles haven’t changed much in that time. A Woman of the Bedchamber helps the Queen or other nobles with things like dressing and washing; The Mistress of the Robes is a more senior role that’s primarily concerned with picking out outfits. As well as their official positions, ladies-in-waiting will usually accompany the Queen on state business or social engagements as part of her entourage, with one trusted lady-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, even accompanying the Queen to Prince Philip’s funeral for support.

Historically, being appointed a lady-in-waiting is considered a great honour, with the roles usually going to friends, family, or the daughters of noblemen and women. As in centuries gone by, it’s still a life-long appointment – you can’t quit or retire from being a lady-in-waiting, and the role is unpaid.

Who were Queen Elizabeth’s Ladies In Waiting?

Throughout her 70 year reign Queen Elizabeth had many ladies-in-waiting, but as is usually the case with long lives, she sadly lost many over recent years, including The Duchess of Grafton in December 2021, and Lady Farnham in January this year.

Lady Susan Hussey

Lady Susan Hussey is usually considered to be the most well-known of the living ladies-in-waiting, appointed as Woman of the Bedchamber in 1960 originally to help The Queen respond to letters following Prince Andrew’s birth. Over the years she became a close friend and confidant of the Queen, though, and also became well known for introducing newcomers to the Royal ways of life.

CHELMSFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 06: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Lady Susan Hussey (Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II) attends a service at Chelmsford Cathedral as part of the centenary celebrations of Chelmsford Diocese during day of engagements in Essex on May 6, 2014 in Chelmsford, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

The Honourable Mary Morrison

Another of The Queen’s longest serving Woman of the Bedchamber was The Honourable Mary Anne Morrison, who had received her an award for 60 years of service before the Queen’s death. It’s been reported that after falling at Balmoral and breaking her ankle, Dame Mary was insistent on getting back to work as soon as possible and returned to the job on crutches at the age of 81.

ASCOT, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: The Hon. Dame Mary Anne Morrison attend during Royal Ascot 2022 at Ascot Racecourse on June 18, 2022 in Ascot, England. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Lady Elizabeth Leeming

In comparison to some of The Queen’s other ladies-in-waiting, Lady Elizabeth Leeming was a veritable fledgling, after being appointed to the role in 2017. She is the Queen’s cousin once removed.

Susan Rhodes

Another 2017 appointment, Susan Rhodes was the lady-in-waiting chosen by The Queen to isolate with her during Covid lockdowns and was seen on the balcony of the Foreign Office with her during 2020’s Remembrance Day Service.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 08: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (right) alongside Lady in Waiting, Susan Rhodes attends a National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in Westminster, amid the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) disease on November 8, 2020 in London, England. Remembrance Sunday services are still able to go ahead despite the covid-19 measures in place across the various nations of the UK. Each country has issued guidelines to ensure the safety of those taking part. (Photo by Aaron Chown - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Who were the Queen's friends?

Lady Anne Tennant nee Coke

Lady Anne is best known by her title, Duchess of Glenconner, and was one of the Queen’s closest friends, even serving as a Maid of Honour during the Queen’s coronation in 1953. She was actually lady-in-waiting to the Queen’s sister, Prince Margaret, up until her death in 2002 and wrote a memoir about their long friendship in 2019 called Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown.

Lady Anne is third from left

Dame Annabel Whitehead

Another lady-in-waiting initially to Princess Margaret (between 1971 and 1975) Dame Annabel worked for the Queen up until her death in 2022 but liked to keep a low profile in comparison to some of the other women in the prestigious position – apart from the time she committed the ultimate faux pas by turning up to the Commonwealth Games in the same colour as the Queen, and obstructing her view with her giant hat.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 02: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Dame Annabel Whitehead, watches her horses compete in the Highland and Fells classes on day 2 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show in Home Park, Windsor Castle on July 2, 2021 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Angela Kelly

Though not officially a lady in waiting, Angela Kellywas well known to be a great friend of the Queen’s as well has her trusted dresser for three decades. Primarily the Queen’s dedicated stylist and designer, Angela actually lived on the grounds of Windsor Castle and during lockdown took on the added responsibility of washing and styling the Queen’s hair at her own jokingly named ‘Kelly’s Salon’.

READ MORE: The Queen’s standout style moments: As arguably the world’s most famous woman, the Queen fashioned a look that was unique for her status – but never without surprises, says Bethan Holt, author of The Queen: 70 Years Of Majestic Style…

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