An Inside Look at the Surprising Duties of Royal Family Ladies-in-Waiting

Wonder what it would be like to work closely with the Queen of England and other royal women? Just ask a Lady-in-Waiting. As some of the royal family’s most trusted employees, Ladies-in-Waiting are considered an intricate part of the monarchy.

From who bathes the Queen (page 5) to the real reason they exist (page 6) to the shocking amount of money they make (page 10), we take a close look at what it means to be a Lady-in-Waiting and some of the surprising duties they uphold, ahead.

What is a Lady-in-Waiting?

London Mayor Boris Johnson (R) and a lady-in-waiting (C) help Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) with her many gifts
A lady-in-waiting is a noblewoman slash assistant. | Arthur Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

A lady-in-waiting is essentially a female personal assistant to a royal woman or high-ranking noblewoman. That said, a lady-in-waiting is not exactly a bottom of the totem pole job. Because of their high profile job, many Ladies-in-Waiting are considered noblewomen themselves (with a lower ranking than whoever they work for).

Next: What the queen really thinks about her Ladies-in-Waiting

They’re the queen’s most-trusted companions

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (2nd R), Sophie, Countess of Wessex (2nd L), Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence (L), and Lady in Waiting Lady Susan Hussey (R)
Lady-in-waiting, Susan Hussey, attends Remembrance Day services. | Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Think of Ladies-in-Waiting as appointed friends of royal women. Although they have certain duties and responsibilities that must be met, most of them are considered companions to whoever they work for.

Next: Can you believe the queen needs this many Ladies-in-Waiting?

The queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II waves from the back of her State Limousine accompanied by a Lady in Waiting
She has nine ladies-in-waiting. | Miguel Medina/AFP/GettyImages

With a busy schedule — and strict daily routine — the queen needs all of the help she can get, which is why she has nine Ladies-in-Waiting. That said, only certain Ladies-in-Waiting are needed on a daily-basis and others are needed for ceremonial purposes.

For example, the queen’s senior lady-in-waiting and Mistress of the Robes, Fortune Fitzroy, Duchess of Grafton is only needed for ceremonial occasions. The other eight women are in regular attendance.

Next: The Mistress of the Robes’ responsibilities.

Mistress of the Robes

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) hands gifts she was presented with to a lady-in-waiting
The Mistress of the Robes is in charge. | Arthur Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

A Mistress of the Robes is a lot like a personal stylist: She’s responsible for the queen’s wardrobe and jewelry — aka, Crown Jewels (no biggie!). In addition to managing the queen’s clothes, the Mistress of the Robes is in charge of the other Ladies-in-Waiting and is responsible for the other Ladies-in-Waiting’s schedule and duties.

Fun fact: A Mistress of the Robes is almost always a duchess.

Next: Who bathes the queen?

Woman of the Bedchamber

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II receives flowers from well-wishers followed by a lady-in-waiting
She’s the right hand woman. | Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
  • The Woman of the Bedchamber is the queen’s right-hand woman.

The Woman of the Bedchamber has the most up-close and personal responsibilities. It is her job to help the queen dress and undress, as well as help her take a bath.

In addition to these duties, she also assists the queen in certain decision making — especially when it comes to social engagements. This of the Woman of the Bedchamber as the queen’s best friend.

Next: The duties of a lady-in-waiting

They provide council

Queen Elizabeth II hands flowers to her lady in waiting
They offer companionship to the queen. | David Hancock/AFP/Getty Images

While there are a handful of positions and tasks among Ladies-in-Waiting, council and companionship is one of their most important duties. Making friends in traditional ways is not possible for the queen and other royal women, so having a close group of trusted women is vital.

Next: A more traditional job responsibility.

They take care of the queen’s correspondence

Queen Elizabeth Signing a letter
She answers mail every morning. | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Like personal assistance, the Ladies-in-Waiting are responsible for the queen’s correspondence. For example: Each morning, the queen answers a few pieces of fan mail before passing off the rest of the task to one of her Ladies-in-Waiting.

Next: The queen couldn’t do a majority of her job without their help.

They are in charge of the queen’s calendar

Queen Elizabeth II attends a State Banquet on day in Berlin
They help the queen keep all of her appointments. | Michael Ukas – Pool/Getty Images

One of the queen’s biggest responsibilities is to attend royal engagements and events. How does she manage it all? One of her Ladies-in-Waiting does it for her. One of the main job responsibilities of a Lady-in-Waiting is to manage the queen’s calendar.

Next: Work life balance

Flexible hours

Queen Elizabeth II arrives on the Norman Porch as Prince Phillip looks back to a lady in waiting
They work part time for two weeks straight. | Martyn Hayhow/AFP/Getty Images
  • Queen Elizabeth II’s Ladies-in-Waiting work for part-time for two weeks straight, then take four weeks off.

For most Ladies-in-Waiting, the job is flexible and part-time. They often work on rotations (or, in shifts) and some of them are only needed for important ceremonies.

Next: How much Ladies-in-Waiting make will shock you.

They’re unpaid

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is greeted by Mrs Jennifer Gordon-Lennox, Lady In Waiting
They are completely unpaid. | Anthony Devlin/WPA Pool/Getty Images

How much does the queen pay her so-called companions? A total of $0. That’s right, Ladies-in-Waiting are unpaid. That said, they are sometimes provided with room and board in the royal residence in London and often receive an allowance for certain things like clothing and travel.

Next: How they afford to live. 

They’re rich

Queen Elizabeth II arrives on the Norman Porch as Prince Phillip looks back to a lady in waiting
They are still pretty rich despite not making money. | Martyn Hayhow/AFP/Getty Images

Ladies-in-Waiting are usually wealthy by way of family or marriage — which is how they can afford to work for the queen free of charge.

Next: Friends for life

They never retire

The Queen's Ladies in waiting sit at Croke Park
They serve the queen for life. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Friends are forever and so are the queen’s Ladies-in-Waiting. A Lady-in-Waiting is expected to serve the queen for life and never retire.

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