Camilla scraps ladies-in-waiting in modernising move

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The photograph released to mark the Duchess of Cornwall's 75th BirthdayImage source, Clarence House
Image caption,
The Queen Consort's newly-styled "companions" will help her for the first time at a reception next week

Camilla, the Queen Consort, is ending the tradition of having ladies-in-waiting, but instead will be helped by "Queen's companions".

As well as modernising the title, the six women assistants will be less regularly in attendance than the previous role required.

The honorary positions involve helping the Queen Consort at public events.

Unlike the ladies-in-waiting, this slimmed-down role will not involve correspondence or administration.

Replacing the role of lady-in-waiting will end a feature of court life going back to the middle ages, with such close personal helpers of a Queen often coming from aristocratic families and, over the centuries, sometimes caught up in court intrigue.

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.

They don't receive a salary but their expenses will be covered.

This symbolic change of direction will be put into practice next week, when the Queen Consort hosts a reception for campaigners against domestic violence and violence against women.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics on Friday showed that 2.4 million adults in England and Wales, 1.7m women and 700,000 men, had suffered from domestic abuse in the previous year.

Queen Camilla has campaigned to raise awareness about domestic violence and for the first time her Queen's companions will be with her at the Violence Against Women Girls reception at Buckingham Palace, rather than ladies-in-waiting.

The first companions include some longstanding personal friends - the Marchioness of Lansdowne, Jane von Westenholz, Lady Katharine Brooke, Sarah Troughton, Lady Sarah Keswick and Baroness Chisholm, a former Conservative whip and Cabinet Office spokeswoman in the House of Lords.

A palace source says that Baroness Chisholm, who has been sitting on two select committees as a Conservative, has become a non-affiliated peer.

The Queen Consort, aged 75, has also appointed Major Ollie Plunket as her equerry, who acts as a personal assistant.

The former ladies-in-waiting who served the late Queen Elizabeth II will now help King Charles to host events at Buckingham Palace and will be known as "ladies of the household".