The Queen‘s Mistress of the Robes and one of her closest and most loyal friends has died aged 101.
Ann Fortune FitzRoy, the Duchess of Grafton, passed away on Friday (December 3) after serving the Royal Household throughout the Queen’s entire 69-year reign.
The Duchess was appointed the prestigious Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in 1980, an award made personally by the Queen for services to the sovereign, and their close relationship was underlined when she made the monarch the godmother to her second daughter in 1954.
It follows the death of husband Prince Phillip aged 99 in April, with the Queen having to sit alone in Windsor Castle as she mourned the death of her ‘strength and guide’ across 73 years or marriage.
A close friend, the Duchess was also only one of two Mistress of the Robes during the Queen’s reign – formerly a role wielding responsibility for the monarch’s clothes and jewellery.
Queen Elizabeth II, followed by her Lady-in-Waiting, the Duchess of Grafton, arrive at the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament
The Duchess of Grafton (left) pictured with the Queen’s mother walking along the beach at Wolkam Bay in 1987
She first joined the Royal Household in 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, as Lady of the Bedchamber for the Queen, before becoming Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the New Year’s Honours list 1965.
Born in 1920, she married the 11th Duke of Grafton Hugh FitzRoy in 1946.
Following the death of his father, Fortune took on the title of Duchess of Grafton three years after becoming Mistress of the Wardrobe.
She shared five children with her husband, two boys and three girls, prior to his death in April 2011.
The Queen was made godmother to her second daughter, Lady Virginia FitzRoy, in 1954.
While mainly working behind the scenes, the Duchess was on duty for all the most important royal occasions, including state visits and the State Opening of Parliament.
Her role as Mistress of the Wardrobe also included taking overall charge of the rota of ladies-in-waiting – friends and assistants of the Queen.
The importance of her role was personally recognised by Her Majesty when she appointed the Duchess Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in 1980. Only the Dukes of Kent and Gloucester, Princess Alexandra and the Duchess of Kent have held the award longer.
She remained one of the Queen’s most long-standing and closest friends until her death on Friday.
The Duke And Duchess Of Grafton leaving Westminster Abbey following a Service of Thanksgiving
The Duchess of Grafton (right) pictured alongside Lady Diana Spence in June 1981 outside Royal Ascot
It follows a turbulent year for the Queen in which she has had to deal with the departure of grandson Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to the US and the death of husband Prince Philip.
Philip was her ‘strength and guide’ throughout their 73-year marriage and her 69-year reign.
Crowds of mourners laying flowers and tributes at palaces became so large they were told to disperse because of the pandemic following his death.
The nation was subsequently left heartbroken by photographs of the grief-stricken Queen sitting alone during her husband’s funeral as she was forced to mourn away from her devastated children and grandchildren during the Covid-secure ceremony.
Her Majesty, 95, wiped away tears and bowed her head in reverence in St George’s Chapel this afternoon as she bid a final and emotional farewell to her ‘strength and stay’ Prince Philip, to whom she was married for 73 years, while socially distancing and wearing a face mask.
Queen Elizabeth pictured during the funeral of husband Prince Philip, who died at the age of 99
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Peter Phillips, David Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon and Vice-Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence follow the Land Rover Defender hearse carrying the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin
Slashed was the 800-strong guest list of royals, politicians and celebrities who may have been expected to descend on Windsor for the historic send-off.
Instead just 30 mourners and four singers were allowed at the service as bottles of hand sanitiser were dispensed.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex also said earlier this year they will not return as working members of the Royal Family.
The Queen confirmed the couple would not ‘continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service’.