It was announced this week that there will be no ladies-in-waiting attending to Camilla, the Queen Consort. This is a custom that goes back to the Middle Ages and Camilla’s decision to go without ladies-in-waiting has been called a “modernising” move. Is it though?
Because while the women won’t be referred to as ladies-in-waiting, Camilla will still on occasion be accompanied by her Queen’s Companions. The Queen’s Companion is now a more “informal position, supporting the Queen Consort at official engagements and not involved in replying to letters or day-to-day planning” which means they’ve eliminated the actual responsibility of the old position – administrative and coordination tasks – and turned it into a strictly symbolic role. I don’t know if that qualifies as “modernisation” in my books.
So… basically, Camilla’s companions will join her at a few events, literally there to provide company so that she’s not alone? Hand her a tissue now and again if she needs one, walk her to the bathroom if she has to pee…that kind of thing?
Seriously, why make an announcement about this rebrand when it doesn’t actually move anything forward? Whatever you want to call them, ladies-in-waiting or companions, the idea remains that the Queen Consort, a woman, can’t be alone, that she needs other women around her – which, to go back to the Middle Ages – was probably why the role was introduced in the first place, because women couldn’t fly solo, they needed to either be supervised at all times or propped up and protected.
This is not to say that Camilla doesn’t need protection and assistance. Of course she does. She is the Consort of the King. The King has valets, an equerry, various other aides who are there to help him. We don’t call those people gents-in-waiting though. They have specific job titles because they are there to do a job.
Likewise, Camilla has personal assistants, people who manage her diary and her communications. But on top of that, we’re being told that the “Queen Consort’s Companions” will be on hand at her parties and other engagements, and these people are her friends, people who have been close to her for a long time and they won’t have a salary but their expenses will be paid. What are they being paid to do?
It sounds to me like they’ll be “supporting” Camilla at these events not unlike the way we might want a girlfriend with us at a corporate function or whatever work event. So that we’ll have someone to hang with – which I totally get. Because it can be awkward at these places. Fair enough. And when we ask our friends to come with us to the office party, what happens? Well… we gossip with them! We fill them in or we get filled by them on the office politics, on how the accountant is always late with his files and how the marketing manager and her girlfriend just got engaged.
So to answer the question of what the Consorts Companions are doing there – when it comes down to it, they’re there to gossip! And that’s coming out of the royal budget!