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British RoyalsThe Queen

The Queen’s Mistress of the Robes dies at age 101

Queen Elizabeth II
i-Images/Pool

Queen Elizabeth’s Mistress of the Robes, Ann Fortune FitzRoy, Dowager Duchess of Grafton, has died at the age of 101.

Born Ann Fortune Smith on 20 February 1920, the Dowager Duchess was the senior lady in the Royal Household, and her duties included organising the rota of The Queen’s ladies-in-waiting and attending to various duties at state ceremonies.

Historically, the Mistress of the Robes would also arrange The Queen’s clothing and jewellery or the role would be called First Lady of the Bedchamber. In modern times, the Mistress of the Robes is always a duchess.

The Dowager Duchess married Hugh Denis Charles FitzRoy, then known as the Earl of Euston, on 12 October 1946, at a wedding ceremony at St Mary’s Church in Slaugham. In 1970, the Earl of Euston succeeded as the 11th Duke of Grafton, and Ann became the Duchess of Grafton.

Together, they had five children: James Fitzroy, Earl of Euston, who predeceased his father in 2009; Lady Henrietta Fitzroy; Lady Virginia Fitzroy; Lord Charles Fitzroy; and Lady Rose Fitzroy.

The 11th Duke of Grafton died in April 2011 and was succeeded by his grandson, Henry Fitzroy, 12h Duke of Grafton.

The Dowager Duchess first joined the Royal Household in 1953, serving as a Lady of the Bedchamber for The Queen. She was appointed as a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the 1965 New Year Honours. In 1970, she was promoted to Dame Commander of the Royal Victorian Order; and in 1980, she was named a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in The Queen’s 1980 Birthday Honours.

In 1967, The Dowager Duchess of Grafton was named Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth II, making her only the second woman to hold the role during The Queen’s nearly 70-year reign. Mary Cavendish, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire held the post from 1953 to 1967.

In a post on Royal Central earlier this year to celebrate her 101st birthday, ‘The Footman’ recalled meeting the Dowager Duchess and said: “Everything stops, of course, for the Ladies to enjoy Afternoon Tea, which is served in the Lady-in-Waiting’s sitting room, at precisely 5 o’clock.

“I remember The Duchess being very well-spoken with impeccable manners, just like Her Majesty, and always presented with a subtle application of make-up in natural colours, and the very sweet scent of Floris perfume – quite elegant.”     

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.