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The duchess spent much of her long life in royal service, beginning as Lady of the Bedchamber in 1953. Appointed at the very start of the monarch’s reign, before she had even had her coronation, Fortune was by the Queen’s side as the royal first began to navigate her new position as head of state. She then became Mistress of the Robes in 1967, a senior role in the Royal Household that once entailed overseeing the monarch’s wardrobe and jewellery, but today also encompasses arranging the rota of attendance for the various ladies-in-waiting, plus carrying out duties at official engagements and state ceremonies.

During her 54 years in the post – which she occupied until her death this month – Fortune joined the Queen on a number of significant overseas visits around the world, including to Nigeria in 1956, France in 1972, Morocco in 1980 and Russia in 1994. The Queen made sure to publicly express gratitude to the woman who spent so many decades alongside her, appointing Fortune a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the 1965 New Year Honours, then a Dame Commander (DCVO) in the 1970 New Year Honours, and finally a Dame Grand Cross (GCVO) in the 1980 Birthday Honours: a tribute bestowed personally by the Queen to acknowledge services to the monarch. In a more personal gesture of friendship, the Queen is also godmother to Fortune’s third child, Lady Virginia, who was born in 1954.

The Queen with the Duchess of Grafton during a visit to The Princess of Wales Hospital in Birmingham,  1998

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

The duchess’s public career was not limited to her royal role, however. In 1949 she was appointed a magistrate in the London juvenile courts, so becoming the youngest woman in the position at the time. She went on to serve as Justice of the Peace for West Sussex from 1972 to 1990. Fortune was also a passionate philanthropist, working closely with a number of charities, including the East Anglia branches of the Royal British Legion’s Women’s Division and the British Heart Foundation.

The duchess was widowed in 2011 on the death of her late husband, at which point the couple’s grandson, Henry, became the 12th Duke of Grafton. The duchess died on 3 December, aged 101, and is survived by four children, plus a number of doting grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Duke and Duchess of Grafton, 1999

Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

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