Family to remember Queen's lady in waiting, 101, in private service

Duke and Duchess of Grafton

The Duke and Duchess of Grafton in 2002 - the year of the Golden Jubilee. - Credit: James Fletcher

The Dowager Duchess of Grafton - a close friend of Her Majesty The Queen - is to be laid to rest at a private funeral service in Suffolk on Thursday after her death earlier this month at the age of 101.

The Duchess was born in February 1920 as Fortune Smith and trained as a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. For much of her life she lived at Euston Hall near Thetford, the seat of the Duke of Grafton.

In 1946 she married the Earl of Euston, the heir to the Duke of Grafton, and in 1953 became a Lady-in-Waiting to The Queen shortly before the Coronation.

The Duke and Duchess of Grafton on their wedding day in 1946.

Fortune Smith married the Earl of Euston in 1946. The couple succeeded to the Dukedom of Grafton in 1970. - Credit: Euston Estate

In 1967 she became the Mistress of the Robes - responsible for arranging who would accompany The Queen on official visits - a position she held for the rest of her life.

Her husband became Duke of Grafton in 1970 and they lived at Euston until his death in 2011. The Duchess took an active role in local life, especially working with local charities.

As Mistress of the Robes she often accompanied The Queen on official visits, including overseas tours, and was with her during her Golden Jubilee visit to Bury St Edmunds in 2002.

Queen and Duchess of Grafton

The Duchess of Grafton accompanied The Queen during her Golden Jubilee visit to Bury St Edmunds in 2002. - Credit: Andy Abbott

But at home at Euston she was known as one of the local villagers.

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Local resident Nick Garnham remembered: “My mother was Brown Owl of a pack of Brownies in a village near Euston Hall. Her daughter Rose joined the pack, and along with other parents of Brownies, the Duchess would from time to time need to telephone my mother.

"The Duchess would always announce herself in a very unassuming way by saying: 'It’s Rose Fitzroy’s mother speaking'.”

She had a very busy public life - in 1929 she became the youngest female magistrate in the country when she was appointed to the Bench in the London Juvenile Courts.

In Suffolk she worked very closely with the Royal British Legion Women's Division and the British Heart Foundation as well as other charitable organisations.

There will be a private family funeral for The Duchess at Euston on Thursday.