Some of Queen Elizabeth II’s close-knit confidants attended her funeral at Westminster Abbey this morning. Amongst those who were there to pay their final respects to the woman who was both their monarch and close friend were Lady Susan Hussey and Angela Kelly.
Lady Susan Hussey has been one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting since 1960, and is godmother to Prince William. Angela Kelly was the Queen’s Personal Assistant and Senior Dresser and has been a crucial part of the royal household since 2002.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, both of these women reportedly formed part of what has become known as the “HMS Bubble” – a group of 22 staff members who were designated to stay at Windsor Castle with the Queen during the lockdown.
While under restrictions, the staff who had been specially chosen to be part of the bubble worked on a three-week shift basis, which was where the name HMS Bubble originated from.
Master of the Household Tony Johnstone-Burt, a former naval officer, came up with the name, as the schedule of extended time away from home and family had "parallels with being at sea away from home [...] and having to deal with a sense of dislocation, anxiety and uncertainty.”
Despite the difficulties of the lockdowns, the Queen at least had two of her closest friends by her side during the last years of her life.
Who is Angela Kelly?
Angela Kelly, the Queen’s dresser, first started working with the monarch in 1994. Such was their bond that the notoriously private Queen even gave permission for Kelly to write a book about their time working together. This was certainly a special concession, and Kelly’s extensive writings about her relationship with the Queen provides real insight into the fun-loving side of the late monarch.
In an updated version of her book The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe Kelly described a ‘Bubble Olympics’ that took place during one of the lockdowns.
As a surprise treat for the informal sports day aides took part in, Kelly had asked the Queen to present the prizes to the winners. She wrote that “there were various events, which included rounders and relay. If I told you that there were balloons filled with water you might get an idea of the fun that was had.”
When it was time for the Queen to present the prizes, Kelly added that, “she came out very quietly and discreetly, and it was amazing to see the looks of surprise and delight when the Queen’s Range Rover pulled up by the golf course and Her Majesty stepped out.
"Little did the staff know that the Queen had actually arrived earlier and had been watching, hidden behind the bushes.” Kelly said that overall it was “an amazing day that will be cherished by all those who were there.”
Often depicted as the Queen’s right-hand woman, Kelly also took on the role of hairdresser for the Queen during life in HMS Bubble. She wrote that she was a little nervous to take on the responsibility, because she “had only done [the Queen’s] hair once or twice before while on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.”
But Kelly need not have worried as she added, “the Queen was so kind as she advised me on the very specific way to put the rollers in.”
Kelly’s book was filled with revelations that showed the intimacy and closeness of her relationship with the late Queen Elizabeth. From posing for photographs with an unusual informality to wearing in the Queen’s shoes for her, the two women shared a lot. Kelly may well be one of the people who knew Queen Elizabeth best, and was a key part of the final years of the monarch’s life.
Who is Lady Susan Hussey?
Lady Susan Hussey was another crucial member of HMS Bubble, and accompanied the Queen to Prince Philip’s funeral last year. As restrictions were still in place at that time, only 30 people were allowed to attend the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. Lady Susan’s presence showed that she was at the very centre of the Queen’s closest circle.
Hussey became a lady-in-waiting 1960 and initially her job was to take care of the Queen’s correspondence. Over her many decades of service to the crown she is reported to have helped guide new members who were marrying into the Royal Family, including Diana and Meghan.
Lady-in-waiting is an unpaid position that is undertaken out of loyalty. After such a long period of service, Lady Susan was awarded the Dame Grand Cross of the Victorian Order in 2013.
This honour is the highest that can be given out by the monarch, something not many people achieve. Other recipients include the Queen Consort, the Princess of Wales and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, showing that Lady Susan was held by the Queen in the highest esteem.
Nicknamed ‘Number One Head Girl’ Lady Susan played a core role in the last years of the Queen’s life. Although Angela Kelly and Lady Susan hailed from very different upbringings – Angela’s father was a dockworker from Liverpool and Lady Susan’s the 12th Earl of Waldegrave – they both will have played equally important roles in helping maintain normality and stability for the Queen, particularly after the loss of her husband last year.
After the state funeral concluded at Westminster Abbey, the Queen’s coffin travelled to Windsor, where a Committal Service took place at St. George’s Chapel. Later, a private burial will be held in King George VI’s Memorial Chapel, where the Queen will be laid to rest alongside her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.