Who says the British royal family can't change?
Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, updates were made to the titles and duties of members of the royal family. Perhaps one that caught the public's attention the most was that of Queen Consort Camilla, and what to call her once King Charles III assumed the throne.
The queen said before her death that it was her "sincere wish" that Camilla, then Duchess of Cornwall, be called Queen Consort. Now, she's updating the royal tradition in her own way.
Buckingham Palace said Sunday that Queen Consort Camilla is giving up the antique tradition of appointing "ladies-in-waiting" and has picked five of her close friends to be "Queen's Companions," a new title with slightly different duties, in a modest sign of updating in the new reign of King Charles III.
What is a 'Queen's Companion'?
It's a refashioning of the job of royal personal assistant, accompanying Her Majesty on her engagements and foreign travels, keeping her company and assisting her by, for example, collecting the armfuls of flowers royals typically get when meeting people in public.
The companions will trade off supporting the queen consort in her official and state duties, along with the queen's private secretary or deputy private secretary. On some occasions, a companion may attend an engagement instead of a private secretary.
Some of the companions will be in attendance for the first time Tuesday when Camilla, 75, hosts a reception at Buckingham Palace to raise awareness of violence against women and girls as part of the UN 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.
How does a queen's companion differ from a lady-in-waiting?
Not that much; the new title mostly reflects the slight changes in the job description.
The job of lady-in-waiting to a queen, reigning or consort, dates back hundreds of years to the Middle Ages when ladies helped the queen with such tasks as bathing and dressing.
By contrast, there's no record of a "Queen's Companion" job, according to records (the palace checked).
Under the late Queen Elizabeth II, who kept the tradition when she became reigning queen in 1952, her ladies-in-waiting, known affectionately as "Head Girls," accompanied her on engagements, helped her with her voluminous correspondence, and sometimes just sat with her and watched TV.
Also, the late queen always had a lady in attendance, so the job was full time. By contrast, the companions will only be on duty during engagements and they won't be helping with correspondence.
Will Queen Consort Camilla's companions get paid?
Yes, but only nominal amounts, to cover their expenses. Because they will be on duty less time than the ladies, they won't be as costly in the royal budget, but the difference is minimal.
The pay issue is mostly irrelevant anyway. Ladies-in-waiting (and now companions) usually were picked from the aristocratic, titled and wealthy classes of the United Kingdom.
Who are Queen Consort Camilla's companions?
According to the palace, Camilla's companions are: Fiona, the Marchioness of Lansdowne; Mrs. Jane von Westenholz; the Hon. Lady Katharine Brooke; Mrs. Peter Troughton (Sarah); and Lady Sarah Keswick.
They are all close friends of the new king and queen and are well known in posh circles in the United Kingdom. Troughton is related to the king through his Scottish grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Lansdowne has been an interior designer with her own studio, Fiona Shelburne, for more than three decades. Brooke is the daughter of one of the late queen's former ladies-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, who was with Queen Elizabeth for six decades and is also a godparent to Prince William, the Prince of Wales.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Queen Consort Camilla won't have 'ladies-in-waiting.' Here's why.