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he death of her cousin and close friend, the Honourable Margaret Rhodes, on 25 November at the age of 91 was a great sadness to the Queen. They had grown up together and shared many happy childhood memories, some of which Margaret recounted in her book, The Final Curtsey. The funeral for family and close friends was held in the Royal Chapel of All Saints, in the grounds of Royal Lodge, and was attended by Her Majesty. The Queen, who worships in the small chapel when in residence at Windsor Castle, used to enjoy pre-lunch drinks after the Sunday service with the Queen Mother and her ‘third daughter’, which was how the late Queen Elizabeth referred to her niece.

   I met Mrs Rhodes when I visited her at Garden House in Windsor Great Park while making a TV documentary and was captivated by her charm and willingness to help everybody if she possibly could. Her daughter Annabel, who is Prince Philip’s goddaughter, looked after her mother on these occasions and made sure she didn’t get over-tired or say too much.

   Last year also saw the death of Raine Spencer, stepmother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Raine had the energy of ten women and after many tricky years when she married Earl Spencer (she was disliked intensely by all her stepchildren) she ultimately became a great friend to Diana and won the loyalty of the Princess.

   Her memorial service, attended by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, was followed by a stylish reception for her many friends at Spencer House. Although the Spencer family were noticeable by their absence, as is the royal way they sent representatives.

   Five days later there was another memorial service, this time for Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster, whose widow Natalia was a friend of Diana and godmother to Prince William. Her 25-year-old son Hugh, now the 7th Duke, is a godfather to Prince George.

   The service in Chester Cathedral was attended by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (representing the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh), the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Eugenie, and Princess Alexandra with her brothers the Duke of Kent and Prince Michael.

   The Queen was said to be ‘delighted’ when her granddaughter Zara Tindall told her the good news that she is expecting her second child – a brother or sister for Mia, who celebrates her third birthday this month. This will be a sixth great-grandchild for the Queen and Prince Philip and a fourth grandchild for the Princess Royal.

   Although Zara missed being selected for the British Olympic team in Rio last summer, her eventing career is going well and no doubt she will be riding until shortly before the arrival of the baby in the spring, as she did last time. There is no stopping Zara, who was always the most spirited of the Queen’s grandchildren.

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