This is from Henri M. about the dutch court and the ladies in waiting:
The Grootmeesteres, the Hofdames and the Dames du Palais
These three functions can probably best find their British equivalents in: Mistress of the Robes, Ladies in Waiting and Ladies of the Bedchamber. There are a lot of misunderstandings about these functions. The most common misunderstanding is that these ladies are in employment like cooks, gardeners, footmen, etc. This is absolutely not the case in the Netherlands.
I would like to give you an explanation, based from a chapter out of the book ‘Aan het Hof. De monarchie onder Koningin Beatrix’, (‘At the Court. The monarchy under Queen Beatrix’) by Remco Meijer (ISBN 90 5713 462 4).
In former times, in terms of préséance, the Grootmeesteres (litterally: the Grand Mastress, the British equivalent is: Mistress of the Robes) was the highest function in the hierarchy at the Court. Until the 1980’s the Grootmeesteres even organized her own lavish New Year’s receptions in the Kurhaus in The Hague. Under Queen Beatrix the Grootmeesteres no longer is the highest functionary: that position has gone to the Grootmeester (the Lord Chamberlain), who is the chief executive of the total royal household organization (around 600 persons of staff, including the royal forestry and the security).
The Grootmeesteres has a honorary and non-paid function in the royal household, with as her core business: the representation of the Queen. At official royal functions, the Grootmeesteres stands directly behind the Queen, flanked by the Chief of the Military House and the Grootmeester. Together these three persons form the top of the royal household organization. The high protocollair rank of the Grootmeesteres is still visible in the fact that she takes part in the ceremonial royal procession on Prinsjesdag, the annual ceremonial assembly of the States-General (Netherlands Parliament) and rides in her own gala-coupé.
The Grootmeesteres was introduced in 1818 by the then Princess of Orange (Princess Anna Paulovna, born Grand Duchess of Russia). Before 1818 there already were comparable functionaries at the royal and the formerly stadtholderly court, but Princess Anna Paulovna was the first to use the name Grootmeesteres. Since then there has always been a Grootmeesteres. At present the Grootmeesteres represents the Queen in social contacts with members of the Corps Diplomatique, with the International Court of Justice in The Hague and with (foreign) nobility. Therefore she organizes and goes to receptions, attends weddings and funerals in the name of the Queen. Due to her visible attendance in high society, the Grootmeesteres has a frequent appearance in the society columns of the national newspapers. In name the Grootmeesteres also is the chief of the Hofdames and the Dames du Palais but in reality the schedule and the shifts of these ladies are made by the Queen’s Secretary.
In her 27-years Reign so far, Queen Beatrix has only had two ladies in the function of Grootmeesteres. When she assumed the kingship in 1980, the then Grootmeesteres, Elizabeth Baroness Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh née de Meyïer had just died and Queen Juliana asked one of her Dames du Palais, Catharina (‘Kathy’) Bischoff van Heemskerck née Telders formerly Dowager Baroness Schimmelpennick van der Oye, to act as an ad-interim. When Queen Beatrix assumed the kingship, she announced a major reorganization of the royal household. Catharina Bischoff van Heemskerck was already quite aged, but probably the young Queen wanted an experienced figure to help her with the reorganization of the royal household organization. The relationship of the Grootmeesteres with the Queen is founded on a strong personal bond of loyalty, confidence and discretion.
Catharina (‘Kathy’) Bischoff van Heemskerck was first married to Alexander Baron Schimmelpenninck van der Oye but personal drama rocked her life: in 1941, after 10 months of marriage, her spouse was shot dead by the Nazi-Germans. In 1946 the young Dowager Baroness remarried with Frederik (‘Freek’) Bischoff van Heemskerck who just was appointed as Crown Equerry and Stablemaster to Queen Wilhelmina. Via her new spouse Kathy Bischoff van Heemskerck made her entrance in the royal household and finally served three Queens as Hofdame, as Dame du Palais and as Grootmeesteres.
The present Grootmeesteres is Martine Louise Amélie van Loon née Labouchere formerly Delprat, born in 1936. She counts as one of the closest confidantes of the Queen. Martine Labouchere is a scion from an old Amsterdam patrician family which made a grand fortune in private banking and equities. The Banque Labouchere (now sold to the Dexia Group) was known for having Amsterdam’s crème de la crème amongst its clients. In 1973 Martine Labouchere married with the much older and dazzling rich Amsterdam shipping magnate Daniël Delprat, also president of the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce. It was ‘the marriage of the year’ in Amsterdam’s high society. Daniël Delprat, a remarkable and wellknown entrepreneur died in 1988.
Three years later the widow Delprat remarried with the Amsterdam nobleman –and also a widower- Jonkheer professor dr. Maurits Nanning van Loon. The wedding was held in the Westerkerk in Amsterdam, where also Princess Beatrix and Prince Claus married, back in 1966. The Queen did attend the wedding of the Grandmastress to Jonkheer Van Loon, a very rare appearance because the Queen seldomly appears at weddings outside her own family. The wedding was celebrated by the 'court chaplain', ds. Carel ter Linden, who also would become the officiating minister in the marriage of Prince Constantijn (2001), the marriage of the Prince of Orange (2002), the funeral of Prince Claus (2002), the marriage of Prince Friso (2004), the baptism of Princess Catharina-Amalia (2004) and the funeral of Prince Bernhard (2004).
The Van Loon canal-estate is one of the finest particulier Amsterdam canal-estates and is known for its fabulous interiors and its art. The house is now a museum, open for visits. Martine van Loon and her husband moved to the (also grand) house next to the museum and there she still lives. Jonkheer Maurits Nanning van Loon died in 2006. Because he had no male issue, this kown Amsterdam noble dynasty will become extinct with Jonkvrouwe Philippa, the daughter from his first marriage to Lady Ghislaine de Vallois. She is married to the French nobleman Marc-Antoine Colomb de Daunant, from Le Gard (near Nîmes, France).
The Grootmeesteres leads 6 Hofdames.
A Hofdame litterally means Lady at the Court but the best British equivalent maybe is: Lady in Waiting. In the Netherlands the Queens (and in the stadtholderly era, the Princesses of Orange) simply never went ‘out’ without an appropriate escorte and so they, traditionally, had a sort ladies of honour in their slipstream. Later these ladies became more and more part of the royal household and became known as Hofdames.
The Grootmeesteres and the Hofdames are living in their own suites in one of the palaces when they are 'on duty'. The ladies have their duties in different shifts, which usually lasts one week. The Hofdames do not ‘work’ for the Queen. Man can probably best describe them as ‘approved ladies for Her Majesty's company’. They enjoy a high protocollair rank in the hierarchy at the court. The Hofdames sit in full gala at state banquets, travel in royal limousines, are served on their own by the royal household and have access to the very close circle of the Queen. They can receive and entertain guests on their own and act as the eyes and the ears of the Queen.
Man can not apply for the functions of Grootmeesteres or Hofdame. It is a function for which people are asked in all discretion. Nobility is no longer required. Queen Beatrix prefers a mix of good descent and a prominent social stature. The Grootmeesteres and the Hofdames are not paid for their services. All costs made for their functioning are covered by the Queen. Most ladies have links with aristocracy and patriciate (= non noble upper class, let's say 'Old Money').
At the moment the Queen has 1 Grootmeesteres and 6 Hofdames in her slipstream:
M.L.A. (‘Martine’) van Loon-Labouchere formerly Delprat, Grootmeesteres (patrician, widowed to an aristocrat)
Jonkvrouwe R.D. (‘Reina’) de Blocq van Scheltinga formerly Teixeira de Mattos, Hofdame (aristocrat)
M.J. (‘Mienthe’) Boellaard-Stheemann, Hofdame (patrician)
O.A. (‘Lieke’) Gaarlandt-Van Voorst van Beesd, Hofdame (patrician)
J. (‘Julie’) Jeekel-Thate, Hofdame (commoner)
M.P. (‘Ietje’) Karnebeek-Van Lede, Hofdame (patrician, married to an aristocrat)
E.J.M. (‘Elizabeth’) Baroness van Wassenaer-Mersmans, Hofdame (married to an aristocrat)
When these ladies leave the active service, they are appointed into the Queen’s honorary household and become a Dame du Palais Honoraire or a Hofdame Honoraire. The difference between a Dame du Palais and a Hofdame mainly was that the first were married ladies and the second were unmarried ladies. Later the Dame du Palais evolved more and more into a function positioned between the Grootmeesteres and the Hofdames. The best British equivalent possibly is: Lady of the Bedchamber. In the 1980’s Queen Beatrix reorganized the royal household organization and she made an end to the function of Dame du Palais. The Queen still uses it for the honorary household, for the retired Hofdames, so to say. At the moment there are seven ladies in the honorary household:
C. (‘Kathy’) Bischoff van Heemskerck-Telders formerly Baroness Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Dame du Palais Honoraire (married to a patrician and widowed to an aristocrat)
M.A.R. (‘Mieke’) de Kanter, Jonkvrouwe Von Mühlen, Dame du Palais Honoraire (aristocrat, married to a patrician)
C.L. (‘Clara’) van Zinnicq Bergmann, Baroness De Vos van Steenwijk, Dame du Palais Honoraire (aristocrat, married to a patrician)
A.V. (‘Ada’) de Beaufort-Van Sminia, Hofdame Honoraire (patrician, married to an aristocrat)
H.G. (‘Henriëtte’) Goudzwaard-Blom, Hofdame Honoraire (commoner)
A. (‘Aggie’) Labouchere, Hofdame Honoraire (patrician)
M.C.C. (‘Marie’) Nahuys-Wijnen, Hofdame Honoraire (married to a patrician)
The princesses in the Royal House do not have a Hofdame in their own service. But due to her high position as the spouse to the Prince of Orange, one or two Hofdames are ‘detached into the service of Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima of the Netherlands’. Mostly man can see Ottoline Antoinette (‘Lieke’) Gaarlandt-Van Voorst van Beesd escorting Princess Máxima. She was asked to be a tutor to the new and unexperienced Princess and now has become a confidante to her. This Hofdame lives with her husband in Wassenaar, the residential municipality in the outskirts of The Hague where also the royal domain ‘De Horsten’ (The Eyries) is located. So she lives close to the Prince of Orange and his family, who live in villa ‘De Eikenhorst’ (‘The Eyrie in the Oakwoods’) in the middle of the royal domain.