Prince Philip: Expert reveals awkward encounter with courtier
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Earlier this year, it was reported that Buckingham Palace has yet to hit its diversity target, with its proportion of ethnic minority staff standing at just 9.6 percent. It is an increase from last year which saw the figure rise to 8.5 percent, but has not reached the Royal Household’s goal for 2022 — 10 percent. The data was published for the first time in 2021 amid fallout surrounding Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s shock exit from the Firm and subsequent accusations of racism against the Royal Family in their Oprah Winfrey interview.
Speaking about the most recent figures, a senior royal source said: “We’ve still got a little way to go… but we have achieved a 9.6. We recognise we’re not where we want.”
They added: “Her Majesty and the Royal Family have promoted and embraced the diversity of our nation and that of the Commonwealth. We recognise that our workforce needs to reflect the communities that we serve so that leadership is not just coming from the Lord Chamberlain’s Committee, but it’s coming from across the royal family as well.”
However, a royal author has since claimed the Palace’s “failure to diversify” remains a big problem. Valentine Low, author of the new book ‘Courtiers: The Hidden Power Behind the Crown’, was a guest on this week’s episode of Podcast Royal.
Hosts Rachel Burchfield and Jessica Robinson asked the esteemed journalist about diversity within the royal staff, saying: “Reading about them in the press and knowing what they look like, these are mostly white men, is that by design?”
Mr Low responded: “This is one of the big problems with the Palace, I think their failure to diversify. I think they recognised it as being an issue quite a long time ago but they’ve never succeeded in doing anything about it.
“Now, they’ve diversified the people who work there to some extent, in that they are not nearly as posh as they used to be.”
The author claim that courtiers were often “aristocratic types,” adding that almost all of the men went to Eton, served in one of the smarter guards or regiments, or came from the foreign office.
He went on to describe “courtier dynasties” which saw generations of the same family serve the royals over time. He said: “They’re now much more normal; they come from all sorts of different fields.”
However, the respected journalist admitted there are still more changes that can be made, saying “it is still pretty pale, male and stale”. He continued: “There are very few people from ethnic minorities; I think it is a significant issue.”
“What’s also interesting is that the Queen never had a female principal private secretary; she had women working slightly lower down, for instance, Samantha Cohen was very prominent. But she was just an assistant private secretary. So the Queen never had a female in the top job.
“Charles has never had a woman in the top job. William has never had a woman in the top job. It’s a glaring failure I think.”
This lack of gender diversity dates back further than Queen Elizabeth II. Men have held the position of Private Secretary to the Sovereign since the early 1800s when James III sat on the throne.
When Elizabeth became Queen, she took on her father’s private secretary — Sir Alan Lascelles who was more commonly known as Tommy. Eight men held the important role throughout the monarch’s 70-year reign, including Sir Martin Charteris, known to be the Queen’s favourite, and Sir Edward Young who retained the position following the death of the Queen in September.
However, it has since been confirmed that Sir Edward will be replaced with the King’s long-standing trusted aide, Sir Clive Alderton.
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Sir Clive was appointed principal private secretary to the former Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in 2015, but has been a trusted and much-loved adviser since 2006.
Reportedly the man behind the infamous phrase “some recollections may vary” after Meghan Markle made allegations of racism within the Firm, Sir Clive’s appointment did not come as a surprise to many members of the royal household.
Sir Edward will be kept on for a few months as joint principal private secretary to the monarch in order to help smooth the transition. It is said to have been amicable, with no power struggles behind the scenes.
Meanwhile, Prince William’s private secretary, Jean-Christophe Gray has maintained his role within the Royal Household following the former Duke of Cambridge’s appointment as Prince of Wales.
Jean-Christophe previously worked as David Cameron’s official spokesperson; he also worked for chancellors of the exchequer including Alistair Darling, George Osborne and Rishi Sunak.
He was the second hire for William’s team of a former Cameron employee. Simon Case, the Prince’s private secretary from 2018, had held the same position for Cameron, but returned to work at Whitehall in 2020.
The Prince was appointed his first private secretary in 2005. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton worked alongside William, his younger brother Prince Harry and his wife Kate, Princess of Wales. He remained in the position until 2013 and resigned as a close confidante of the three royals.
His ten-year-old son, William “Billy” Lowther-Pinkerton, was one of the pageboys at the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales in April 2011. And he was chosen to be one of Prince George’s godparents in 2013.
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