Ken is the first to admit that the long hours and stress that come with serving the royal family can be challenging.
“Once the kudos of working for someone royal wears off, most, if not all, of ‘below stairs’ work is mundane and repetitive,” he says, adding the role is not a typical nine-to-five job. It’s also said to come with many rules, including no vacuuming before 10 am so as not to wake up sleeping royals!
“There is a vast difference in the daily routine of a bodyguard and a ‘staffer’ of the royal household. As such, the daily routine of a bodyguard is carried often with considerable travel necessitating liaison with multi agencies within the UK and abroad. Boredom is not an option.”
Meanwhile, Ken says, staffers are “hooked on routine depending upon their role. Ladies-in-waiting wait on their boss, butlers attend routine household chores, dressers look after the bulging wardrobes, chefs with a bottomless budget provide gastronomic delights and so on. The below stairs Victorian hierarchy could be highly stressful to new and younger members of staff.”
In 2017, more than 14 members of the royal family’s cooks and kitchen staff reportedly made the decision to leave their jobs. “Nobody gets time off to see their families,” a source told The Sun. “They’ve concluded it’s not worth it anymore.”
It’s also reported that staff are not paid well and working for a royal means sacrificing your social life – Kate’s aide reportedly quit after she got engaged, as she wanted to spend more time with her fiancé. But despite this, Ken insists the perks of working for the royal family are far greater than any challenge.
“Work is demanding but rewards are high. The lure of rent-free accommodation for household employees, both during employment and on retirement, is reason enough not to fail.”
It is understood Buckingham Palace has 188 bedrooms for servants. Currently, there are more than 1000 royal staff running the household.
Ken says: “There were difficult times of course, and mistakes invariably made but personally, I never felt burnt out. Staffers, from my experience were there for life, unless dismissed.”
But, as Ken explains, times have changed dramatically since he was employed by Scotland Yard to protect the late ‘People’s Princess’.
Back then, Ken says protection officers and staff had good relationships with the royal they were employed to serve. In some cases, this meant having front row seats to some of their most private moments. “Of course this develops over time and Diana was without doubt the moderniser in the palace.”
Ken can still vividly recall the moment the Princess of Wales confided in him about her then husband Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
“William was about 3 or 4 months old and Diana joined Charles on a trip to Spain. I remember Charles going out one day on a sailing trip with the King and Diana spoke to me about his relationship with Camilla and hers with James Hewitt.”
It’s also been reported that in the past Prince Charles was known to call and check in on his staff members when they weren’t on duty. In his view, this personal contact no longer exists and is the reason behind all the recent staff resignations.
“Now, being a royal bodyguard is not a career for life,” he says. “The new style of protection has removed the personal touch, and thus created a ‘them and us’ protection without a professional closeness which in my view was an important ingredient of protection – chemistry. The recent changes and how it is managed has removed decades of experience.”
Earlier this year, Duchess Meghan’s female bodyguard, who has not been named for security reasons, sensationally resigned just weeks after joining the Sussexes on their tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. And while her departure was said to be due to “personal reasons”, Ken is not convinced.
“This may well be the case, however the pressure placed on her with no personal protection experience, generated negative criticism, notably in Fiji. From my own observation, this lack of personal experience and daily press coverage was perhaps the catalyst that led to her retirement from the post.”
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Despite reports that Meghan has been difficult to work for, Ken is quick to shut it down. “Having worked throughout my career with all members of the royal family, all at times could be painfully difficult to work with. Meghan and Harry are global celebrities and in a way, no different to Diana and Charles throughout the 80s. Meghan, like Diana, does not conform to royalty in a way that Kate does. She appears to be independent, curious with initiative and new ideas.”
In fact, working for both duchesses requires intelligence, as many of their staff hold degrees, and an ability to multi-task - especially nannies who are expected to look after the children, while also putting together nutrition plans and walking the Queen’s dogs!
Royal expert Ashley Pearson claims Kate’s head housekeeper and gardener quit because they couldn’t stand how much the duchess wanted to do herself.
“Kate had broken precedent in that sense that she does more for herself than anyone else in her position has ever done before,” Ashley says. “That didn’t sit too well with staff.”
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