PUBLISHED: 18:36 EDT, 5 May 2017 | UPDATED: 03:33 EDT, 6 May 2017
The Queen’s right-hand man has issued an extraordinary plea for her family and their staff to put their rivalries aside and support her in the wake of Prince Philip’s retirement.
Private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt, who has worked for the monarch for 14 years, called for the royal households to ‘pull together’ following years of behind-the-scenes disputes.
The former Army intelligence officer made his comments during the emergency staff meeting to announce that Philip was stepping down from public engagements on Thursday.
Paying tribute to the ‘wonderful’ job the 95-year-old prince has done over the years, Sir Christopher called for a more ‘strategic’ and ‘unified’ approach from the Royal Family and those who work for them.
His comments emerged as Prince William yesterday joined his grandmother at a reception for Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, signalling that he and other royals will now fill the space left by Philip, who will cease to carry out public duties from the autumn.
Over the last few years, Kensington Palace, home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, has also joined the fray.
Charles and the Queen handle their roles very differently – he is far more keen to speak on issues close to his heart, while she is necessarily more circumspect. Meanwhile William, Kate and Harry have always tried to push their own causes, independent of anyone else.
The comments were made during the emergency staff meeting to announce that Philip was stepping down from public engagements on Thursday
Several years ago there was a disastrous attempt – encouraged by Sir Christopher – to merge the royal households’ respective press offices to promote the idea the senior royals were all speaking with one voice
Staff were even moved, at huge expense, into one giant office at Buckingham Palace.
But within months the project was in tatters, with several key players at loggerheads about the way in which royal PR should be handled.
Each team returned to their original base, and since then have kept a sometimes uneasy peace.
Yesterday the Daily Mail told how, as a result of Philip’s retirement, other members of the Royal Family – notably the Queen’s children and grandchildren – were being asked to step up to the plate to support her in a new set-up known as ‘Team Windsor’.
This will see them accompany her on more public engagements.
Private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt, who has worked for the monarch for 14 years, called for the royal households to ‘pull together’ following years of behind-the-scenes disputes
In the first visible sign of the new arrangement, Prince William was, unusually, at the Queen’s side yesterday at a private meeting and lunch for Nobel peace prize winner Miss Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Burma.
Commenting on Sir Christopher’s speech, one palace insider told the Mail: ‘He paid tribute to the wonderful work of the duke and said that as he is no longer at the Queen’s side, all of the members of the Royal Family, their households, basically all of those who work for the institution of the monarchy, need to act collectively in support of the Queen.
‘He made very clear that, on this momentous day, he was speaking on behalf of the Queen with the encouragement of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge when he said this.’
The source said there would be no merging of the households – and each would continue to have its own ‘distinct character, role and way of operating’.
But they added: ‘There will be occasions when they will be needed to pull together and support the Queen more.’
They also stressed that no-one would be moving office, and that Sir Christopher was making a more ‘general statement of principle’ as to how things should operate now the Queen no longer has the Duke of Edinburgh by her side.
‘Everyone will retain their own individual characteristics, but this will be a way of ensuring that the principles can step up on more engagements on behalf of or with the Queen,’ they said.
‘They want to ensure that everything is scheduled sensibly, particularly when it comes to public engagements. It was an opportunity to clarify and amplify what has been happening already.’
Two of Prince Philip’s orderlies are now working for Prince William following the 95-year-old’s decision to retire from public life.
In a key move, young soldiers Corporal Stewart Harvey and Lance-Sergeant Stuart Hayes were seconded to Kensington Palace last month after Philip’s diminishing workload left them with increasingly little to do.
It comes as royal insiders yesterday told the Daily Mail that William, Kate and Harry were being expected to take on a ‘significantly greater’ number of engagements on behalf of the Queen from this year.
Paid for by the Army, orderlies are seconded to the Royal Family to help out with royal duties. With Philip’s blessing, the pair now report to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry – although they still work for the Queen’s husband occasionally.
At Kensington Palace they do what a source described as ‘light butler duties’, including serving drinks, cleaning clothes, walking William and Kate’s dog Lupo and delivering hand-written notes.
The royal insider said of the pair: ‘It is a tradition for members of the Royal Family to have orderlies from the military, but Prince Philip is not as active as he once was, so the guys were finding themselves with some spare time.
‘It was a no-brainer for them to help out with William and Kate and Harry, especially as they are now taking on so many more jobs.’
The fact that Corporal Harvey and Lance-Sergeant Hayes are working for Harry as well as Prince William’s family will likely fuel rumours he is about to pop the question to his American girlfriend Meghan Markle – and will then need their help to entertain and carry out engagements.
The fact that Corporal Harvey and Lance-Sergeant Hayes are working for Harry as well as Prince William’s family will likely fuel rumours he is about to pop the question to his American girlfriend Meghan Markle
Viewed alongside Thursday’s announcement by Buckingham Palace, the secondment signals that the young royals will be taking on more and more responsibilities for their grandmother. The move is part of what is being dubbed ‘Team Windsor’, a conscious effort by members of the royal family to support the Queen – both behind the scenes and on public engagements – now that her husband of almost 70 years is stepping down.
It is understood that William’s decision to quit his job as an air ambulance pilot and return to London with his young family this autumn was prompted by his grandfather’s decision to step down.
In addition to the two orderlies, William and Kate are expanding their household in other ways.
The Mail can reveal they have poached Natalie Matthews from the private offices of Clarence House to work as an assistant private secretary for Kate. This is in addition to her principal private secretary, Rebecca Deacon, who is leaving this summer after ten years in royal service and will also be replaced.
They have also recently hired a second housekeeper for their Norfolk home Anmer House – 35-year-old Emma Boyce, who previously worked for Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie for a decade.
A Sandringham insider said the mother-of-two was a ‘welcome addition’, adding: ‘She is very popular and friendly and George and Charlotte already get on well with her and her kids – she has a boy and a girl.’ Mrs Boyce will join existing Anmer Hall housekeeper Sadie Rice, Kensington Palace housekeeper Antonella Fresolone and Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s Spanish nanny Maria Borrallo.
The source said: ‘When William and Kate first got married they wanted to have a very small staff and do everything themselves.
‘They have loved their family life hidden away in Norfolk while he has been working as an air ambulance pilot, but the Queen kept telling them they needed more staff and that they were being unrealistic.
‘It seems that given the Duke of Edinburgh’s decision to retire they are finally taking her advice and taking on more help.
‘They are going to be performing a lot more duties and they need the support behind the scenes.’