The Royals: A servant fit for a king
A new documentary turns its lens onto the staff that iron Charles' shoelaces, clean up after the corgis and do about anything for the Royal Family.
By JEFF GREENStaff Reporter
Tues., Jan. 15, 2013
They iron Prince Charles’ shoelaces flat, squeeze his toothpaste even aid in his royal urine sample — those are just some of the over-the-top requests the Royals have asked their legion of servants known simply as, The Firm.
In his third documentary on the Royals in five years, filmmaker John Curtin turns his lens towards the staff who’ve had a front row seat to the fairy tale life of the entitled.
“They treat (their servants) almost like they’re just furniture,” Curtin said. “But then obviously the furniture has eyes and ears and curiosity.”
Omnipresent, powerless and paid a pittance, servants clean up after the untrained corgis that defecate on “priceless” rugs and have been asked by Princess Diana to be an undertaker when she wanted a friend’s miscarried baby buried in the garden at Kensington Palace.
“They’re all totally under the spell,” Curtin told the Star. “It’s almost like they believe in the divine right of kings.”
Curtin’s documentary, Serving the Royals: Inside the Firm, airs Thursday night on CBC and features some of the most famous servants to the Royals, including top aides to Princess Diana and the Queen Mother.
It doesn’t include the Royal urine sample, something Curtin said happened after Charles broke his arm playing polo, but it does show a maturing Prince William that has warmed up to the idea of more servants — just in time for “Will and Kate’s” move into Kensington Palace.
Andrew Pierce, Royal Editor for the Daily Mail, said William has “become to assume one or two characteristics of his father,” and that his staffs now call him “sir and Your Royal Highness.”
The corgis also live the pampered life, explains royal chronicler Brian Hoey. No servant dares to discipline the dogs, “so the footmen and the housemaids have to go around with a supply of soda water and blotting paper, because the corgis do whatever corgis want to do, wherever they want to do it.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced this week that the future Royal baby is due in July, but have just one posting for a nanny.
The long-awaited return of the Royal couple is expected to be decidedly different from the days of midnight escapades by both Diana and Charles at Kensington Palace.
About Diana, Paul Burrell, a longtime footman for the Queen and personal butler to Princess Diana says: “It was my duty to go out in the middle of the night and ferry back people whom she wanted to be with, in the boot of my car.” Curtin described Burrell as “the number one guy to get,” for the documentary. “You could say he’s the most famous servant in history.”
Burrell, much like all the former staff featured in the film, has been black listed by the Royal Family. Accused of stealing following Diana’s death and saddled with legal bills, Burrell cashed in with a pair of tell-all books in 2003 and 2006.
Others, like Tiggy Petifer, William and Harry’s former nanny, and the late William Tallon, head butler to the Queen Mother known as Backstairs Billy, stayed loyal to the Royal family.
Curtin joked that he and his crew “drove all the way to Wales just to get a shot of her (Tiggy) driving down her driveway.” Tiggy never needed the money, but Tallon was cut off when the Queen Mother died in 2002, the documetary explains.
Tallon was found by a neighbour dead in his apartment five year’s after her death. He was never rewarded for his loyalty, recalled ITN News Royal correspondent, Robert Jobson.
“One minute you’re there and the next minute you’re replaced by someone else.”
The documentary suggests it would be bad press for William to dump the serving staff as he and Kate move back to the spotlight. How much William turns from the idealistic youth Diana shaped him to be, to a version of his pampered father, Charles, is yet to be seen.
But they won’t be living the secluded Wales life they do now, Burrell said.