Prince William and Princess Kate are in Belgium to attend the Passchendaele Commemorations on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. They joined King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium at the ceremony and walked through Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest Commonwealth burial ground on the world. Prince Charles and Prime Minister Theresa May are there too.
All this is news of a major royal staffing shakeup made news in England yesterday. Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, referred to by some as her “top aide”, is stepping down. (Can we call him the Hand of the Queen?) According to the Mail on Sunday:
The Queen’s top aide Sir Christopher Geidt is set to stand down from his key role at her side amid a dramatic shake-up of senior Royal staff.
The Mail on Sunday understands that Sir Christopher’s surprise departure is the first of a ‘slew’ of personnel changes at a senior level in the Royal Household.
It comes as the Queen and her heir the Prince of Wales attempt to impose greater unity on the rival ‘firms’ or households of the younger Royals. This is a watershed moment for the monarchy, as the Queen and Prince Philip step back from official duties and hand responsibility to the younger generation.
Sir Christopher, the Queen’s Private Secretary and a shrewd former Army intelligence officer, is a key figure in this transition, or ‘operation handover’ as it is known.
Sources within the Royal Household say his departure will be followed by ‘two, maybe three more’ senior figures, who are set to leave before Christmas.
‘Sir Christopher’s departure is just the beginning. Major changes are afoot. Yes, it is a shake-up,’ said a senior source.
In addition to Sir Christopher, Kate’s private secretary, Rebecca Deacon, is also leaving. And there are rumours that Miguel Head, who’s been William’s private secretary for 10 years, is looking to make some moves too – not necessarily away from the royal family but up, perhaps filling the role that Sir Christopher is vacating. Before deciding to retire though, Sir Christopher wanted to centralise the senior royal support staff so that the entire Firm’s interests were in alignment:
The impending departures are seen as part of a shake-up as the Queen and Charles move to take control of disharmony among the different Royal Households.
It follows Sir Christopher’s forceful plea to all the households in May this year to come together ‘on message’.
Unifying the households of the Queen, Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is something Sir Christopher has long championed, albeit with varying degrees of success.
He tried to bring the press office – now named Royal Communications – under one director, former Daily Mail reporter Sally Osman. This has not really worked out as planned and has been marked by squabbles, rivalry and high- level departures.
The Prince of Wales has preferred to maintain his autonomy and handle his own media affairs, led by his appointment of former BBC man Julian Payne.
‘It is a bit of surprise that Sir Christopher is going now,’ said one official. ‘We all thought he had his hand on the tiller and would see through the transition of the monarchy.’
Some courtiers see his departure as a ‘line being drawn’ – the beginning of a new era that might yet see the Queen accept Prince Charles as regent. Sources say she would seriously consider this once she reaches 95. It is widely acknowledged Her Majesty will never abdicate and the succession is rarely, if ever, talked about in official terms.
It is perhaps no coincidence that despite the upheaval at Buckingham Palace, there are no sudden changes at Clarence House, the Prince of Wales’s household.
The way I’m reading this it’s not about the Queen and Prince Charles, it’s about Prince Charles and his sons. There have been rumours for years that Charles was not totally comfortable with how independently William and Harry run their communications plans. For example, there was some talk that Charles was pissed when Harry launched his Love Shield last year protesting the media’s treatment of Meghan Markle, not only because it was more emotional than we’re used to seeing from British the royal family but also because the story overshadowed what he was doing, on tour in the Middle East at the time.
So, if his staff isn’t changing but Will and Kate’s staff might be changing, and if one of Will’s people is looking for a promotion to the Prince of Wales’s office, and the Queen’s hand is peace-ing out, this could mean that Charles is reining in his kids and, with Her Majesty’s blessing, reminding them that, one day, he will be their boss.