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RICHARD KAY: What now for the Queen’s dresser after she was frozen out by Charles in days?

For a woman who prided herself on making sure the Queen always looked her royal best, Angela Kelly was strangely disorganized in her own life.

A guest at her grace-and-favour house in Windsor Great Park was surprised when she offered to make a cup of tea. “She put a tea bag in a mug of cold water and put it in the microwave,” the guest recalled yesterday. “I bet that never happened to the Queen.”

There were also domestic dramas at home. On one occasion, Miss Kelly called a royal aide to complain about an infestation of rats.

A flunkey was sent to investigate and found that the rodents were nesting in plastic bins full of clothes – among them royal robes – which were strewn all over the house.

When these stories reached the queen’s ears, they were often received with wry and benevolent amusement.

As a dresser, personal assistant and confidante, the Liverpool dockworker’s daughter occupied an intriguing role in the late Queen’s life. This gave her considerable influence over other more senior staff and a position of feared authority over juniors.

But it’s over now. The woman who once told a young footman that working for the Queen would be the “making” of him and that “the world is now your oyster” is considering a future far from the center of royal patronage.

Although not believed to have been officially on duty at the time of the Queen’s death on September 8, she was among a handful of close personal associates who were by her side in her final days in Scotland.

When she returned to Windsor from Balmoral last week, carrying several bags of Her Majesty’s belongings, locks to the royal apartments at the castle – where Miss Kelly once had unfettered access – had been changed.

If ever there was a sign of how brutal and how fast change is happening in the royal world, it was this.

Although Angela Kelly (pictured with the Queen) was not considered to have been officially on duty at the time of the Queen's death on September 8, she was among a handful of close personal staff who were by her side during her final days in Scotland

Although Angela Kelly (pictured with the Queen) was not considered to have been officially on duty at the time of the Queen’s death on September 8, she was among a handful of close personal staff who were by her side during her final days in Scotland

There is little room for emotion when one reign ends and another begins. Up to 20 staff who provided personal services to the Queen have been told their jobs could be at risk under King Charles III. It follows the threat to up to 100 staff at Clarence House, the King’s former official residence in London.

However, many royal watchers will be paying particular attention to see what happens to Miss Kelly. Because for all the undoubted affection shown by the Queen for the former female Royal Army Corps driver, it is not shared by the new King.

He is fond of another of his mother’s close personal associates, ‘Tall Paul’ Whybrew, who he has offered a job in his household (although it is believed the 6ft 4in side plans to retire) – a gesture, that is unlikely to be extended to the thrice-married Miss Kelly.

There will also be no role for her as a dresser for the Queen Consort. The former Duchess of Cornwall has her own loyal staff and it is likely that her current dresser Jackie Meakin, who she inherited from the Queen Mother, will continue in the post.

Charles was horrified when Miss Kelly, now a 70-year-old grandmother, was unusually given permission to write a series of books about her life with the Queen, which were billed as providing a unique insight into the ‘true and lasting connection’ between the two women.

Although the books were limited to Angela’s area of ​​expertise – namely the Queen’s wardrobe and her clothes – and were largely innocuous, Charles was horrified by some of the informal photographs used to illustrate them, including one of the Queen sitting on a chaise longue with her feet up.

“His concerns were all about protecting the dignity of both the Queen and the Crown,” says a friend. ‘Nothing has changed with his mother’s death. If anything, he is more determined to defend her reputation and her legacy.’

Two books have been published so far: Dressing The Queen, published in 2012, which was about Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee wardrobe; and 2019’s The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen, The Dresser And the Wardrobe.

An updated Platinum Jubilee version of the latter, with added details about the Queen’s time in Covid lockdown, was released in May this year.

It was the 2019 book that set alarm bells ringing for Charles due to the intimacy of some of the accompanying images and its boast that it would contain “charming anecdotes about their time together”.

The Queen accompanied by (left to right) head of the British Fashion Council Caroline Rush, Vogue chief Anna Wintour and Angela Kelly

The Queen accompanied by (left to right) head of the British Fashion Council Caroline Rush, Vogue chief Anna Wintour and Angela Kelly

The Queen accompanied by (left to right) head of the British Fashion Council Caroline Rush, Vogue chief Anna Wintour and Angela Kelly

Then he was powerless, not least because Miss Kelly was in possession of a letter from one of the private secretaries outlining the permission for the book, which is rare in itself. (Former royal servants who have tried to reveal private details usually receive legal letters.)

Unpublished, at least for now, is Miss Kelly’s third book. This is said to be a story of the Queen’s devotion to her dogs, and in particular her love of corgis, which stretched back to her childhood.

However, royal staff are surprised that Miss Kelly has chosen this topic. “Angela never showed any interest in the corgis,” says one employee. ‘I don’t remember ever seeing her bend down to pet the dogs or walk them.’

It is understood the Queen agreed to the book deal as a gesture of thanks for her servant’s loyalty and also to help provide some financial security for Miss Kelly’s future. But the late monarch’s most generous act was to approve a long-term deal allowing her right-hand man to stay at her home, which is close to Windsor Castle golf course.

It is understood that she will be allowed to stay in the house for life. Usually, such arrangements come with strict conditions, such as preventing recipients from giving interviews or cashing in their insider information.

In the past, Miss Kelly has spoken of wanting to spend time in America, where she would certainly be in demand on the TV chat show network.

1663972539 770 RICHARD KAY What now for the Queens dresser after she

1663972539 770 RICHARD KAY What now for the Queens dresser after she

Ms Kelly’s 2019 book was the one that set alarm bells ringing for Charles due to the intimacy of some of the accompanying images and its boast that it would contain “charming anecdotes about their time together”. Pictured: Angela Kelly at the Queen’s funeral

Such talk has understandably sent a few shivers down the spines of the royals. Few figures have been closer to the Queen in recent years than Miss Kelly – known as ‘AK47’ after the assault rifle due to her fiery tongue and hair-trigger temper.

The nickname comes from when she fought with a palace maid who Miss Kelly accused of having an affair with her then-boyfriend – royal protection officers had to pull the two women apart. On another occasion, she threw a bag of rubbish at a member of the catering staff ahead of an invitation because her lunch was late.

In fact, the story of the rise of Angela Kelly, whose father was a shipyard crane operator, would excite any Hollywood screenwriter. But like many royal favourites, she has also had her share of enemies.

In recent months, as the Queen’s health declined and she found herself unable to carry out many public duties, Miss Kelly’s role changed. She insisted on moving into Augusta Tower, which housed the Queen’s private apartments at Windsor Castle, despite Her Majesty telling her not to ‘fool around’. The Queen’s reaction, according to a well-placed source, was to ‘roll her eyes’.

Along with her team of four dressers, milliners and seamstresses, Miss Kelly began going through the Queen’s wardrobe, adapting many outfits because ill health meant her size had changed. One day, when Charles dropped in to see his mother, he was surprised to see Miss Kelly watching a widescreen television at high volume.

In a rare interview, Miss Kelly once described the relationship with her royal boss. “We have a lot of fun together,” she said. ‘The Queen has a wicked sense of humor and is a great mimic. She knows all accents, including mine.’

They never discussed matters of state, she said, adding: ‘I know my place. I come from a humble background and I like to think I’ve stayed humble.’

Some at Buckingham Palace have a different view. ‘Grand’ rather than humble is how they describe Miss Kelly – who by chance started working for the Queen.

In 1992 she was housekeeper for Sir Christopher Mallaby, then British Ambassador to Germany. When the Queen and Prince Philip came to stay during an official visit to Berlin, they started chatting with Miss Kelly, who told of her plans to return to the UK.

Not long after, she received a call offering her a job as a dresser at the castle. That was in 1993. Three years later she was a senior dresser, and in 2001 she became the Queen’s first ever personal assistant.

1663972541 571 RICHARD KAY What now for the Queens dresser after she

1663972541 571 RICHARD KAY What now for the Queens dresser after she

In a rare interview, Miss Kelly once described the relationship with her royal boss. “We have a lot of fun together,” she said. ‘The Queen has a wicked sense of humor and is a great mimic. She knows all accents, including mine.’

The role gave her the use of a Coutts bank card, which she used to buy things for the Queen.

She also developed into a couturier, designing and helping to make many of the Queen’s outfits, as well as the christening gowns used for Prince George’s christening. She was deservedly praised for giving the Queen a more up-to-date makeover.

Once when Her Majesty was trying on some clothes in front of a mirror, she turned to her dresser and said with a warm smile: ‘We could be sisters.’

There was more to that comment than just the fact that they were roughly the same height and build. Because there is no doubt that the relationship between these two women from opposite ends of the social spectrum became a true friendship.

It certainly did Miss Kelly no harm, as the Queen’s remark, overheard by the staff below the stairs, was enviously and endlessly repeated.

She broke in the queen’s new shoes and after a long day massaged her feet.

But this closeness invited not only envy, but also suspicion. She was jokingly compared to two of Queen Victoria’s servants – Abdul Karim, an Indian man known as ‘the Munshi’, or teacher, and John Brown, a Scottish ghillie – who were both resented by other staff for their influence on the aging monarch.

As the Queen’s health deteriorated, Miss Kelly also took on hairdressing duties – something she had only done during the 2020 Covid lockdown.

After nearly three decades of unfailing service to the Queen, the AK47 has probably earned the right to a quieter life. The question is: will she choose it?

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