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 ensuring the Queen always looked her regal best, Angela Kelly was curiously disorganised in her own life.

A visitor to her grace-and-favour house in Windsor Great Park was taken aback 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 domestic dramas at home, too. On one occasion Miss Kelly rang a royal aide to complain about an infestation of rats.

A flunkey was despatched to investigate and found that the rodents were nesting in plastic bin liners full of clothes — among them royal garments — which were dumped all over the house.

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

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

But that is all now at an end. 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 contemplating a future far from the centre of royal patronage.

Although not thought 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 at her side for her final days in Scotland. 

By the time she returned to Windsor from Balmoral last week, bringing several bags of Her Majesty’s possessions, locks to the royal apartments at the castle — where Miss Kelly once had unfettered access — had changed.

If ever there was a sign of how brutal and how swift change in the royal world comes, it was this.

Although Angela Kelly (pictured with Queen) was not thought 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 at her side for her final days in Scotland

Although Angela Kelly (pictured with Queen) was not thought 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 at her side for her final days in Scotland

For a woman who prided herself on ensuring the Queen always looked her regal best, Angela Kelly (pictured with Her Majesty) was curiously disorganised in her own life

For a woman who prided herself on ensuring the Queen always looked her regal best, Angela Kelly (pictured with Her Majesty) was curiously disorganised in her own life

There is little room for sentiment as 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 employees at Clarence House, the King’s former official residence in London.

Many royal watchers will be paying particular attention to see just what happens to Miss Kelly, though. Because, for all the undoubted affection the Queen showed for the one-time Women’s Royal Army Corps driver, it is not shared by the new King.

He is fond of another of his mother’s close personal staff members, ‘Tall Paul’ Whybrew, whom he has offered a job in his household (though it is thought the 6ft 4in page plans to retire) — a gesture that is unlikely to be extended to the three-times-married Miss Kelly.

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

Charles was dismayed when Miss Kelly, now a 70-year-old grandmother, was unusually granted permission to author 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 confined 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 that were used to illustrate them, including one in which the Queen was seated on a chaise longue with her feet up.

‘His concerns were solely about protecting both the dignity of 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.’

So far two books have been published: Dressing The Queen, released 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, came out in May this year.

It was the 2019 book that set alarm bells ringing for Charles because of the intimacy of some of the accompanying pictures and its boast that it would include ‘charming anecdotes of their time spent 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 

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

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

Royal staff are puzzled, however, that Miss Kelly has chosen this topic. ‘Angela never showed any interest in the corgis,’ says a staff figure. ‘I can’t remember ever seeing her bending down to pet the dogs or walking them.’

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

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

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

Ms Kelly's 2019 book was the one that set alarm bells ringing for Charles because of the intimacy of some of the accompanying pictures and its boast that it would include ‘charming anecdotes of their time spent together’. Pictured: Angela Kelly at the Queen's funeral

Ms Kelly’s 2019 book was the one that set alarm bells ringing for Charles because of the intimacy of some of the accompanying pictures and its boast that it would include ‘charming anecdotes of their time spent together’. Pictured: Angela Kelly at the Queen’s funeral

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

The nickname dates back to the time when she wrestled 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 hurled a bag of rubbish at a member of catering staff ahead of an investiture because her lunch was late.

Indeed the story of the rise of Angela Kelly, whose father was a dockyard crane operator, would excite any Hollywood scriptwriter. But like many a royal favourite, she has made her fair share of enemies, too.

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 the Augusta Tower, which housed the Queen’s private apartments at Windsor Castle, despite Her Majesty telling her not to ‘fuss’. The Queen’s reaction, according to a well-placed source, was to ‘roll her eyes’.

With her team of four dressers, milliners and seamstresses, Miss Kelly began reviewing the Queen’s wardrobe, adjusting many outfits because ill health meant her size had changed. One day when Charles dropped in to see his mother, he was surprised to find Miss Kelly watching a widescreen TV with the volume up high.

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 humour and is a great mimic. She can do all accents, including mine.’

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

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

In 1992 she was housekeeper to Sir Christopher Mallaby, then British ambassador to Germany. When the Queen and Prince Philip came to stay during an official visit to Berlin, they began chatting to Miss Kelly, who spoke of her plans to return to Britain.

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

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 humour and is a great mimic. She can do all accents, including mine.’

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 humour and is a great mimic. She can do 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 progressed to couturier, designing and helping to make many of the Queen’s outfits, as well as the christening robes used for Prince George’s baptism. 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 in that comment than the mere fact that they were roughly the same height and build. For there is no doubt that the relationship between these two women from opposite ends of the social spectrum did become a genuine companionship.

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

She broke in the Queen’s new shoes and, after a long day, would massage her feet.

But this closeness invited not just envy but suspicion. She was jokingly likened to two of Queen Victoria’s servants — Abdul Karim, an Indian man known as ‘the Munshi’ or teacher, and John Brown, a Scottish ghillie — both of whom were resented by other staff for their influence over the ageing monarch.

As the Queen’s health deteriorated, Miss Kelly took on the duty of hairdresser, too — something she had first done during the Covid lockdown in 2020.

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

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