Are the Princes’ emotional outbursts linked to the surprise departure of two of the Queen’s top aides?
Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, stepped down after 10 years
He has been followed by her assistant private secretary, Samantha Cohen
Royal watchers claim these events rooted in divisions between three households
August is traditionally a quiet month for the Royal Family. The Queen is at Craigowan Lodge, a ‘modest’ seven-bedroom property on the Balmoral Estate, while the ‘Big House’ prepares for her arrival next week.
The Duke of Edinburgh will join her within days after holding a house party at Wood Farm at Sandringham, as will their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at various times over the summer.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the yacht of shipping magnate Theodore Angelopoulos. Later, they will go to Birkhall, their Highland bolthole, for the rest of August, where they will join the Queen for walks and barbeques.
So far, so normal a Royal summer. Yet this has been one of the most seismic weeks for the monarchy in some time.
For the public, the most noteworthy event has been Prince Philip’s last official appearance at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday — his 22,219th public engagement — before his retirement aged 96. Household staff wiped away tears as he quit the public stage after seven decades of service with a wave of his bowler hat and hardly a backward glance.
Behind the scenes, it is the unexpected decision by Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, to step down after ten years that rings alarm bells.
Buckingham Palace’s announcement on Monday was accompanied by a flurry of warm words and a pointed suggestion that it was business as usual. But Sir Christopher’s imminent departure isn’t the only one.
For the Mail can reveal today that last week the Queen was also rocked by the resignation of her assistant private secretary Samantha Cohen, in an apparent gesture of solidarity with Sir Christopher.
Royal watchers claim that these events are rooted in continuing divisions between the three royal households: Buckingham Palace; Clarence House, where Prince Charles’s team is situated; and William, Kate and Harry’s base at Kensington Palace. And Sir Christopher’s departure is, one way or another, inextricably linked to the schisms.
There are three senior posts in the Queen’s private office — the team who enable Her Majesty to do her job as Head of State — her private secretary, her deputy private secretary and her assistant private secretary.
To lose two of the three members of this team, in an office where firings are rare and stability is vital, is unprecedented.
Mutterings about a shake-up of senior royal staff have swirled around for some time, but it seems that Prince Philip’s decision to step back from royal life — with the whole-hearted support of his wife — forced matters to a head.
The rest of her family now have an opportunity to do more to support the Queen — in particular the Prince of Wales and his sons, whose appeal to the young, it is hoped, will drive the monarchy on for decades to come.
News this week that the Duchess of Cambridge has appointed a new private secretary is seen as part of a plan to ‘professionalise’ the set-up at Kensington Palace as William and Kate return to London from Norfolk to become full-time working Royals.
Catherine Quinn, 58 — who has held senior positions at Oxford University and the Wellcome Trust, will join in October.
It had been expected that Sir Christopher would be a key figure in the running of this new ‘Team Windsor’, as they call themselves.
As the main channel of communication between the Queen and Downing Street, he has long been one of the most influential people in the land. He certainly knows his way around the Palace shark-pool. Yet something has gone awry.
Sources say Sir Christopher’s decision to leave comes after failed attempts to unify the ‘rival’ royal households. This included a disastrous plan in 2014 to merge the press offices into one hub at Buckingham Palace so the Royal Family could ‘sing with one voice’, a strategy championed by Sir Christopher and Mrs Cohen.
But each press team was used to working autonomously for very different principals — the Queen, Charles, and his sons — all of whom have their own agendas in terms of the engagements they want to undertake and what they want to achieve from them.
Within weeks, staff from Clarence House and Kensington
Palace were arriving to work at Buckingham Palace, leaving their coats on chairs but then sloping back to their old offices.
By the autumn, Palace officials were forced to admit that the scheme was being shelved.
Tensions were clear again when Prince Philip’s retirement was announced and Sir Christopher summoned staff from all three households to Buckingham Palace to make an extraordinary plea for them to ‘pull together’ to support the Queen.
The Mail can reveal today that last week the Queen was rocked by the resignation of her assistant private secretary Samantha Cohen (pictured)
Much of the bickering has been over the roles and reach of senior staff. Other disputes have centred on the approach taken by senior Royals in their official duties and how their publicity is handled.
Well-placed sources say there is still no love lost between senior officials in Charles’s household and the Queen’s staff.
It is understood that there has lately been growing concern among some courtiers about the young Royals’ management of their affairs. Some consider William and Harry’s recent ‘soul-baring’ in newspaper and television interviews to be unwise, fearing this openness will make it harder to protect their privacy in future.
Prince Harry’s unprecedented plea for Press restraint over his relationship with U.S. actress Meghan Markle last year caused astonishment in royal circles.
Few courtiers knew he was about to do it and it knocked an important tour of the Middle East by his father and stepmother off the front pages.
Now, despite Sir Christopher’s best efforts to unite the factions, it appears his time is up.
‘The co-ordination of the households has suffered under Christopher, who doesn’t always see eye to eye with some of the senior courtiers, particularly at Clarence House,’ one insider said.
‘The feeling is that he has fallen on his sword, so to speak, with the Queen’s blessing, for the integration of the royal households to go on under “new management”.’
Another source insists that Christopher’s good work to ensure ‘every member of the Royal Family is being deployed to support the Queen is continuing’.
Whether Sir Christopher jumped or was pushed, his departure has resulted in the unexpected resignation of Mrs Cohen, the Queen’s very able No. 3. Officials have tried desperately to keep this secret, but I’m told she handed in her notice last week.
Mrs Cohen, 48, was promoted to the private office in 2010. The Queen seemingly liked her approach and she was seen as a modern breed of royal executive.
‘Sam worked hand in hand with Sir Christopher and her resignation is being seen as a sign that his departure is not as straightforward as has been made out to be,’ said one source. ‘It is not clear whether she is actually going to leave. The Queen likes her, and to lose two of her most senior members of staff in a week does not look good under any circumstances.
‘But her resignation is on the table and is probably going to be accepted.’
Palace officials — who declined to comment when contacted by the Mail — say Sir Christopher will stay until October. In reality, with the Queen in Scotland for the next two months, he will be gone in a matter of weeks.
‘He is a man with a great sense of duty and real integrity. He is a loss,’ said one.
He will leave behind his deputy Edward Young, a former Barclays executive who arrived at the Palace 13 years ago. Young is well liked and is considered to be a safe pair of hands. Whether they are steady enough to bring together ‘the most dysfunctional family in Britain’ in the twilight years of the Queen’s reign remains to be seen.
Source: DAILYMAIL MAILONLINE
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