The royal family have a lot of staff working for them. In almost aspect of their lives — travelling, dining, working — they have trained men and women waiting on hand to assist. That’s just part and parcel of being a royal. But what about the staff members themselves? If they want to keep their jobs, they have to strictly follow rules such as these.
40. Don’t be around when the Queen uses the toilet
The days where monarchs had a “Groom of the Stool” to accompany them to the toilet are, thankfully, long gone. Then Queen goes to the bathroom herself and staff should stay out of the way. If you can hear anything going on in the john, you’re standing much too close and need to leave. Which is fair enough.
39. Use a map for tea trays
Back in 2003 a journalist named Ryan Parry got himself a job at the royal palace and reported his findings to the Daily Mirror newspaper. Among the odd things he discovered was that the royals liked their meal trays arranged so precisely that there were maps for staff to follow. For example, Prince Phillip always had to have his oat cakes right next to honey.
38. Only ever use cloth diapers
Taking care of a royal baby means, of course, having to change a lot of diapers. But nannies aren’t allowed to buy disposable ones, they have to use cloth ones. That means washing them after every change and folding them neatly, too. To be fair, this might be because reusable nappies are cheaper and won’t end up as landfill.
37. Get used to swearing
According to Ryan Perry, the older royals aren’t necessarily polite to staff. In his undercover report the journalist noted that Prince Andrew especially was “known for his abrasive and demanding attitude.” And senior footman Robert Ferris told him that once he’d been called a “f*****g incompetent tw*t” by Princess Anne.
36. Be sure to refer to the Queen correctly
If you work at Buckingham Palace the Queen is your employer, not your friend. If you call her by her name, or worse, a nickname, you probably won’t be working for her much longer. (It could be worse, though. At least a monarch can no longer behead you for an insult.) Staff must call the Queen “Your Majesty” or “ma’am.”
35. The corgis get the highest quality dog food
The Queen’s dogs are a part of her image and by all accounts she dotes upon them. So they must be treated with the highest respect and not given cheap dog food. Nope, the royal chef cooks special meals for the pets, sometimes incorporating game that the princes hunt themselves. And the meat is given to the dogs in porcelain bowls.
34. Know where the nearest hospitals are
In 2019 one-time royal protection officer Simon Morgan talked to the Insider website about his career. He said that much of his job required, “planning the routes you’re going to take, and the officers you require, the journey time, the places you need to be aware of, and where’s the nearest hospital.” There needs to be a hospital around in case of accident, illness, or even assassination attempt.
33. Prince Charles has specific luggage
The 2018 Tom Bower book Rebel Prince: The Power, Passion and Defiance of Prince Charles makes some claims about what the prince’s staff have to pack for him when he travels. Apparently whenever he goes anywhere he takes among other things a chest of drawers, an orthopedic bed, his own toilet seat and, most curiously, two landscapes of Scotland.
32. Don’t pose for selfies
The Queen’s Guard are the soldiers in red uniform with giant bearskin hats who secure official royal residences such as Buckingham Palace. They may be a symbol of London but they definitely aren’t about to stop and take a selfie with tourists. In fact, they won’t smile for a photograph at all. Their job is so very serious they’ll be fined if they so much as laugh while on duty.
31. Be prepared to put up with kids being kids
In the 2014 documentary Harry at 30 former royal bodyguard Ken Wharfe shared an anecdote. He recollected that when the young Harry and William went to Thorpe Park, they were given water guns as gifts. They decided to “fill them with water and get the policemen” and Wharfe returned to the palace soaking wet.
30. Carrots must be the correct length
The Queen is apparently very picky about carrots, but this seems to be just because she loves to feed them to her horses. In 2015 one-time palace chef Darren McGrady told newspaper The Telegraph, “If ever a horse bit the Queen’s finger, it was the chef’s fault for cutting [the carrots] too short.”
29. Coffee is complicated
Coffee is apparently a big deal in the palace. In his 2003 piece for the Daily Mirror Ryan Parry wrote that a maid waited hours for some coffee to be ready, then poured it into a silver jug and gave it to him. Parry then “hand[ed] it to the page, who then carried it another eight meters to the Queen in her dining room.”
28. Keep tech to a minimum around Prince Charles
According to Sally Bedell Smith, author of the 2017 biography Prince Charles, the Queen’s son is one of the more difficult royals to work for. He doesn’t like technology, so the staff have to work around that, using handwritten memos instead of filing things on a computer. Apparently Charles also has them on call 24/7.
27. Princess Anne requires certain fruit
When journalist Ryan Parry did his 2003 undercover investigation into Buckingham Palace he got to learn about the individual habits of the royals. He wrote in the Mirror, “Some are easy to attend to. Princess Anne gets on with her work without fuss. But she’s also quite particular. Her fruit bowl must contain a very black banana and ripe kiwi fruit.”
26. The Queen’s cereal must be stored carefully
The Queen is surprisingly down-to-earth when it comes to breakfast… who knew? Apparently she keeps all her cereal stored in plastic Tupperware, because she believes that’s the option which will keep it most fresh. It seems to have worked so far. Oh, and her favorite cereal is, apparently, Special K.
25. Always pack a black outfit
All the royals have their staff pack a black outfit for them when they travel. Why? Well, the Queen was travelling abroad when her father, King George VI, died, and she hadn’t brought a black dress with her. It would have been inappropriate to be seen not wearing black once the news had broken. So she had to wait on the plane for someone to get her one.
24. No toilet breaks for the Queen’s Guard
Being a Queen’s Guard is an incredibly difficult job. When you’re on duty, nothing should distract you, not even bodily functions. You’re not allowed to have toilet breaks — you have to stay at your post no matter what. And if you have to faint (not an unlikely prospect considering the uniform) you have to faint face-down.
23. Don’t walk in the center of the carpet
The carpets at Buckingham Palace are very expensive and luxurious — so much so that servants aren’t actually allowed to walk on them properly. Staff need to walk on the sides of the room. That seems reasonable considering how fast the carpets would deteriorate if everyone walked on them, but still… the best place for an antique rug probably isn’t the actual floor.
22. Nannies require special training
Looking after children is hard enough, but to be a royal nanny, you have to be very highly trained. The current nanny to the Cambridge children, Maria Borrallo, is a graduate of the prestigious Norland College in Bath, England. There, she underwent training in not only childcare, but also anti-terrorism and self-defense. A good royal nanny has to be prepared to physically defend her charges.
21. Be prepared to squeeze someone’s toothpaste for them
Prince Charles seems to be the most-criticized royal when it comes to how he acts around the staff. In 2002 The Guardian reported that he even required servants to squeeze his toothpaste onto his brush, and that the Queen considered such behavior “grotesque.” Was the story true? We’ll probably never know for sure.
20. Dinner must be announced in a particular way
When the monarch’s food is ready, a servant must go out and tell her “Your Majesty, dinner is served.” Despite dinner being something that happens every day, the Queen apparently always insists that the servants treat it as a formal occasion. If you don’t use that exact phrase, you’ll probably get a very cold look.
19. There are specific rules about tea
In 2019 hospitality manager Evan Samson told the Sunday Times exactly what went into making a cup of tea for royalty. Among the rules were, “The water must be heated to 70C [158°F] for green tea and 100C [212°F] for Earl Grey or English breakfast tea,” “Milk should be added after the tea,” and “the handle of the teacup must be placed to the right, with the teaspoon under the handle.”
18. Don’t keep a pet
The royal staff get to live in Buckingham Palace, which is quite a considerable perk of the job. However, if you can’t bear to be parted from your pets, you’re out of luck. In May 2018 the head of staff banned all palace servants from keeping pets, explaining it was because of hygiene and (more puzzlingly) security. This was met with a fair amount of controversy.
17. Never go to the media
Clearly, many members of the palace staff have talked to the media over the years about what goes on behind the palace doors. But they’re really not supposed to. At the beginning of their employment, palace staff have to sign a document stating they won’t sell secrets to the media. But that hasn’t stopped some of them.
16. No garlic in the meals
Royal chefs can’t have garlic in their kitchens, reportedly because the Queen hates it. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall confirmed the garlic ban when she appeared on MasterChef Australia in 2018. She indicated, however, that this was mostly because of the fear of having garlic breath when talking to people.
15. Use rulers when putting out items
No detail is too small when it comes to the royal palaces. The staff are expected to use rulers when laying tables to ensure that everything down the teaspoons are perfectly lined up. And if you’re putting out something with stripes, all the stripes have to be going in the same direction. It’s painstaking work.
14. There are many different uniforms
Royal staff members have to wear different uniforms depending on their role and the occasion. The footmen have a uniform for summer and another one for winter, and for state events they have to wear a different, more ostentatious outfit. And sometimes designers are called in to overhaul the uniforms, as happened for the Kensington Palace staff in 2012.
13. Be prepared to be bored sometimes
The palace staff often work long hours, sometimes right from early morning to late evening. But sometimes they don’t actually have very much to do. There are thousands of staff members, after all. Just like with a regular job, sometimes everything gets done and there’s nothing to do but hang around.
12. You might have to ban someone from Twitter
Prince William had something interesting to share when he went on The Peter Crouch Podcast in 2020. He told the presenter he’d once tweeted out his excitement after Liverpool won a soccer match, and the palace staff didn’t approve. He revealed, “They keep [access to Twitter] away from me now. I have to fight them for it.”
11. The correct flag must be raised when needed
Whenever the Queen is at Buckingham Palace, the Royal Standard flag is raised. If she’s not there, the Union Jack is flown in its place. The Union Jack aspect of this tradition came into place after the death of Princess Diana: that particular flag was put there specifically so it could be lowered to half-mast to mark her passing.
10. Working in royal security requires intense training
In 2019 former Royal Protection Officer Simon Morgan spoke to Town and Country magazine about how he’d landed that job. He said, “If you pass the interview, you’ll then attend a two-day selection course whereby you’re tested to see if you have the mindset to be a protection officer. They give you the day from hell and assess you on how you react to it.” Pass “hell” and you’re almost in.
9. Carpets must be swept
The carpets in Buckingham Palace are treated very delicately. They shouldn’t be vacuumed, only swept. Apparently, though, this is so not to wake any royals who are still asleep before ten in the morning. (It’s not like anyone is going to set an alarm for them.) Carpets are also, according to the Queen herself, rotated once a year.
8. Keep an eye on the Queen’s handbag
The Queen uses her handbag to send secret signals out to staff. If she’s having dinner and she puts the bag on the table, it means she wants the meal to end within five minutes. And if she’s talking to somebody and she either puts her bag on the floor or switches it to the other hand, she’s had enough and wants to be extricated from the conversation.
7. Nannies have their own brown uniform
If you ever look through pictures of the Cambridge children out at special events with their parents, you might notice a woman dressed all in brown talking to them. That’s Maria Borrallo, the children’s nanny. She doesn’t actually have to wear that uniform all the time, but she’s expected to dress modestly and not wear too much make-up.
6. Use the side entrance
Buckingham Palace has a lot of entrances and exits, some of them purely for ceremonial use. However, the staff don’t get to use the same entrance as the Queen, even though many of them call the place home. Staff have to use the side entrance. However, important people such as the Prime Minister have been seen using the side entrance too.
5. The Queen approves all meals
No-one tells the Queen what to eat. Her head chef gives her menu suggestions and the monarch can simply tick what she wants. However, according to those in the know the Queen isn’t much of a food person anyway. In 2017 former chef Darren McGrady told The Daily Telegraph, “She eats to live, unlike Prince Philip who loves to eat and would stand and talk food all day.”
4. Don’t be seen or heard
Royal staff are supposed to fade into the background, and not be noticed at all. The skill to make yourself invisible is a handy one if you want to work in Buckingham Palace. It’s a strange situation to be in — the royals need you to do all sorts of tasks for them, but they don’t actually want to be aware of your presence.
3. Don’t write a memoir
Never, ever write a book detailing your experiences with the royals. That was what the royal governess Marion Crawford did back in 1950, writing a memoir which went into detail about the day-to-day lives of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. The royal family never forgave her, and didn’t even acknowledge her death in 1988.
2. Watch out for tests of your ability
In 2019 the TV documentary Secrets of the Royal Servants was broadcast. A trainer of royal servants, Tracy Waterman, revealed something on camera. She said, “One of the tests I like to do, to see if a candidate has potential eye for detail, is to place a dead fly, either in the fireplace or on the carpet.” If the applicant spotted the fly, that was good. If they picked it up, even better.
1. Don’t expect a high pay rate
The people who work in the royal palace appear to do so more out of love for the work than anything else. It’s not a particularly high-paying job. A butler, for example, would receive just $18,400 a year in 2011 while a part-time polisher of ornaments was offered only $10,000. However, full-time staff do get free meals and board, which is a big plus.