Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Delightful Book

"Behind Palace Doors, My Service as the Queen Mother's Equerry" by Major Colin Burgess with Paul Carter. John Blake Publishing 272 pages $14.95

The Queen Mum's equerries are taken from among the Irish Guards (a tradition) whose period of service as an equerry is two years. That way she had a continually revolving set of men in the house, something she vastly enjoyed. Her two butlers, Willian (aka "Backstairs Billy") and Reg (Wilcox) were enjoyably gay -- friendly, amusing, quick with a quip and absolutely devoted to their charge.

Burgess was 26 when he started his stint in 1994; she was then (probably) 92. Burgess skips around a lot about her age, referring to her variously as 92, 94.

The whole book has a fond memories feel about it and clearly she is someone who is deeply missed for a variety of reasons. Prince Charles (a frequent visitor) described her as the best grandmother anyone could have. His and Andrews problems with their wives disturbed her so much that she would not allow their names spoken in her presence. I particularly enjoyed Burgess' comments on her grandchildren -- Andrew is quite clearly a horse's ass.

It's been rumored that the Queen Mum liked her drink, but Burgess says she was in no way an alcoholic. He described her drinking day: Noon - a gin and Dubonnet (two parts Dubonnet to one part gin). Lunch launched her and her guests into the red wine and very occasionally a glass of port at the end of lunch. At 6 p.m., she would slyly ask Burgess, "Are we at the witching hour yet?" She liked gin martinis - lemon rind rubbed round the glass rim, fill glass with gin and set down. Pour one capful of vermouth and hold the cap carefully over the gin to "absorb the vermouth" but do not add any vermouth. She always had pink Veuve Cliquot champagne with dinner. (Woman after my own heart...)

She was also very funny. To Noel Coward as they ascended a flight of stairs lined with handsome Guardsmen (whom he was not so discreetly eyeing) "I wouldn't if I were you, Noel, they count them before they put them out."

No comments: