How Queen Elizabeth II’s death will change ‘the firm’

  • Queen Elizabeth II’s death marks a big change for people who work in the royal household.
  • Those who were once in the inner circle may face dismissal during King Charles’ reign.
  • From the footmen to the private secretary, here’s how “The Firm” could evolve to suit the new monarch.

Following Queen Elizabeth II’s death, those working under King Charles could face the end of their careers in the royal household, a royal expert told Insider.

Insider previously estimated that 1,133 people work, volunteer and undertake ceremonial roles in the royal household, often referred to as “The Firm”. As the new monarch transitions into her role, however, not everyone can expect to stay, Marlene Koeing, a royal historian and internationally recognized expert on British and European royals, told Insider.

Changes within “The Firm” have already made headlines. On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that 100 people working at Clarence House – Charles’ former official residence – were told their jobs were at risk as the monarch prepares to move to Buckingham Palace. According to the report, many expected them to be kept on and transfer to the new royal household.

But they are far from the only ones whose positions in “The Firm” may be at stake, Koenig said. In fact, those who held the top jobs under Queen Elizabeth II are the most vulnerable, she added.

Buckingham Palace garden

Buckingham Palace.

John Campbell via the Royal Collection Trust

“The more important jobs for the sovereign are likely to change, especially the private secretary,” Koeing said.

Those who may have less to worry about are royal employees in more standard roles, she added. These include footmen, kitchen staff and housekeepers.

The type of people who work in the royal household may change under Charles, Koenig said

Also, Koening said the composition of who works in the royal household may evolve during Charles’ reign.

“If you look at the list of private secretaries from Queen Victoria to the present day, you will see a huge change,” she said, pointing to their backgrounds and social status.

Historically, monarchs drew private secretaries from the same British noble and military families, Koeing said. Queen Victoria’s lieutenant, for example, was Sir Arthur Bigge, who later became the first Lord Baron of Stamforham. His grandson Michael Adeane served as Queen Elizabeth’s second private secretary. Her first was Sir Alan Lascelles, who worked as her father King George VI’s private secretary.

Hiring people who ran in these “noble” circles to the top positions with “The Firm” remained the norm only until later in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, Koenig said.

The Queen's second private secretary Sir Michael Adeane, left, and her last Sir Edward Young, right.

The Queen’s second private secretary Sir Michael Adeane, left, and her last Sir Edward Young, right.

PA Images via Getty Images, Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images

“The newer private secretaries may have started in other roles in the monarchy or in business,” Koeing said.

With Charles now king, Koeing said further changes in the royal household should be expected.

“There has been a movement away from the traditional courtiers to people from business, government,” she said.

Charles has spent years building up his own household and inner circle, but Koenig said “it is entirely possible” he will retain his private secretary Clive Alderton, who served him in his role as Prince of Wales since 2015, whose previous employment includes working as a member of The Royal Household from 2006 to 2012 and for the government in the Foreign Service, according to the royal website.

Charles reportedly wants a “slimmed down” version of the monarchy. It is unclear whether that will apply to ‘The Firm’ as well.

Although the queen remained monarch until her death, the new king had begun to take on additional responsibilities in recent years as the 96-year-old monarch slowed down, The Mirror reported.

One of his responsibilities is said to have been to “slimen” the monarchy to only senior staff, as Insider previously reported, likely including King Charles himself; Camilla, Queen Consort; Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex; Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales; and Anne, Princess Royal.

Royal commentator Kinsey Schofield previously told Insider that the original line-up also included the late Prince Philip before his retirement in 2017 and Prince Harry before he stepped down in 2020.

This “downsized” monarchy could reduce the number of royal press offices that had previously operated “in their ‘own silos’, regardless of the impact on the institution”, according to the British newspaper The Times.

It will also reduce the number of royals who are funded by the Sovereign Grant, the public funds used to support them, reports The Times. The Sovereign Grant pays for the maintenance of property and utilities, the family’s travel, and not least the salaries of the royal staff, according to official financial reports from the royal family. (The Telegraph notes that the grant does not cover the cost of security and royal ceremonies – that money comes from a few other places.)

Buckingham Palace did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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