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The incredible techniques that press secretaries use to get royals to do 'the right thing'

Royal author Valentine Low joined A Right Royal Podcast hosts to talk about the grey men in suits behind the royals

The then-Duchess of Cambridge accompanied by her Private Secretary Catherine Quinn in 2017
Andrea Caamano
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Who are the men in grey suits that work for the royals? And who really runs the show? These are just some of the questions that A Right Royal Podcast hosts Andrea Caamano, Emmy Griffiths and HELLO!’s royal editor Emily Nash asked this week’s podcast guest, former royal correspondent and author of Courtiers: The Hidden Power Behind the Crown, Valentine Low.

In the latest episode, titled A Right Royal Aide, which you can listen to below, Valentine explains the different roles within the palace and reveals why the royals’ private secretaries are so important.

LISTEN: A look at the 'men in grey suits' that work with the royals

“Who runs the show? That's a really interesting question. Because particularly the private secretaries, they're the important ones. The private secretaries, they keep the show on the road,” he told us.

Prince William and Prince Harry with their Private Secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton in 2007© Getty
Prince William and Prince Harry with their Private Secretary Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton in 2007

“They're the machinery of the palace. They organise their public life, engagements, they’re their gatekeeper, they determine who gets to see the member of the royal family, they write speeches, they advise, they advise on policy, and they're also a constant companion. They are with them a lot of the time.”

Kate with her Private Secretary Rebecca Deacon in 2015© Getty
Kate with her Private Secretary Rebecca Deacon in 2015

He added: “But there's the crucial question of who actually is running the show. Because the private secretary takes a lot of the day-to-day decisions. But the big decisions, and the kind of direction of travel, is taken by the sovereign.”


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Valentine went on to explain the private secretary’s difficult job of trying to “persuade” their royal to do something when they are “set on another path”.

When I was writing my book Courtiers, the different techniques that the private secretaries would use to get their royal to do the right thing... It's not about having a full-on row, because a full-on row doesn't get you anywhere. Sometimes it's about explaining the consequences.

Miguel Head and Prince William in 2015© Getty
Miguel Head and Prince William in 2015

“Sometimes it's a question of recruiting allies. You might, if it was the then Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, you might want to get Camilla on board. It's about using subtle techniques to get your way."

Elsewhere in the episode, Valentine also reveals the incredibly “rude” comment that Prince Harry said to him and fellow members of the press during his tour of Australasia in 2018, and details the time that Prince William tried to set-up a meeting with Harry after learning of his unhappiness with royal life, and reveals why it never happened.

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