One of the lessons coming out of the explosive new book about aides who work for the British royal family is that temperamental, entitled and even boorish behavior towards employees may run in the family.
At least that might be the case with Prince Harry, who could have learned learned that it’s OK for someone in his position to be short-tempered and demanding with staff by watching his father, King Charles III, at work.
Excerpts from Valentine’s Low’s book, “Courtiers: the Hidden Power Behind the Crown,” published over the weekend in the Times UK, allege that the Duke of Sussex behaved rudely and petulantly around aides, even before he married Meghan Markle, who was accused in a Buckingham Palace complaint of bullying staff during her time as a working royal.
Low writes that Harry distrusted palace courtiers, was obsessed with the media, subjected his staff to “loyalty tests” and was mired in frustration about own role in the royal family. “After Meghan turned up, it got significantly worse,” Low adds.
That’s when, Low reports, Harry allegedly joined Meghan, his then fiancée, in subjecting a young employee to a barrage of angry phone calls and berated Queen Elizabeth II’s longtime dresser, Angela Kelly, for not making one of the queen’s tiaras immediately available to Meghan for a fitting ahead of her 2018 wedding. Through her attorneys, Meghan has denied the bullying allegations first made by Low in March 2021.
According to Low, Harry would not have learned such behavior from his grandmother, who was known for running a “convivial” household and for “putting Harry in his place” after he spoke rudely to Kelly.
In an excerpt of Low’s book, published Monday, Charles comes across as similarly temperamental, as well as uncaring about employees’ boundaries. Charles also is known to get easily frustrated, especially with the media, to throw things and to go “from 60 in a flash,” Low added.
“Charles is a demanding boss,” Low writes. “Working for him is not a nine-to-five job.”
Charles’ temper shouldn’t surprise the public, who saw him twice on TV after Queen Elizabeth II’s Sept. 8 death, getting visibly impatient over a malfunctioning pen and inkwells getting in his way. While signing a guestbook toward the end of his visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, Charles became increasingly aggravated about a leaking pen.
“I can’t bear this bloody thing!”: King Charles’ signing ceremony at Northern Ireland’s Hillsborough Castle made one thing clear – even royalty can’t escape the frustration of an inadequate pen. pic.twitter.com/nzygNTLslX
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 13, 2022
“I can’t bear this bloody thing,” the new king declared while a camera was rolling. He then stalked out of the room. In that moment, he was hardly serving as a role model of statesmanlike behavior.
if Charles is known to be a demanding boss, calling his aides at all hours, some excuse his behavior because he is so hard-working, according to Low.
“He is never satisfied with himself, or what he has achieved,” a former employee told Low. “He has enormous stamina. He was demanding in that he is always working. Seven days a week. … At any moment he may want to call you about something. Working on his boxes, on his ideas, on his papers. The pace is pretty intense.”
“He would drive people hard,” the employee added. “He was full of ideas, always asking people to go and do things. The workload as private secretary would be immense.”
With this relentless pace, staff also have to deal with two other issues, according to Low. First, there’s competition amongst employees to please the boss, which has resulted in “a lot of backstabbing” in the fashion of “Wolf Hall,” insiders told Low. Like Harry and Meghan, Charles also has become known for a high staff turnover, working with five different private secretaries in the span of seven years.
Charles’ tendency to fall under the sway off questionable outsiders also creates problems for aides, Low writes. These outsiders want to guide Charles’ thinking on his various pet topics, from architecture to organic farming, rainforests to the media.
Charles also hasn’t shown himself to be the best judge of character when it comes to some of these outsiders. Among other things, he took advice on media relations from TV personality Jimmy Savile, who, after his death, was revealed to be serial sexual abuser.
In the past few years, media reports have depicted Charles as pampered and spoiled, needing his household staff to do everything for him: Ironing his pajamas and shoelaces, making sure his bathwater is suitably tepid and squeezing the precise amount of toothpaste onto his toothbrush every morning.
Perhaps these complaints about Charles have nothing on Harry and Meghan’s employees calling the Duchess of Sussex “a narcissistic sociopath,” as Low’s book recounts in his book.
Some of Charles’ former employees also downplay the harm his outbursts have caused by saying they are never personal or directed at any one person, Low writes. He’s also known to rein himself in and is said to be OK when employees stand up to him.
Dickie Arbiter, his former press secretary, said Charles once yelled at his private secretary in his presence. Arbiter said to the courtier, loud enough for Charles to hear, “If anybody talked to me like that, I’d tell them to bugger off.” Charles’ response was a “slight flicker of a smile,” and he backed off.
It’s too soon to say whether Low’s book, which will be published in the U.K. on Oct. 4, contains passages about boorish behavior by Prince Andrew. As The Sun and other outlets have reported, Charles’ disgraced younger brother has long known to be “notoriously rude to staff.”
“He’s been incredibly rude to his personal protection officers, literally throwing things on the ground and demanding that they (expletive) pick them up,” a source told The Sun in 2019. “No social graces at all.” That year, Andrew flew into such a rage at a top palace aide that Charles had to step in and insist his brother apologize.
Aside from the queen, the other family member who has thus far escaped complaints about bad-boss behavior is William, the Prince of Wales. Perhaps, as a future king, William learned from his grandmother that he can more easily win aides’ loyalty and nurture their hard work if he treats them with respect.
Low reports that William has created an official office with people from different backgrounds and a work-life balance. He didn’t want to just hire employees who went to elite private schools, like he did, so he checked that his new hire for a press relations job graduated from a comprehensive high school. He also told staff that suits are no longer mandatory attire at Kensington Palace, unless they were attending an important meeting.
“This is where my family lives,” William told his staff. What they wore did not matter. “You are going to do a professional job.”