Dozens of staff in huge retinue will be on the dole and out of a home

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The Independent Online

Dozens of members of the Queen Mother's staff, who tended to her every need despite the strain on her finances, are coming to terms with the prospect of redundancy.

Some of the longest serving are likely to be retained by other members of the Royal Family but the remainder will be forced to leave.

While a few are likely to seek to exploit their CV by moving abroad to work for wealthy Americans, who prize the royal connection, others will end up swapping a palatial workplace for the dole queue.

The Queen Mother, who – even by royal standards – lived in the lap of luxury, had a large overdraft because her annual £643,000 allowance from the Civil List did not come close to covering her staff costs.

With a staff totalling 83, the size of her entourage put the most extravagant Hollywood celebrities to shame. Depending on the outing, the Queen Mother would be accompanied by between 20 and 40 staff and Buckingham Palace seldom knew how many people she had taken with her. She employed 50 people at her home in London, Clarence House, including a dresser, a personal housemaid, a brace of footmen, a page, a chef, ladies-in-waiting and an equerry.

The remainder of her staff worked at her three other homes – the Royal Lodge in Windsor, Birkhall country house on the Balmoral estate in Scotland and the Castle of Mey overlooking the Pentland Firth.

At the Royal Lodge, where the Queen Mother went for weekends – and where she died – she employed a steward with assistants, two chefs, two housemaids and a head gardener with two helpers.

If, as expected, the Prince of Wales moves into Clarence House with his two sons from their apartment at nearby St James's Palace, he is likely to re-employ the oldest-serving of the house's staff, such as chef Michael Seale and page Lesley Chappell. Also likely to be retained is Billy Tallon, 66, the head of the Queen Mother's household, also known as the Page of the Backstairs – or "Backstairs Billy", in royal circles.

Staff facing change will take little comfort from events after the death of Princess Margaret. Ten of her staff were made redundant and ordered out of their rent-free apartments at Kensington Palace.

Two of them were reportedly offered alternative posts in the Royal Household but one, butler Harold Brown, was thought to be reluctant to work for Princess Michael of Kent.

The staff made redundant after Margaret's death are believed to have been earning between £18,000 and £25,000 a year. The Royal Family has a reputation as a mean payer – last year a salary rise from £9,000 to £14,500 was introduced for junior porters, housemaids and coachmen.

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