Quiet man at the Queen's side who let slip palace secrets

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The Independent Online
Martin Michael Charles, Lord Charteris, 81, one-time Keeper of Her Majesty's Archives, probably knows more royal secrets than anybody alive, but has never before been so indiscreet as in today's Spectator.

He enjoys a place at the heart of the Establishment. " I am an aristocrat," he said in the same magazine, "which is why there were few qualms about entering Royal Service since the Palace smelt exactly the same as my grandmother's house: beeswax and flowers."

Grandson of the eleventh Earl of Wemyss, he was just three when his father was killed in the First World War. He went to Eton and Sandhurst, was commissioned in the King's Royal Rifle Corps in 1936, and achieved a distinguished war record. In 1949 he wasinvited to join the Princess Elizabeth's household. "Choosing me was an act of pure nepotism," he cheerfully admits.

"I knew Jock Colville, her then secretary, who wanted to return to the Foreign Office, and my wife was friends with Alan Lascelles, the King's private secretary.

"There was no vetting, no security clearance, no board interviews. Nothing like that. In fact years afterwards when it was too late, it was realised that I had never signed an Official Secrets document."

He has admitted that he took three weeks before accepting. "You should always hesitate, and then say `yes'.''

Lord Charteris confessed: "I simply fell in love with her when I met her. She was so young, beautiful, dutiful, the most impressive of women."

He was the man quietly at the Queen's side at all the most important moments of her life: in Kenya when her father, George VI, died, he helped her through the Coronation, organised her tours and triumphs, and wrote the funnier bits in her speeches. He s

a ys that in 1977, "I sensed it was time to move on. I'd been with her a long time and I never wanted to read a Cabinet paper again or organise another African tour".

Lord Charteris became Provost of Eton, where during a sermon in College Chapel he reminded one and all that the purpose of the school, according to the founder Henry VI, was to educate a class of people capable of governing the country.