At 93 years old, Her Majesty the Queen does not have an abundance of friends who can make her peal with girlish laughter, regale her with stories from showbiz parties or gossip conspiratorially about make-up, dresses, jewellery and grandchildren.
But Angela Kelly, the blonde 64-year-old dockworker’s daughter from Liverpool who is the Queen’s Personal Assistant, Adviser and Curator to Her Majesty the Queen (Jewellery, Insignias and Wardrobe), and the woman who single-handedly turned the Queen from frump to global style icon, offers all this and more.
She is her confidante, friend, one of the Queen’s ‘truly trusted’ and, according to some rather green-eyed royal staff, her ‘gatekeeper’.
So Her Majesty is forever popping over to twice-divorced Angela’s grace-and-favour house on the Windsor estate for a cup of tea. She speaks to her every day and defers to her on everything from fashion to the occasional birthday present for Charles.
Angela Kelly, 64, is the Queen’s Personal Assistant. But she also her confidante, friend, one of the Queen’s ‘truly trusted’ and, according to some rather green-eyed royal staff, her ‘gatekeeper’
She allows her to lend out the royal jewellery to the Duchess of Cambridge, run her day-to-day life and turns a determinedly blind eye at all the feathers Angela ruffles in the royal household.
All of which helps explain why, in an unusual move, Her Majesty has given her personal support to Angela’s new book — The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen, The Dresser And The Wardrobe.
It is unprecedented for the Queen to support any book written by a member of the royal staff, let alone one revealing — and illustrated with never-before-seen photographs — details of their private moments and their unparalleled bond, which started as employer and employee and turned into something so much closer.
In a rare interview in 2007, Angela described their relationship.
She has been noted as the woman who single-handedly turned the Queen from frump to global style icon. Pictured: Her Majesty and Prince Philip in 2015 for the unveiling of the refurbished New Street Station in Birmingham
She said: ‘We have a lot of fun together. The Queen has a wicked sense of humour and is a great mimic. She can do all accents — including mine.’ She added: ‘I don’t know why the Queen seems fond of me — because I don’t give her an easy time! I do think she values my opinion, but she is the one who is in control.’
The Queen certainly adores her.
Once, in 2004, when Her Majesty was trying on a new frock made by Angela in the royal apartments, she looked up at their reflection in the mirror and exclaimed: ‘We could easily be sisters!’
The comment, overheard, flew around the palace, because in background — and temperament — they couldn’t be less similar.
Angela grew up in a terrace council house in Liverpool, still has a Scouse accent and is the daughter of a dock crane driver and a nurse. She is twice divorced with children and grandchildren, and her rise to become one of the most powerful figures at court is all the more astonishing because she only arrived in royal service by chance.
It all started in 1992 when she was housekeeper to the then British Ambassador to Germany, and a former driver with the Women’s Royal Army Corps.
The Queen and Prince Philip came to stay during a visit to Berlin. They began chatting and Angela told them of her plans to return to Britain. Soon after, she received a Palace job offer.
She started in 1993 as a dresser. Within three years she was senior dresser and, in 2001, became the Queen’s first ever personal assistant, accompanying her on foreign visits and travels to Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham and Balmoral.
Today, she is solely responsible for how the Queen looks in public.
She even makes many of Her Majesty’s clothes herself — including the lemon-yellow outfit she wore to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
She is also Her Majesty’s self-appointed protector. But sadly, neither her zeal in protecting the Queen, nor her extraordinary influence, have won her many friends.
It all started in 1992 when she was housekeeper to the then British Ambassador to Germany, and a former driver with the Women’s Royal Army Corps. The Queen and Prince Philip came to stay during a visit to Berlin. They began chatting and Angela told them of her plans to return to Britain. Soon after, she received a Palace job offer
She once joked: ‘There’s no more room in my back for knives!’
Some fellow royal staff have reportedly found her self-important, controlling and too eager to meddle in staffing matters.
There was, for example, an unfortunate incident in 2014 when, one chilly night, the Queen’s much-loved Sri Lankan maid, Melani Dimple, forgot to fill the royal hot water bottle.
Naturally, the Queen filled it herself, but joked to Angela about it and, suddenly, after five years as a housemaid at Buckingham Palace, that was the end of poor Melani.
She wasn’t the only one. There have also been a number of unseemly flare-ups between Angela and colleagues, all of which the Queen has chosen to ignore.
Many insiders put her influence down to the growing void in the Queen’s friendship group. If you’re a robust 93, you expect to lose some friends, but the Queen’s inner circle has been plundered terribly in recent years with the deaths of two more of her bridesmaids — Margaret Rhodes and Lady Elizabeth Longman, the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury — and her great, close, friend, ‘Porchy’, the 7th Earl of Carnarvon, to name a few
One unfortunate episode occurred on an investiture day at Buckingham Palace when, witnesses said, she ‘went berserk’ and threw a bag of rubbish at a woman in the catering department because her lunch had arrived late. But the most extraordinary incident involved a fight with housemaid Hannah Coullet, 20 years her junior, whom Angela accused of seeing her then boyfriend, royal pastry chef Tony Ferrirole (who later resigned).
Apparently, royal protection officers had to pull the two women apart as they grappled on the ground at the servants’ entrance to the palace.
The Queen isn’t daft and famously misses nothing, but still she did nothing. Perhaps she enjoyed the drama. More likely and wisely, she dismissed it as a private domestic matter.
Her Majesty on stage during the Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012
Whatever, she wasn’t going to lose Angela over it. Because personal friendships are incredibly important to the Queen. They are built on trust and are an escape from the endless ‘royal’ in her life. As one of her aides once said: ‘The Queen likes people from the real world.’
Angela is certainly that. Some say she moved into the vacuum created by the death of the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother in 2002.
Many insiders put her influence down to the growing void in the Queen’s friendship group. If you’re a robust 93, you expect to lose some friends, but the Queen’s inner circle has been plundered terribly in recent years with the deaths of two more of her bridesmaids — Margaret Rhodes and Lady Elizabeth Longman, the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury — and her great, close, friend, ‘Porchy’, the 7th Earl of Carnarvon, to name a few.
Anyway, she loves Angela, will not hear a word against her and will do anything to keep her happy — whether dishing out a gong (she became a member of the Royal Victorian Order in 2007), sanctioning a book or just turning a blind eye to a bit of juicy drama.
Angela is certainly a talented woman. More importantly, though, she makes the monarch roar with laughter.