On Duty with the Queen: My Time as a Buckingham Palace Press Secretary by Dickie Arbiter

I’ll wash…you dry!

Many have wondered what it would be like to be at the epicenter of the Royal family whilst being privy to the establishment’s most intimate and private moments but very few will experience the reality of such a privileged position. Equally many can’t imagine sharing washing up duties with the Queen yet Arbiter accounts such an occasion in his book.

Former Palace press secretary, Dickie Arbiter worked within the walls of our Palaces for 12 years and his memoirs provide a candid and affectionate insight into our Royal family, their private moments and his first hand experiences of some of the happiest and hardest times our Royal Family have experienced.

‘On Duty with the Queen’ gives a fascinating and humanising view of this most private yet well-known and admired British family including, what are evident to be, preciously  held memories of times spent with the Queen or as he calls her, ‘the boss’ along with the Duke of Edinburgh whom he affectionately refers to as ‘the double act’.

Commonly when a book written a Royal employee is released, many expect shocking revelations or salacious details; however, if you are looking for intrusive details or scandal you won’t find that here and this book may not be for you.

What resonates throughout the book, through Arbiter’s accounts, is his deep admiration and affection that developed not only for those members of the Royal family as his employers but also for the monarchy itself. Surprisingly my interest was equally held by Arbiter’s own life story including his transition from newsman to courtier.

This book provides behind-the-scenes insights into some of the most sensational Royal news stories that graced the front pages. I was gripped by the rare glimpse these memoirs give as to the truth behind the often inaccurate headlines from someone who was there in the thick of the action including his front row seat during ‘annus horribilis’ and being instrumental in the arrangements for the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales. Arbiter delicately deals with these moments in history; however, he avoids passing judgement and he focuses on clearing up misconceptions and provides an understanding of the well-oiled machine that is the Royal press office.

The photographs in the book adds further credibility and provenance to the accounts given. Royal anecdotes more add a respectful glimpse rather than a backbone to the book.

It remains to be seen what ‘the boss’ thinks of this book but it does fill some gaps in our knowledge in a positive and an affectionate way with what appears to be great care not to break confidences or to say too much. Despite saying this, some accounts are gripping and take you on an enjoyable journey into Arbiter’s life, before, during and after holding his role as Press Secretary for our Royal Family.

Dickie Arbiter will be appearing at the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival on Thursday 7th July at 3.30pm. Click here to book.

Jo-BroadheadJoanna Broadhead is a senior associate in Family, Children and Divorce at Raworths LLP.