ROYAL SERVICE: My Twelve Years as Valet to Prince Charles by Stephen P. Barry
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ROYAL SERVICE: My Twelve Years as Valet to Prince Charles

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Prince Charles was ""the pleasantest of the Royals to work for""--and Barry, his valet from Charles' 21st year until after his marriage, hasn't done him a disservice now. (He left because he'd become ""superfluous,"" he says, not on account of a spat with Princess Di; but maybe ""she was a little relieved"" to be spared a pre-marital presence.) Like many another faithful servant, Barry admires his employers (the Queen's hard work, her natural ease, her bond with Charles)--and, larkishly, twits them. ""Any hiccup in the routine""--even a Sandringham fire drill--""is a divertissement in their lives."" But he has almost nothing offside to report: they never alluded to family embarrassments and Charles managed his own affairs ""with amazing discretion."" We do have brief profiles of the various tall, clear-complexioned, ""curvy"" blondes he favored--some of them ""candidates for the job"" (in servants'-hall parlance) who didn't last the course at Craigowan, the Prince's no-frills Scottish fishing retreat. In any case, it's the details (and asides), not the disclosures, that make the book fun. The members of the Royal family are not only ""fresh-air fiends to a man"" (with a penchant for cold, damp picnics), their favorite word is ""cozy."" Nowadays they serve themselves from ""hot-plates"" (though cleaning up is still taboo); and servants are no longer hired--as 18-year-old tyro Barry was, in 1966--on the basis of looks. Occasionally, he lets his sympathies show (Charles and Anne ""never got on that well""; boisterous Andrew and quiet Edward are ""chalk and cheese"") or voices an opinion (the Queen won't abdicate in Charles' favor, and he wouldn't want her to). Mostly, though, this is chat--dullish stretches apropos of Charles' endless trips, charming bits about the Royal Christmas and such. (If you send them a card, it will be ""truly appreciated."") An enchanting follow-up for the TV wedding guests.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1983
Publisher: Macmillan