Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Royal Book Challenge: Royal Service by Stephen P. Barry

Published 1983
246 Pages

In the canon of royal tell-alls written by former staff members, Royal Service is rather tame. I would even go as far as to say it is somewhat dull.

Stephen P. Barry served as a valet to Prince Charles for 12 years. Published in 1983, Royal Service recounts his travels with the prince, maintaining his wardrobe, and looking after his day to day needs. 1970s era Prince Charles does not smoke, drink, go wild parties and hates chocolate pudding with nuts. He also loves polo, fishing, opera, a particular brand of honey and he is dedicated to his work (clearly very little has changed in 32 years). With so little material to work with, there are no scandals or juicy revelations that would make Royal Service more compelling to read. It reminded me of another, more famous royal tell-all, The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford, in both tone and old-fashioned level of discretion.

It is only when Barry delves into the princes personal relationships that things become somewhat more interesting. He writes about his friendships with Lady Tyron and Camilla Parker Bowles, and his various royal girlfriends, including Diana. Although Barry departed royal service after Charles and Diana married, he tries to make clear that his departure was voluntary and amicable. Barry was obviously fond of the prince, saying very little negative about him or any other member of the royal family. Although he portrays Diana positively, some of his anecdotes leave me with the impression that he was being diplomatic.

Barry followed up Royal Service with Royal Secrets: The View from Downstairs in 1985 (which I do not own and have not read). He died in in London in 1986 at the age of 37, reportedly from AIDS.

© Marilyn Braun 2015

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