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About the Film

Want to work for the royal family?

Britain's Royal Family is always in the public eye, but the legions of loyal helpers who toil in their palaces and castles are rarely seen or heard from. Now, a new film by Montreal documentary maker John Curtin tells some of their stories.  SERVING THE ROYALS: INSIDE THE FIRM, takes us behind the scenes, where 1200 men and women cater to royalty's every whim. They iron the Queen's bed sheets, polish Philip's riding boots, squeeze Charles's toothpaste onto his toothbrush and walk the royal corgis. Privy to the monarchy's most intimate secrets, they are its biggest asset and greatest liability.

In SERVING THE ROYALS, Curtin, director of After Elizabeth II: Monarchy in Peril and Chasing the Royals, reveals a fascinating world behind the palace doors, where staff works long hours for low pay. From nannies and butlers to chefs, footmen, body guards and private secretaries, round the clock they labour, often thanklessly, to keep the monarchy humming.

'Mums the word' – in fact they are sworn to secrecy - but they see and hear almost everything. It's all in a day's work for royal employees who get face time with the Windsors in exchange for cramped living quarters and paltry wages.

Princess Diana with Paul Burrell

"I wanted to tell the stories of some of the people who keep "The Firm" running behind the scenes," says filmmaker John Curtin, "and take a look at the sometimes fascinating relationships they have with their masters." (Listen to an interview with director John Curtin)

As we see in SERVING THE ROYALS, strong personal relationships often do develop between the royals and their servants. William Tallon, the Queen Mother's most trusted servant for 50 years, was a wizard with a drink. The witty and flambouyant 'Backstairs Billy' plied his aging boss with gin and champagne "to keep her smiling".

And Paul Burrell, personal footman to the Queen before becoming butler to Charles and Diana, witnessed the scandalous breakup of the Wales' marriage at the closest of quarters. In SERVING THE ROYALS, he explains how he smuggled Diana's lovers into Kensington Palace in the trunk of his car and buried the miscarried baby of a friend of the princess in the palace garden ...

But are those close relationships ultimately illusory?  While palace staff is sworn to silence, some have not been above betraying their masters, "spilling the beans" for cash or notoriety. And when that happens, or there is a falling out for any other reason, the servant's fall is sudden and dramatic. They are immediately booted from the palace, cast aside and shunned as persona non grata.

William Tallon with the Queen's corgis.

Princess Diana was critical and sometimes deeply jealous of the nannies who took care of her boys. One nanny's crime: William and Harry had grown too close to her and the nanny once referred to them as "my babies." Diana even suspected the nanny of having an affair with her husband.

SERVING THE ROYALS: INSIDE THE FIRM is written, directed, edited and produced by John Curtin in association with CBC-TV.

Also on CBC