British Monarchy

Kensington Palace: An Intimate Memoir from Queen Mary to Meghan Markle

The palace has been described as a royal menagerie, a hive of industrious freeloaders, an ant heap and even a lunatic asylum. Tom Quinn takes the reader behind the official version of palace history to discover intriguing, sometimes wild, often scandalous, but frequently heart-warming stories.

Biteback Publishing, 2020

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The Reluctant Billionaire

When Gerald Grosvenor, sixth Duke of Westminster, died in August 2016 he was one of the world’s richest men, his fortune estimated at just under £10 billion. Yet he hated his wealth and spent long periods suffering from severe depression.

Tom Quinn interviewed the sixth Duke on a number of occasions as well as people who knew the duke socially or had at various times worked with or for him. He discovered a complex man tortured by what he saw as his failures. The book looks at the long and often eccentric history of the Grosvenor family and its wealth and the complex means by which that wealth has been shielded from the taxman, as well as the bizarre life of a man who was that strangest of things: The Reluctant Billionaire.

Biteback Publishing, 2018

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Mrs Keppel: Mistress to the King

For Alice Keppel, it was all about appearances. Her precepts were those of the English upper classes: discretion, manners and charm. Nothing else mattered – especially when it came to her infamous affair with King Edward VII. As the King’s favourite mistress up until his death in 1910, Alice held significant influence at court and over Edward himself.

Drawing on a range of sources, including salacious first-hand eyewitness accounts, bestselling author Tom Quinn paints an extraordinary picture of the Edwardian aristocracy, and traces the lives of royal mistresses down to Alice’s great-granddaughter, the current Duchess of Cornwall. Both intriguing and astonishing, this is an unadulterated glimpse into a hidden world of scandal, decadence and debauchery.

Biteback, 2016

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Backstairs Billy

From humble beginnings as a shopkeeper’s son in Coventry to ‘Page of the Backstairs’ at Clarence House, William Tallon, or ‘Backstairs Billy’ as he came to be known, entered royal service at the age of fifteen. Over the next fifty years, he became one of the most notorious and flamboyant characters ever to have graced the royal household – the one servant the Queen Mother just could not do without. While others came and went, he remained by her side, becoming one of her most trusted friends and confidants.

The fascinating life story of the man who spent more than half a century working for one of the world’s most elusive institutions, Backstairs Billy provides a rare glimpse of what the royals really get up to behind closed doors…

The Robson Press, 2015

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Cocoa at Midnight

Kathleen Clifford was born in 1909. Her family lived in a tiny flat near Paddington Station and her earliest memories were of the smell of horses and the shrill whistle of steam trains. For a girl from the slums there was only really one option once school was over – a life in service. She started work on 1925 as a lowly kitchen maid in the London home of Lady Diana Spencer’s family. Here she heard tales of the Earl’s propensity for setting fire to himself, as well as enjoying the servant’s gossip about who was sleeping with whom. The Spencers were just the first in a line of eccentric families for whom she worked during a career that lasted more than thirty years and took her from a London palace to remote medieval estates. But despite long hours, amorous butlers and mad employers, Kathleen always kept her sense of humour and knew how to have fun.

Coronet, 2013

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The Cook’s Tale

Nancy Jackman was born in 1907 in a remote Norfolk village. Her father was a ploughman, her mother a former servant who struggled to make ends meet in a cottage so small that access to the single upstairs room was via a ladder. Nancy left school at the age of twelve to work for a local farmer who forced her to stand in the rain when she made a mistake, physically abused her and eventually tried to rape her. Nancy continued to work as a cook until the 1950s, sustained by her determination to escape and find a life of her own.

Coronet, 2012

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They Also Serve

During more than thirty years in a variety of houses, Bob Sharpe managed to rise from garden boy to valet and butler.As a boy he had to kill pheasant chicks, boil rabbits for the estate dogs, carry the wood up and down stairs every day for thirty fires and sleep on the floor outside his master’s room. He cleaned shoes, ironed underwear and socks and once had to stand all night in the hall waiting for a late visitor to arrive.But as a butler he was the best paid servant in the house, waited on, feared and respected by the other servants.Bob Sharpe knew the real world of upstairs downstairs and the secrets of the landed gentry – even to the point of incest and attempted murder!

Coronet, 2012

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The Maid’s Tale

Born in 1910, Rose Plummer grew up in an East End slum, where she and fought an unending battle with hunger and squalor. At the age of fifteen, Rose started work as a live-in maid, and despite the poverty of her childhood, nothing could have prepared her for the long hours, the backbreaking work and the harshness of a world in which servants were treated as if they were less than human.

But however difficult life became, Rose found something to laugh about, and her remarkable spirit and gift for friendship shines through in her memories of a now-vanished world.

Coronet, 2011

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