As a butler for Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall from 2004 until 2011, as well as for Prince William and Prince Harry while they were living in the same household, Grant Harrold was privy to the inner workings of the royal family on a daily basis.
Grant was by their side through scandals and sorrows, over time becoming a confidant as well as a caretaker.
“As a butler, you know them as well as your family,” he says. “It’s funny, you think of it as a sort of 9-5 job, but you get to know them so well, you build up close relationships.
God, I probably knew the Prince of Wales and Harry better than some of my closest friends, because you’re around them all the time. You know their habits, their schedules; to an extent, what makes them tick,” he tells New Idea Royals.
Grant performed a number of duties, depending on what was required on any given day. ”As a modern-day butler, your duties are everything,” he says.
“Throughout my career I’ve had to do everything from shop errands to looking after children, answering the telephone, doing emails, and of course serving meals and that kind of thing. It’s very varied – not just standing in a corner until you’re summoned to pour the port!”
Unsurprisingly, the job was full of pinch-me moments – including dancing with Queen Elizabeth II at a ball at Balmoral Castle, and being invited to both Charles and Camilla’s, and Harry and Meghan’s weddings as a guest.
“At Prince Charles’ wedding, I remember thinking, ‘I’m actually here, living a dream.’ One minute I’d be standing there with the Queen or Beatrice and Eugenie and then a few minutes later I’d be next to Rowan Atkinson or another VIP.”
From boys to men
When Grant first entered the household, Harry was 20 and William was 22. As a result, Grant had a front row seat as the young princes found their feet as senior royals and adjusted to life without their mother.
“The William and Harry I knew were in their 20s so they weren’t really given that many duties,” he says. “They were good-looking young princes doing their very first jobs, if you like.
So now I see them on national TV and what they’re doing is amazing. To me, they’re still the same two boys, as we used to call them. Now they’ve got their own kids, which is so strange.
I’m not that much older than them but I still feel really proud. I look at William and Kate, and it’s amazing to think ‘There’s our future king and queen’, and they’re just doing such a good job of it.”
Joining the family in the aftermath of Diana, Princess of Wales’ death, Grant says that even though seven years had passed, her memory lived on through her sons. “It was a very personal thing for them,” he says. “Princess Diana always has been and always will be, as we all know, a huge part of their lives.
“So whenever I hear stories saying she was forgotten or this or that, it’s nonsense.”
Markle, Megxit and life in North America
As Harry and Meghan Markle leave behind royalty in favour of a “normal” life in North America, Grant admits he never anticipated the shocking move – and neither did the rest of the family.
“It caught me off guard because I never in a million years saw that coming,” he says. “When I heard the announcement I knew there had been a breakdown in communication.
You don’t have two statements from two royal households within an hour or so of each other. So I knew something bad was going on.”
Grant is sceptical about whether Meghan and Harry will be able to live any semblance of a normal life.
to have normality, it’s an impossibility. [But] I think they’ll use the celebrity status in order to achieve whatever it is they want to do.” He adds that despite the criticism they’ve received, it is “such a brave thing that they’re doing.”
Brothers at war
There’s no denying that Harry and William’s once-close relationship has deteriorated over the past few years – a fracture which will no doubt be exacerbated by Harry’s move to the other side of the world.
“For the last year I kept saying, ‘There’s no rift,’” Grant says. “And boom. Suddenly I’m the one that looks like a bit of an idiot, saying there’s no rift. But knowing them and knowing what they’re like, I think they will patch it up.