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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

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Royal revelations

For 50 years, William Tallon served the Royal Family, rising through the downstairs ranks to become the Queen Mother's most loyal servant, her confidant and trusted friend.

Billy Tallon photo
Billy Tallon taking the royal Corgis for some exercise

He was devoted her; she defended and protected him – even when he sneakily brought a former rent boy home to Clarence House.

“Wasn't it nice of him,” she is reputed to have said, “to invite that young man back into the house when it was raining so hard outside.”

Had the man known as Backstairs Billy not existed in royal circles he would have to have been invented by a paperback novelist. He was a flamboyant, naughty, temperamental, party-loving, theatrical.

They say he ruled the roost in the upstairs, downstairs world of the Queen Mum’s house.

He mixed killer drinks for his mistress and is said to have been referred to by the Queen Mother as “The other old queen.”

Of the likes of him, hugely entertaining royal gossip is made. And Backstairs Billy: The Queen Mum’s Butler (Channel 4) was a full hour of hugely entertaining royal gossip.

He was loyal and forever discreet.

In spite of huge cash offers to spill juicy beans of tittle-tattle, he never broke a confidence or spilled a secret.

The film explored Tallon's life and career, with access to his private photographs (including off-duty pictures of the Queen Mother), notes from the Queen Mother and Diana and interviews with those who knew him well. There was gossip too of the regime he ran and the outrageous parties he hosted.

But not everyone loved him. Even as he mourned the death of his beloved Queen Mother, he was bundled out of the palace, ending up alone and disappointed in a small Kennington flat.

Suggestions in this film were that palace officials, who resented his power, had set out to discredit him.

True or not... it wouldn’t have been the first time.


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