[imagesource: Instagram/The Royal Family]
We’ve all seen the outside of the palace, and people gather in the thousands every time the Royal Family stand on that famous balcony, but few really know what goes on inside Buckingham Palace.
Staff are generally encouraged to stay tight-lipped, and loyalty is key, not unlike the upstairs/downstairs world of Downton Abbey.
Enter Darren McGrady (below) who worked as the palace chef from 1982 until 1993, before moving to Kensington Palace to cook for Princess Diana, William, and Harry until 1997 when he left service.
He now lives in Texas and told INSIDER about his experience living and travelling with the Queen and her cohort.
The Queen’s former chef said living in Buckingham Palace was just like “Downton Abbey” because the male and female staff quarters were segregated.
“We had the male kitchen wing, the female kitchen wing, the footmen’s floor, the housemaids’ floor, and you weren’t allowed on the different floors.
“If you were a chef or a footman and you were trying to sneak up to the housemaids’ floor and you got caught, you were in serious trouble. Everyone was segregated, it was the done thing.
That wasn’t the only rule staff had to follow. If you lived at the palace you were allowed to receive guests, but they had to be out of the building by 10PM.
Princess Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, once said: “If you multiply ‘Downton’ by 100, that’s Buckingham Palace”.
“The TV people should do a series, ‘Downstairs at the Palace,’ it would be phenomenal,” he added.
“It’s a village, a world of its own … the cherry on the cake is Her Majesty at the top of it all.”
McGrady says living at the palace was like staying in a hotel. All meals were provided and apart from your job, you don’t really have to do anything else.
“Being a servant there, we had our own room but you never even made your own bed in the morning. Each floor had its own cleaning lady that would come in and make the beds, change the towels, give you soap,” the former royal chef said.
“It was like a hotel, an institution. You can see why people stayed there for 30 years or more, because you were given everything you needed. What you were paid was just pocket money,” he added.
Staff also had their own bar with “hugely discounted” drinks, a snooker room, and a dining room for chefs.
Another perk of working for the Queen was access to the royal household social club.
Whenever the staff would travel to the Queen’s holiday estates (Windsor, Balmoral, and Sandringham) they would organize group activities including discos, bingo nights, fancy dress parties, and ceilidhs (traditional Scottish dance).
Sometimes the Royals would even make an appearance.
“We had discos, and I was the resident DJ,” McGrady said.
“We had so much fun. Once I was spinning the discs at Balmoral, and Princess Diana and Fergie came down, they heard the noise and music and came down to see what it was. One of the footmen, I think, invited them jokingly.
“They only stayed a few minutes, but I spun the discs!”
The Queen was also known to get involved in the festivities every now and then.
“We arranged a ceilidh, with a local band once every trip [to Balmoral],” McGrady added.
“Once a trip there’d be a fancy dress [party] where the Queen would come down and judge, so the Royal Family really got involved with these things.”
If you want to learn to cook to the Royal standard, McGrady says that there’s a massive difference between cooking in a restaurant and cooking for the Queen, where everything is made according to her specific tastes.
If you want to try your hand at it, the palace has shared its recipe for Victoria Sponge Cake.
Apparently, the Queen hates garlic.
Take that along to family trivia night.
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