Queen’s top aide ousted in power strug­gle

Sunday News - - WORLD -

LON­DON The Queen’s most se­nior courtier was forced out in a power strug­gle be­tween Buck­ing­ham Palace and the Prince of Wales.

Sir Christo­pher Geidt, the Queen’s pri­vate sec­re­tary, left his post in July af­ter com­plaints by the prince and his brother, the Duke of York, sources said.

The un­prece­dented oust­ing – the first time the Queen has got rid of her pri­vate sec­re­tary – was the cli­max of in­creas­ing ten­sions be­tween the two royal house­holds.

It came amid dif­fer­ences over how to man­age the tran­si­tion of power be­tween the Queen, who is 91, and her eldest son.

Royal sources said the prince’s staff were keen to ‘‘ac­cel­er­ate’’ plans to in­crease his in­volve­ment in key royal events by the time he turns 70 in Novem­ber next year. The plans are re­ferred to in some cir­cles as ‘‘Project 70’’.

Clarence House, the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of Prince Charles, has de­nied the ex­is­tence of Project 70 and main­tains that the prince has never de­manded a more prom­i­nent role for him­self.

How­ever, ten­sions have been ev­i­dent for many years be­tween Buck­ing­ham Palace and Clarence House. These cul­mi­nated in July with the oust­ing of Geidt, who had been the Queen’s pri­vate sec­re­tary for 10 years.

Geidt, 56, has de­nied that he was forced out but is said to be feel­ing bruised over his treat­ment and thinks that the Queen failed to sup­port him.

A for­mer army in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer and di­plo­mat, Geidt has played a key role in the tran­si­tion to the next gen­er­a­tion of the royal fam­ily. He was awarded a sec­ond knight­hood in 2014 for his ‘‘new ap­proach to con­sti­tu­tional PHO­TOS: GETTY IM­AGES mat­ters . . . [and] the prepa­ra­tion for the tran­si­tion to a change of reign’’.

How­ever, he is said to have in­fu­ri­ated Charles af­ter a speech he gave to 500 royal staff in May. An­nounc­ing the re­tire­ment of the Duke of Ed­in­burgh from pub­lic life, Geidt called for the royal house­holds to unite in sup­port of the Queen. His man­ner was al­legedly re­garded as pre­sump­tu­ous by some within Clarence House.

Charles’s staff are said to have com­plained about his be­hav­iour to their boss. Both al­le­ga­tions have been de­nied by Clarence House.

‘‘Charles was told about this, was fu­ri­ous, and went to see his mother,’’ one source claimed.

The mes­sage was: ‘‘This is just not pos­si­ble, and Geidt has got to go.’’

Geidt was al­legedly told that his fu­ture was un­ten­able by Earl Peel, the lord cham­ber­lain.

Prince An­drew is un­der­stood to have thrown his sup­port be­hind his brother, help­ing to seal the courtier’s fate. ‘‘Prince An­drew deeply dis­likes him,’’ a source said. ‘‘The feel­ing is mu­tual.’’

It has been sug­gested that An­drew’s an­tipa­thy stems from the role played by Geidt in forc­ing him to step down as trade am­bas­sador in 2011 over his friend­ship with the con­victed sex of­fender Jef­frey Ep­stein.

An­other source sug­gested that An­drew dis­liked the fact that Geidt con­trolled his ex­pen­di­ture.

Geidt’s re­moval makes it more likely that the tran­si­tion will pro­ceed at a pace that meets with Charles’s ap­proval. The prince will take over the Queen’s estates, in­clud­ing San­dring­ham and Bal­moral, which are run by the Duke of Ed­in­burgh. Charles is thought to want San­dring­ham to go or­ganic.

A state­ment by Buck­ing­ham Palace, Clarence House and Kens­ing­ton Palace said: ‘‘We are not go­ing to en­gage with a story based on ru­mours from un­named sources.’’ The Times

Sir Christo­pher Geidt, the Queen’s pri­vate sec­re­tary, left, was re­port­edly forced to quit af­ter he an­gered Prince Charles, right.

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