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Friday, 24 December, 1999, 19:41 GMT
Queen's confidant dies

Lord Charteris was with the Queen through much of her early reign

The Queen has led tributes to Lord Charteris,of Amisfield, her former private secretary, who has died at the age of 86.

Lord Charteris, who once infamously referred to the Duchess of York as "vulgar, vulgar, vulgar", died at his country home in Wood Stanway, Gloucestershire, on Thursday.

A confident to the Queen in the early years of her reign, he had been suffering from liver cancer.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the Queen had been informed of the death of her former aide and was "very sad at the news".

The peer had been with the Queen at some of the important moments in her life - from the death of her father, George VI, to her coronation.

Wicked sense of humour

Despite his closeness to the Queen, he was not afraid to speak his mind about members of the Royal family.

As well as his comment about the Duchess of York in a 1995 interview in The Spectator magazine, he also described the Prince of Wales as "whiney" and the Queen Mother as "a bit of an ostrich".

The blunt comments were typical of a man who seemed to epitomise the self-confident frankness of the old aristocracy.

He was a man known for his old-fashioned noble bearing, which hid a wicked sense of humour.

Well-connected and schooled at Eton and Sandhurst officers' college, he freely admitted that his appointment to the then Princess Elizabeth's household was "an act of pure nepotism".

He said: "There was no vetting, no security clearance, no board interviews.

'Deeply saddened'

"In fact, years afterwards, when it was too late, it was realised that I had never signed an Official Secrets document."

Not that the oversight seemed to matter - despite being privy to the secrets of the Royal family, he remained scrupulously tight-lipped throughout his life.

After retiring from the Royal household in 1977, Lord Charteris returned to Eton as Provost.

He became chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Trust, where he gained reputation for charming money out of government departments.

He was also president of the Prayer Book Society.

Prayer Book Society chairman Anthony Kilmister said Lord Charteris would be hugely missed.

"We are all deeply saddened," Mr Kilmister said.

Lord Charteris leaves a wife and three children.
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