Prince Philip and the Queen were 'synchronised' on royal engagements, says former staff member

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Watch: William and Harry won't be shoulder-to-shoulder at Prince Philip funeral

Prince Philip knew the role he had to play alongside the Queen and they were always synchronised on royal engagements, a former member of royal staff has said.

Sally Osman, former director of royal communications, admitted the Duke of Edinburgh's "direct" style meant staff had to bring their best work every time. 

Osman, who left the royal household two years ago, told Radio 4's Today programme: "I, like many royal household members, are feeling incredibly sad at the loss of his remarkable man, alongside great sorrow for the Queen and the family.

"This was a man of enormous presence, whenever he walked in the room you knew he was there. A man of great integrity, humour, I think probably several generations have been reminded just how remarkable he was and the incredible breadth and scope of his interests and commitments.

"You could never fail to be amazed as a member of the royal household, just how incredible his career and his life was and the impact he will leave."

Talking of that career, she mentioned the jewellery he designed for the Queen from his mother's tiara, noting that the engagement ring he made for her when she was still Princess Elizabeth was from the same piece of his mother's collection.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, react as they bid farewell to Irish President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina (not pictured) at Windsor Castle in Windsor, southern England on April 11, 2014, at the end of their official visit. - Higgins is the first Irish president to make a state visit to Britain since independence. (Photo by Leon NEAL / AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
The Queen and the duke after a visit with Irish president Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina (not pictured) at Windsor Castle in 2014. (AFP)

She said: "He designed the fountain garden at Windsor Castle, he had this incredible eye.

"He could be very direct and quite taciturn but he had this incredible artistic side, he was an artist in his own right he was trained by Edward Seago who taught him lots of techniques, he was a great acquirer of art, often buying from contemporary art shows when he was overseas.

"He had a creative side that I think had passed down the generations."

Asked about the potential difficulties of working for someone who could be "direct", she said: "You knew you had to deliver of your very best for the duke, the Queen, all members of the family, but with the duke there was an attention to detail, the meticulous nature of planning which goes into his engagements and other affairs which was enormous.

"You have to think of choreography of his last engagement in 2017, my colleague who managed that, the detail that went into that was phenomenal."

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Referencing how he worked alongside the Queen on engagements, she said: "The duke always knew the role he was expected to play wherever he was going. Watching them work together - they were so synchronised

"He would be making sure that people who maybe were not on the side the Queen was walking down would get attention.

"All members [of the Royal Family] are conscious that when they are meeting people it is about the people, it's not about them. 

"Watching him work a crowd was phenomenal. At a reception when a big laugh when up, you knew that's where the duke was."

Watch: 'We all miss you', Eugenie says in touching Instagram tribute to Duke of Edinburgh

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She said he and the Queen had an "excellent partnership" adding: "It was a true partnership where they know how to play to each other's strength, he was the leader of the family and we need to think of them, they have lost their leader."

However Osman refused to be drawn on the dispute between Princes William and Harry as the world watches them reunite for the first time in more than a year.

She said: "It's for the family to address themselves, privately. This is a family coming together to mourn a remarkable man and a remarkable life. We need to give them time to do what they need to do."

There has been speculation that someone like William's wife the Duchess of Cambridge or even Princess Eugenie, the princes' cousin, could act as a peacemaker between the brothers, who are at working through a rift in their relationship.

Castle employees pose during a photocall in the East Terrace Garden at Windsor Castle in Windsor on August 5, 2020. - The East Terrace Garden at Windsor Castle will open to visitors at weekends for the first time in decades from August 8. The large formal garden, overlooked by Windsor Castle's east facade, features beds of roses planted in a geometric pattern around a central fountain, and gives views across the surrounding Windsor parkland. The East Terrace Garden was designed for George IV between 1824 and 1826, to provide a pleasant view from his new royal apartments along the east front of the Castle. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
The East Terrace Garden at Windsor Castle, with beds of roses planted in a geometric pattern around a central fountain, most recently designed by Prince Philip. (AFP)

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Harry stepped back from his role as a senior royal and he and his wife Meghan Markle moved to the US where they did an interview with US chat show Oprah Winfrey.

Allegations of a racist remark made by someone within the Royal Family appeared to anger William who was forced to deny they were "a racist family" during the fallout.

Harry had expected to be back in the UK in July this year, where he would be reunited with his brother at the unveiling of the statue for their mother Diana, at Kensington Palace.

But the death of their grandfather Prince Philip has brought that planned reunion forward.

Harry will be without Meghan, while William will have support from his wife of 10 years, the Duchess of Cambridge.

It's also been reported that Eugenie, who is the younger daughter of Prince Andrew, has become something of a confidante over the years, and is said to be close to Harry and Meghan.

She is understood to be living in Frogmore Cottage with her husband Jack Brooksbank and their son August. The cottage, in Windsor, was a wedding gift for Harry and Meghan from the Queen.