10th February 2020

Environment Harry and Meghan: Who are the royals’ most powerful aides?

Environment Harry and Meghan: Who are the royals’ most powerful aides?


environment Meghan and Harry with advisers

The Queen has agreed a “period of transition” as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex search for a new role in the Royal Family.

With a final decision expected in the coming days, the family’s most senior advisers are now involved in negotiations. So, who are they?

Environment Harry and Meghan

Private secretary: Fiona Mcilwham

Fiona Mcilwham is the newest of the private secretaries advising members of the Royal Family. She now finds herself at the centre of plans to develop an entirely new way of working for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Joining their team in August 2019, she described herself on Twitter as a “Crown servant, diplomat, wannabe super-mum”.

She previously held a variety of senior diplomatic posts, including ambassador to Albania, and was a senior adviser on EU enlargement.

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Fiona Mcilwham previously held a variety of senior diplomatic posts

Private secretaries are the royals’ most powerful aides. They offer advice and guidance on political, diplomatic and constitutional issues and currently occupy a crucial position in an unprecedented time for the monarchy.

As Ms Mcilwham was appointed directly by Prince Harry and Meghan, she is likely to have their trust and confidence in terms of what happens next.

In these uncertain times, her role could become increasingly influential as significant decisions are made.

Communications secretary: Sara Latham

Appointed less than a year ago, Sara Latham is the duke and duchess’s front-line media contact. She has already had to deal with a whirlwind of issues, such as their split from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charitable foundation and legal action against various newspapers.

Also handpicked by Prince Harry and Meghan, she has swiftly become influential.

Communications secretaries manage the press and information the Royal Family put out. But although her official brief is to deal with the media, it is also likely she will be offering the duke and duchess personal advice.

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Sara Latham previously worked on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign

Thought to be a dual US-UK citizen, Ms Latham worked for then President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s and was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign.

In-between, she was a special adviser to Baroness Tessa Jowell, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and more recently spent time as a managing partner at PR agency Freuds.

Her transatlantic contacts and communications experience no doubt appealed to Prince Harry and Meghan and will become especially important now they intend to forge a new role for themselves in North America.

Environment The Queen

Private secretary: Sir Edward Young

One of the most senior and influential members of the royal household is the Queen’s private secretary.

Sir Edward Young is expected to “steady the ship” in times of trouble, from within an institution that favours stability and continuity.

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Sir Edward Young (right) welcomes Prime Minister Boris Johnson to Buckingham Palace following his election victory

He is viewed as the most senior figure among the group of private secretaries. And he is helping to guide and advise the Queen on a future role for Prince Harry and Meghan that will keep everyone happy.

According to the Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s private secretary is also “the channel of communication between the head of state and the government”. And that is not just in the UK but also the 15 other countries that recognise the Queen as their sovereign.

Sir Edward joined the royal household in 2004 and worked his way up from more junior private secretary positions. He was previously head of communications at broadcaster Granada and an executive at Barclays.

He has held this role since 2017, when he succeeded Christopher Geidt. Prior to his departure, there were allegations of a “power struggle” between Lord Geidt and the Prince of Wales, who was said to be wary of any change that might reduce his involvement in his key causes such as combating climate change.

Communications secretary: Donal McCabe

Donal McCabe became the Queen’s communications secretary last year.

The former corporate communications director at Ladbrokes is a veteran of the communications sector, having occupied similar roles for the London Underground, Railtrack and Boots.

Environment Charles and Camilla

Private secretary: Clive Alderton

Clive Alderton spent many years as a Foreign Office diplomat, with postings in Poland, Belgium, Singapore and France.

He first worked at Clarence House in 2006-12 before becoming the UK ambassador to Morocco.

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Clive Alderton with the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince of Wales

In 2015, he rejoined as principal private secretary to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

He is a key figure in helping Prince Charles plan what kind of monarch he wants to be, as he increasingly takes on duties that would normally fall to the Queen.

Communications secretary: Julian Payne

Julian Payne was the BBC’s director of communications and more recently held a senior role at Burberry.

He has the sometimes difficult job of making sure the work of Prince Charles receives attention in an environment where there is often a keen focus on the younger royals.

Environment William and Kate

Private secretary: Simon Case

Working as private secretary to the Duke of Cambridge, who will one day be King, requires an eye to the future.

Simon Case is a key adviser in the Cambridge household as they come to learn more about what is expected of them diplomatically and constitutionally.

With the Queen increasingly less disposed to travel, their role – and consequently Simon Case’s role – will become increasingly important.

He is also involved as the duke and duchess continue to develop their mental-health projects and other charity work.

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Simon Case became Prince William’s private secretary in 2018

Mr Case is a career civil servant, with stints at the Ministry of Defence and on the London organising committee of the 2012 Olympics.

He later served as then Prime Minister David Cameron’s private secretary.

Mr Case was also responsible for overseeing Brexit negotiations around the Irish border, before becoming Prince William’s private secretary in 2018.

The Duchess of Cambridge had her own private secretary, Catherine Quinn, but she is thought to be leaving the role.

Communications secretary: Christian Jones

Prior to joining Kensington Palace last year, Christian Jones was a speech-writer and press secretary for David Davis when he was Secretary for Exiting the European Union.


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