Frances Campbell-Preston was recruited to the royal household at Clarence House in March 1965 when Sir Martin Gilliat, the Queen Mother’s private secretary, who had been imprisoned in Colditz Castle with her husband, Patrick Campbell-Preston, during the war, invited her to a drinks party.

The invitation to be a woman of the bedchamber to the Queen came “like a bombshell”, she recalled, “and I was left gasping”. As ever, she turned to her sister-in-law, the entertainer Joyce Grenfell, for advice, who told her that it would be hell: boring, tiring and impossible to escape from. On the other hand, her half-brother, Reggie Grenfell, Joyce’s husband, told her that it would be the perfect job.

Dreading that her new life might involve “oceans” of dry martinis,



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