Backstairs Billy: The Life of William Tallon, the Queen Mother's Most Devoted Servant
William Tallon, who died in 2007, was a shopkeeper's son from the Midlands who worked for the Queen Mother for more than fifty years and became her most trusted servant. Known as 'Backstairs Billy', he was charming, amusing, occasionally bitchy - and extremely promiscuous. As a child growing up in relative poverty in Coventry, Billy thought working for the royal family would be hugely glamorous. As a teenager he sent letters to the royal household begging to be taken on. It was a shock, however, when he found himself barely out of his teens and working for a family that had two very different sides. As far as the public was concerned, the royal family was a model of reticence. But Billy saw the other side of a family whose members loved drinking and smoking, swearing and playing sometimes cruel practical jokes on each other in private. They hated anything serious and were constantly making jokes at each other's expense. The Queen Mother was especially good at all this, according to Billy. This was partly because she had a great sense of fun and partly because, for the last twenty years of her life, she was dotty to the point of lunacy.Billy adored her and she adored Billy; perhaps because of his high-camp style and outrageous remarks about the well-born equerries, royal press people and advisers, but mostly because he made her gin and tonics just the way she liked them - nine-tenths gin and one-tenth tonic. Outrageously funny, scandalous, sometimes shocking, but always fascinating, this is the life story of one of the most original characters ever to have graced the royal household.
Tom Quinn is the author of London's Strangest Tales, Cocoa at Midnight: The Real Life Story of My Time as a Housekeeper, The Cook's Tale: Life Below Stairs as it Really Was and many more titles.