Alicia Healey

The day I danced with the Duke of Edinburgh

[Getty Images]

I started working for the royal family in a temporary role at Balmoral Castle, Her Majesty the Queen’s residence in the Highlands, in 2006. I spotted an advert on my university careers website and thought it might be a good summer stop-gap job until I found something more permanent. I must have made a good impression as, three months later, I found myself one of a few staff members returning to London on the royal flight with HM and her troop of corgis. Buckingham Palace was then my ‘home’ for the next four years.

I remember my first morning there — the changing of the guard was taking place in the forecourt, and they were playing a Beatles medley, the 1960s sounds reverberating up to my tiny bedroom at the top of the palace. It was a novelty to start with, having this live band outside my window every other day (every day in the summer). A less welcome noise came from the rehearsals for occasions such as Trooping the Colour or the state opening of parliament, which would take place in the early hours of the morning when the streets were empty; the sound of the horses and carriages rippling down the Mall at 4 a.m. would always wake me.

The Ghillies Ball was a highlight of the social calendar for staff whenever we returned to Balmoral. It was a chance for us to let our hair down and have the opportunity to dance with the royal family. The Pipe Major held ceilidh classes once a week for us so that we could brush up on our Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeant. The royals were enthusiastic Scottish dancing pros, so we wanted to feel confident in their company, should we find ourselves Stripping the Willow with them.

‘I can’t imagine having four children.’

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