Queen's 'shrewd and charming' ex-private secretary to oversee Boris Johnson inquiry

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·5-min read

Watch: Labour: 'Someone is lying' over funding of PM flat refurb

Boris Johnson has appointed a former private secretary to the Queen to a government role, amid controversy about how his flat in Downing Street was refurbished.

Lord Christopher Geidt will act as an independent adviser on ministers' interests, and one of his first ports of call will be the questions raised over who paid for Johnson's flat to be redecorated after he took over as prime minister.

Lord Geidt previously worked for the Queen as her private secretary, and was in the role for 10 years until 2017. 

Lord Geidt was thought to be the person who would steer the ship after Prince Philip retired, bringing together the warring palaces of Buckingham, Kensington and Clarence House.

But he was reportedly forced out, with sources claiming he was ousted by Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge is met by Kings College Chairman Sir Christopher Geidt on her arrival for her visit to The Maurice Wohl Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), Kings College London in central London on January 24, 2018.   / AFP PHOTO / POOL / JACK HILL        (Photo credit should read JACK HILL/AFP via Getty Images)
Kate with Sir Christopher Geidt in his role as Kings College Chairman in London in January 2018. (Jack Hill/AFP)

Speaking about Lord Geidt earlier this year, former BBC royal correspondent Peter Hunt said a lot of the current royal issues date back to his departure.

Responding to the statement issued by the Queen after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah Winfrey, Hunt said: "A lot goes back to a couple years ago when they got rid of senior official Christopher Giedt, he made a key attempt to unify these warring palaces, he lost out in a palace coup.

"Since that time you have had these palaces briefing against each other.

"In the compiling of those 61 words, you will have had three dominant forces, two really, the people around the Queen and the people around Prince Charles."

Geidt was said to have the ability to "knock heads together" and has been described as "straight-talking".

His departure has been called the Queen's biggest mistake of recent years, though he did return as one of her permanent Lord-in-waitings in 2020.

Charlie Proctor, editor of Royal Central, wrote: "The power struggle is thought to have centred around the plans in place for when Prince Charles turned 70. The heir-to-the-throne wanted a much greater role in preparation of becoming King, however, it is understood Sir Christopher raised concerns.

"Prince Andrew backed his brother in this unprecedented row, helping remove Sir Christopher from his role as Private Secretary. Sources said that Andrew shared a great dislike to Sir Christopher in the same sense as his brother did."

He added: "One can’t help but wonder how much regret The Queen feels for not doing more to prevent the loss of Lord Geidt from her office. Since his departure, The Queen has appeared weak."

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 18: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 48 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Queen Elizabeth II leave Number 10 Downing Street (followed by British Prime Minister David Cameron and Queen Elizabeth II's Private Secretary Sir Christopher Geidt) after attending the Government's weekly Cabinet meeting on December 18, 2012 in London, England.  The Queen's visit to the weekly Cabinet meeting as an observer is the first time a Monarch has attended the meeting since Queen Victoria's reign. (Photo by Indigo/Getty Images)
Then-foreign secretary William Hague and the Queen outside Number 10 Downing Street, followed by then-prime minister David Cameron and Lord Christopher Geidt in December 2012. (Indigo/Getty Images)

A profile of Lord Geidt by royal biographer Robert Jobson in 2017 suggested that the Queen prized his advice above all others, because of his background in Army intelligence. 

While he appears to have started working in the royal household in 2002, Jobson said Lord Geidt had already played a key role in the royals as far back as in the years following the death of Princess Diana.

Jobson said: "In the background, Sir Christopher’s deft hand will control the delicate power balance within the rival Royal households.

"It is a role he has already played with aplomb. Following the death of Princess Diana, the future of the Monarchy seemed in peril, but through subtle recalibration he gradually transformed its fortunes, and secured its existence.

"Yet for one so powerful he frequently moves unnoticed, 'rather like a secret agent in a Graham Greene novel', noted one insider."

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 19: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Sir Christopher Geidt attends the wedding of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England. Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales marries Ms. Meghan Markle in a service at St George's Chapel inside the grounds of Windsor Castle. Among the guests were 2200 members of the public, the royal family and Ms. Markle's Mother Doria Ragland. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Then-Sir Christopher Geidt at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in May 2018. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

In 2013, The Guardian said of Lord Geidt: "Described by former colleagues as unflappable, strategically shrewd, modernising, suave and charming, Geidt caught the attention of the Queen in 2002 when he was appointed to her household as an assistant private secretary."

A former colleague told the paper he was "very proper, clipped and British with a regimental tie, but also with a touch of the spook about him". 

There has even been speculation before that Lord Geidt was an MI6 officer, with one MP in the Commons raising the question in 1989, after he had been present at a mission to see Vietnamese troops pull out of Cambodia.

He sued a journalist for suggesting he had been training the Khmer Rouge, the Communist Party of Kampuchea, which ruled in Cambodia.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 08: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex accompanied by Lord Christopher Geidt (former Private Secretary to Queen Elizabeth II) arrives to attend a panel discussion, convened by The Queen's Commonwealth Trust, to mark International Women's Day at King's College London on March 8, 2019 in London, England. It was announced today that The Duchess of Sussex has become Vice-President of The Queen's Commonwealth Trust, of which The Queen is Patron and The Duke of Sussex is President. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Meghan Markle with Lord Christopher Geidt at a panel discussion convened by The Queen's Commonwealth Trust to mark International Women's Day in 2019. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

But Buckingham Palace has previously declined to comment on the past work of Lord Geidt. 

Across his Army career he worked in Bosnia, Sarajevo, Geneva and Brussels. Since leaving the royal household, he became a crossbench peer, and a permanent Lord-in-waiting.

He also became the chairman of Kings College Council in 2016. He read War Studies at Kings before going to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, to read International Relations. 

He is married with two daughters.