he lowdown from Buckingham Palace, via the valet who's squawked: The Queen did not squelch the romance between Andrew and Koo Stark; she feels he's old enough to run his own life. The marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Di is not in trouble; my God, she's crazy about him, but more on that later. Diana is not pregnant, but, says Stephen Barry, in the tones of one who knows, he'll bet you she will be by fall.
"Somewhere on this Australian trip, they'll be stuck together in some old hall, or palace, don't you think so?" he was saying the other day over lunch in a hotel room in Manhattan, his linen napkin spread over his perfectly tailored lap. ". . . Now they've done Australia, they're doing Canada in July, actually I think there'll be an announcement sometime in September she'll be expecting very shortly, I'm going just on timing."
A long trip will do the deed?
"I should think so."
Isn't it dreadful how servants talk these days? Even worse than that, they write books. "Royal Service: My Twelve Years as Valet to Prince Charles," this one is called. The author claims a faulty memory when you ask him to cite advances, but his agent does not. "He's just trained to give a politic answer," she says. She's not. His book brought $181,000 on auction, the promotional budget alone is $75,000 and he's booked on a 22-city tour, telling everybody how to pronounce what he was for 12 years.
"VAL-it," he says, giving it the hard "T." " 'Val-AY' is parking."
Valet, on the other hand, rhymes with wallet--well, sort of. Which is why, you might say, Barry was at home the other day when the press came to call.
"Wel-come!" the voice comes up over the house phone at the Ritz-Carlton, friendlier than the friendliest steward on an Air Brit flight. And you needn't muck about trying to remember the room number--Barry comes to meet you in the hall. He takes your jacket and hangs it up just as if you were HRH himself, and when lunch arrives he spreads the napkin on a visitor's lap before arranging his own.
His collars are stiff, but he's not. The photographer wishes him to pose at the desk, make believe he's writing a letter home. "That's a good idea!" he says, "I'll make believe I'm paying my first tax bill!" The reporter wishes to snoop through his dresser drawers to see how neat he is; he'll be a fabulous sport. "The rubber dolls haven't arrived yet," he says, naughtily. His drawers are neat as a pin, by the way.
His style, once he is seated, is both intimate and gossipy. The meanings he can give to a one-syllable word, simply through tone, are a marvel. But it is finally--and perhaps this is an acquired skill with servants--the tone, the gestures, that say it all. The eyebrows skip to the top of the head, the eyes roll, the jaw slings to one side of an otherwise immobile face like the carriage of a typewriter.
Is the prince as much of a slob as the rest of us? he is asked.
"Is the prince . . . ?" he repeats, stopping short of the unsavory remainder of the phrase, as one might stop short of a mess on one's plate.
The eyebrows go up. They go down. A pause, as if considering. "Nooo," he says as if still considering, then, to finish it off firmly, in another key entirely: "No. He did have me looking after him, which helps keep him from being a slob. He's clean, but informal, but he's certainly not a tramp . . . I mean, he certainly gets dirty, gardening, shooting, things like hunting, but he's got terrific discipline, you don't see him wandering around the staff in pajamas and dressing gown . . . he won't, um, one of my favorite things is, this is really slobbish, I don't like shaving. He does. Twice a day. He's never really off duty. He doesn't take tomorrow off and say I'm going to be . . ."
"Of course, it is much easier to look after yourself if somebody is doing everything for you . . . I mean, he doesn't have to come in and turn on the hot water and hope the boiler doesn't break down and run a bath, he knows when he gets up in the morning and goes to that bathroom the bath is ready . . . it's no great effort to go into a bathroom, splash around, and get out, is there?"
He is 34, the same age, as he often notes, as Prince Charles, and he labored in the halls of Windsor for l7 years. He gave notice shortly after the royal wedding (not, he insists, because of bad blood between him and Diana, but we'll see about that), and even before the foot hit the pavement, he was taking so many calls about his memoirs that it was a running joke. ("Where's Stephen?" people would ask. "Oh, he's upstairs," someone would answer, "working on chapter fourteen.")
This is not to say the Palace was pleased about his project. It sent out a letter of warning reserving its right to sue (Barry had muddied the usual proceeding by never signing an agreement not to publish when he began at the Palace); the prince asked to read the manuscript and was given a copy (making no changes, Barry insists); an interested British publisher, according to Barry's agent, Lucianne Goldberg, was asked by the Palace not to go ahead. The Palace, Goldberg says, found nothing "objectionable" in the book, they just didn't want to set a precedent for servants who squawk. The prince himself, says Barry, called the book "harmless."
How not? One of the juiciest "personal glimpses" of Barry's life in the service that the press kit can provide is the time HRH had to pin some medals on some nearly topless ladies in Papua, New Guinea, and Barry saved the day by stringing together necklaces of safety pins. We also hear the future king's off-the-cuff comments about his mama ("The queen is very wise") and learn that when it's Christmastime, the family sits around in party hats. Little is learned of the prince's bachelor life; when something juicy pops up, it's gone almost as soon as it hits the page. ("Lady Sarah was popular with everyone, but she disappeared from the scene when she got anorexia," writes Barry and that's all we hear about that.) One can gather, however, reading through the lines, that he was a little mean to Lady Di. (He used to tell her, when she ate candy bars, she would get fat.)
Barry, discussing self-censorship, denies all.
"It really wasn't like 'Dynasty,' " he says. "People always say, 'Tell me about the intrigue,' but sad to say, the truth is always duller."
Nor does he reveal any naughty habits.
Did he ever see the queen loaded?
"The queen? She doesn't touch the stuff. Their guests might get slightly tipsy but they don't. They always have the advantage, you see. They're a very clever family."
He never undressed the prince when he was too zonkerooed to walk?
"The prince? He doesn't drink. He's not into alcohol. And he loathes smoking."
Is Princess Anne considered as much of a prune on the home front as she is over here?
"It's just that she's not covered in sugar all the time . . . It's not like Princess Diana, she was born into it and therefore she isn't out to impress that much. She's there anyway. People who marry in work much harder at establishing themselves."
Regarding the Royal Relationship; he says Diana is crazy about Charles--is he crazy about her?
"In a very English way . . . he's not a Latin lover . . . he's not going to go out on the balcony humming sonnets."
Is Charles nervous about Diana's clothing bills?
"He's starting to be."
On the subject of the servant-master relationship, Barry, one of six children from a working-class family, is somewhat more forthcoming.
"I saw the film 'Arthur,' " he says. "And I wish I was as good as John Gielgud . . . he treats Dudley Moore the way I felt I should have treated the prince but I never did. I wasn't smart enough or didn't have impeccable English or something . . . of course, it was a film, and real life is much duller, isn't it?"
He did not, he says, joke with the prince in quite the same irreverent style as Gielgud joked with Moore--the closest thing that he can recall is laughing with the prince over something on the telly, the prince watching, seated, Barry standing behind. But it is true, he admits, that as with Gielgud, a servant does have two sets of responses in life, one for the master, the other in one's head, to be shared with no one, or perhaps the staff in the back room.
"He'd be complaining about some silly thing, something not arrived when it was supposed to be, going"--dramatic reading--" 'Oh, dear' and you'd say to yourself, 'Well, sor-ry,' " says Barry, doing the thing with the eyes and the voice again. "Or, for instance, Princess Margaret goes out shooting with the Royals and she falls into a puddle and comes home soaking wet . . . you might, say,"--voice solicitous as warm milk--" 'Oh, you're all wet,' then you go back and you say to the others"--a smirk in the voice, and a roll of the eyes. " 'She fell in a puddle.' "
He left, finally, he says, because the prince's life changed, not because he didn't get on with Diana. They became great friends, he and Diana, he says. He was one of the few familiar faces she knew when she moved into the palace after her engagement. He was one of the first people to see that famous black de'colletage evening gown the night after her engagement was announced.
"She came to show Charles the evening they were going out," he says. "I just saw it and thought"--the eyes roll again--"She asked me what I thought and I said, 'Royal ladies don't wear black.' She said, 'Well, I'm not going to be royal for six months, so it's going to be okay.' I said, 'I'm sure it will be.' "
Was he sure?
The thing with the rolling eyes.
"No, of course, I wasn't."
A few months after the marriage, he gave notice. The thing of it, he says, wasn't Diana. The thing of it was, he had been replaced.
"The job I had--'Lady So-and-So's coming to dinner, arrange a nice romantic dinner,' 'Take bunches of flowers to the ladies'--that stopped," he says. "If there's a dinner now, his wife will go and talk to the chef . . . before he'd come through and watch telly; now he's with his wife and he doesn't say, 'How are you, Stephen?' He stays with his wife . . . in the old days, we'd go traveling and there were just the five of us, the prince, his private secretary, myself, the two policemen . . . now that would be extended to the princess, her maid, her hairdresser, two nannies for that baby . . ."
One gathers he doesn't care for the spectacle of himself surrounded by children?
He does that thing with the eyes one more time.
"Oh, no," he says. "Nooo. Can you imagine if Dudley Moore had a wife, and a lot of babies, running about the palace?"