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Backstairs Billy: The Life of William Tallon, the Queen Mother’s Most Devoted Servant: your 90 second summer reading review



For the eight-hour flight to London, I thought why not read something easy to pass the time instead of the usual history or biographies I read. Figured let’s see how sensationalised the story of Backstairs Billy: The Life of William Tallon, the Queen Mother’s Most Devoted Servant by Tom Quinn was. Why not waste just a meager amount of money on a book I already knew I had my reservations.

The Queen Mother at the North Woolwich museum Royal opening, in November 1984.

The Queen Mother at the North Woolwich museum Royal opening in November 1984.

Sheer waste of money and time. In fact, I opted to read my back issues of BBC History Magazine that were taking up space on my Kindle. Decided I would finish the book when I returned as perhaps I was tired from sitting on a plane or the time change was getting to me.

I always try to find something positive about a book, even if I find it dreadful to read. I did attempt to find a positive when I returned from my holiday and finished the book. The positive about this book, it was short and able to be read in a few hours.

The book was short and actually may have been better off as a series in one of the gossipy type periodicals. The theme played over and over was how devoted, and sex-crazed William Tallon was and basically how much The Queen Mother drank.

In the beginning, I imagined this might not be such a terrible story. A young lad leaves Coventry to better himself and becomes employed with the Royal Household. It sounds like a nice biography right? It then took a turn into a story of a sycophant whose recounts of events that transpired during his time in service to The Queen Mother seemed a bit of a stretch. Tallon consistently overstepped his bounds working for the Queen Mother so many occasions. Whether it be inserting himself when his employer was photographed, inviting his one night stands over to Clarence House to shag or being somewhat of a sexual predator on the younger male staff. Tallon really got away with behaviour unfit for someone working in the Royal Household. He intimidated people and used his position to become famous, but only in his mind.

Tallon would die five years after The Queen Mother. He left royal service after her death and moved to Kennington, where he spent his days at the local pub telling his tales of his time at Clarence House. He was afforded a funeral at The Queen’s Chapel at St James’s Palace.

If you are a fan of the gossipy style of books that are published about the Royal Family, then this is the perfect book for you. Now where is that latest issue of BBC History?

Photo credit: Graham Smith via Flickr