RICHARD KAY: Toughest gig yet for top aide who put Queen in a parachute
When the Queen appeared alongside Daniel Craig in the televised James Bond gag for the opening of the 2012 Olympics, there was amused chatter in living rooms up and down the country at the bare-faced cheek of it all.
But within royal circles the humour was much more knowing.
For the man who signed off on the skit, in which a lookalike of the Queen parachuted from the night sky into the London stadium, was Her Majesty’s highly regarded private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt, whose past suggests a nodding acquaintance with 007’s secret service world.
Now Lord Geidt, the former Buckingham Palace courtier, will need all those skills of derring-do as he grapples with Westminster’s most incendiary political hot potato – as the Prime Minister’s ministerial standards adviser.
Lord Christopher Geidt, the former Buckingham Palace courtier who signed off on the 2012 Olympics skit where a lookalike of The Queen parachutes out of a helicopter, is to take on a new role as the Prime Minister’s ministerial standards adviser
The very first job in his in-tray will be to probe the funding of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat refurbishment.
The cross-bench peer has been tasked with ‘ascertaining the facts’ over the scandal surrounding the redecoration costs of the flat Mr Johnson lives in with fiancée Carrie Symonds and their son Wilfred.
A political storm over the cost of the decor and who paid for it simply will not abate despite the Government’s efforts. In turning to Lord Geidt, Mr Johnson has placed the issue in the hands of one of the most impartial and scrupulous figures in public life.
But Geidt will be no pushover. As a friend of the 59-year-old peer says: ‘Christopher possesses a rigorous mind and when he’s under pressure he knows how to resist it.’
Fifteen years at the Palace – ten as the monarch’s most senior aide – has hardened him to dirty tricks and chicanery. His term at the Queen’s side ended with him being forced out after an apparent power struggle with the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York.
But Geidt will be no pushover. As a friend of the 59-year-old peer says: ‘Christopher possesses a rigorous mind and when he’s under pressure he knows how to resist it.’ Pictured: Sir Christopher with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
It came in 2017 amid differences over how to manage the transition of power between the Queen, who was then 91, and Prince Charles.
According to insiders, Charles wanted the plans accelerated while Geidt favoured what he called a ‘gentle succession’. For his part Andrew was said to have objected to Geidt’s attempts to control his expenditure.
Matters were not helped after Prince Philip’s retirement when Geidt told a mass meeting of royal staff they had to unite in support of the Queen. Figures close to Charles complained that his manner was presumptuous.
‘After some pretty nasty battles with the royals he understands all the tricks of the Establishment and with his “spook” background he can see through them,’ says Geidt’s friend.
All the same the former Army intelligence corps officer will have to keep his wits about him. Even before he was confirmed in the job there was speculation he was going ‘wobbly’ about the position, something No 10 was forced to deny.
The cross-bench peer has been tasked with ‘ascertaining the facts’ over the scandal surrounding the redecoration costs of the flat Mr Johnson lives in with fiancée Carrie Symonds and their son Wilfred
As the Queen’s closest male confidant after Philip – a position that required not just discretion but the highest level of vetting – he not only acted as the daily conduit between the Palace and Downing Street, but also had access to summaries of MI6 intelligence.
His past had included suggestions of involvement in and around the secret services. When he was wrongly accused of working for the SAS in Cambodia, questions were raised in Parliament as to whether he was a member of MI6.
In 1991 Geidt, won ‘substantial’ damages from Central Television and journalist John Pilger, who had claimed he was secretly engaged in the training of the Khmer Rouge.
Born in London, Geidt was educated at private schools in Oxford and Scotland and studied at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
After joining the Scots Guards, he was invalided out of Sandhurst and began working for the Royal United Services Institute before taking a commission in the Intelligence Corps.
That experience made him a natural choice as secretary to the UN’s special envoy to the Balkans based in Sarajevo at the height of the brutal Bosnian war.
He was said to favour wearing cricket whites as his ‘uniform’ allowing him to travel on both sides of the front line.
‘He was always popping up and disappearing again,’ recalled one colleague at the Office of the High Representative, set up to implement the 1995 peace treaty where Geidt’s job was often to liaise with bloodthirsty Bosnian Serb leaders.
In 2002 he was recruited to the royal household. His suave and steely charm soon caught the eye of the Queen and he was swiftly promoted. Knighted twice during his royal years, Geidt received a peerage on his retirement.
Away from politics and the palace, Lord Geidt, a father of two, runs a sheep farm on the Isle of Lewis where his mother’s family comes from, and five years ago took a sabbatical to work the land there. Dealing with Downing Street decor could not be more different.
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