Michael Fawcett’s service to the royal family began in his late teens, when the accountant’s son from Orpington, Kent, became a footman to the Queen in 1981.
The Prince of Wales is once said to have remarked: “I can manage without just about anyone, except for Michael.” The 58-year-old’s resignation as chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation – the umbrella group for the prince’s charitable interests – is his third since he began working alongside Charles.
Promoted to sergeant footman and then assistant valet to the Prince of Wales, he was summoned to explain why three other members of staff were resigning in 1998. A chauffeur, equerry’s assistant and valet had complained that Fawcett was using his closeness to Charles to “throw his weight around”. He duly resigned, but was back a week later, and promoted to the prince’s personal assistant, described by Charles as “indispensable”. At the end of 2000, he was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order, awarded to those who give “distinguished personal service” to the monarchy.
In 2001, Elizabeth Burgess told an employment tribunal that Fawcett had once referred to her as “fucking [N-word] typist”. The black former secretary to the prince said she told a senior staff member about the incident, but “we all knew that the prince adored Michael and would not listen to anyone else so there was no point in making a complaint because nothing would be done about it”. The tribunal dismissed her claim for constructive dismissal and ruled that she had failed to prove any of the allegations she had made about her treatment while working at Highgrove.
In 2003, Fawcett was at the centre of an international media storm when he sought an injunction to prevent the Mail on Sunday publishing a story involving him and the prince. The Guardian successfully appealed for the right to report that Fawcett had obtained an injunction, although it had no intention of repeating the initial claims, which were widely considered ill-founded.
Later that year, Fawcett was further embroiled in controversy when he was accused of selling unwanted royal gifts and pocketing a percentage of the proceeds. His role was organising the Prince of Wales’s social diary, but he became known as “Fawcett the Fence” for his role in selling off official gifts.
He was cleared by an internal inquiry of any financial misconduct, although the report painted a picture of Fawcett as an alleged bully who accepted valuable gifts from outsiders.
He quit the royal household, but continued to enjoy the prince’s patronage as a freelance fixer and party planner. He left with an undisclosed cash severance package as well as an agreement to work as the Prince’s events manager.
Fawcett set up an events company, Premier Mode, in 2006, alongside his wife, Debbie, a former royal housemaid. He served as chief executive of Dumfries House, and was then promoted to head of the Prince’s Foundation in 2018, reportedly earning £95,000 a year.