Inside Queen Elizabeth's Relationship With Dressmaker And Confidante, Angela Kelly

Being a monarch can be a lonely business. After all, the weight of an entire realm is on one's shoulders when one reaches the top. Queen Elizabeth II became queen at the relatively young age of 25, a darn sight younger than her son King Charles III, who took over at 73. Elizabeth was always known as a particularly tough sovereign, and one that largely managed to avoid direct scandal throughout her reign (although the same can't be said for the other senior royals). Elizabeth always kept her private life as private as possible, but behind closed doors, the queen shared deep relationships with a few select personal aides who she relied on for council, entertainment, and companionship. Among her closest confidantes was her dresser, Angela Kelly.

Kelly may have technically been an employee, but her relationship with the late monarch went far beyond that, with the pair forging a solid friendship that lasted over three decades. By all accounts, their friendship blossomed and was built on a solid foundation, despite their differences. But it wasn't always smooth sailing for Kelly. From secret codes to book deals and a secrets ban enforced after Elizabeth's death, let's take a look at what their bond was really like and just how a crane driver's daughter became best friends with the queen of England.

They really made each other laugh

To the public, Queen Elizabeth II looked like a stoic, stiff-upper-lip sort of monarch. While she was always pleasant and had a smile on her face, her subjects rarely got a glimpse at her true sense of humor, or how she really viewed the world. If these accounts of her relationship with Angela Kelly are anything to go by, Elizabeth really let her guard down when they were together, and one of the best parts of their relationship was how they made each other laugh. Royal artists Rob Munday and Frances Segelman both spent time with the pair on different occasions and told Hello! just how well the queen and the dressmaker got on. 

Munday, who was the mastermind behind a holographic image of the late monarch, explained: "The rapport between Angela Kelly and the Queen was unbelievable and you could just see the connection they had with each other. The Queen just totally trusted Angela to do whatever." Munday also commented on the banter between the two women. "It wasn't like a particular joke or anything like that, they just had this way of making each other laugh." Segelman further echoed Munday's statements in her own summary. "It was like you [were] talking to your best friend. That's what it was like between them; she was her closest confidante," Segelman said. Kelly was present when both of the artists created their works on the queen, as she often was in any important situation.

The queen loved Angela Kelly's no-nonsense nature

It's easy to assume that given Angela Kelly's extremely privileged position at the right hand of Queen Elizabeth II that she may have been born into an affluent background. After all, many of Elizabeth's other aides were members of the British aristocracy, including her ladies-in-waiting Dame Mary Morrison and Lady Susan Hussey. However, Kelly couldn't be further from the crème de la crème of high society if she tried. Born in Liverpool to a crane driver and his wife, Kelly was one of six children in a modest working-class home.

They were from extremely different backgrounds, with Elizabeth being one of the most famous monarchs in the world who had never known anything but palaces and sprawling country estates. Despite their vast differences, it was Kelly's no-nonsense nature that reportedly drew the queen to her, according to the author of "The Queen: 70 Years of Majestic Style" by Bethan Holt. "Angela doesn't suffer fools, and part of her appeal for the queen is that she isn't afraid of her," said Holt (via the Evening Standard).

In an interview with The Telegraph in 2007, Kelly put it best: "Years ago, the queen kindly invited me to listen to her conversations with her designers, Sir Hardy Amies and others, and give my opinion. Well, asking a Scouser to give an opinion is dangerous, so I told her straight." Elizabeth clearly took kindly to Kelly's attitude, even if many other sovereigns wouldn't.

Queen Elizabeth II made sure Angela Kelly was set up for life

Although the pair were very close, there was no denying that Queen Elizabeth II was substantially older than Angela Kelly. Elizabeth became queen in 1952, but Kelly wasn't born until 1957. That being said, Elizabeth would have been well aware that there would come a time when her beloved dresser would have to find her way in the world without her. Never one to let a good deed go unnoticed, Elizabeth thought so highly of her friend that she made sure Kelly would always have a home.

During her time with Elizabeth, Kelly inhabited a quaint cottage on the Windsor estate, but shortly before King Charles III's coronation, she left the homestead. Many wondered what had transpired, as Elizabeth's promise to Kelly of lifelong accommodation seemed concrete. As it turn out, she was gifted a house of her own by Charles who hadn't forgotten what his mother wanted. In response to a comment left on her Instagram page (via the Daily Mail), Kelly explained: "I'm moving to the Peak District just further on than Sheffield so not too far away from the family." Charles reportedly bought his mother's dresser a home that she can live in until the event of her death, after which the property will revert back to the Crown. It isn't known why Kelly had to leave the Windsor estate, but it looks like she's happily moving on to new pastures.

Queen Elizabeth II had a code for visiting Angela Kelly

Angela Kelly wasn't just a companion for Queen Elizabeth II during official engagements, but a friend. When they were at Windsor, Elizabeth would tell her staff she was just "stepping out for a bit" which really meant she was going to see Kelly, according to the Evening Standard. It may be difficult to imagine what the pair would chat about, but in her interview with The Telegraph, Kelly stated it was "anything and everything." 

"We are two typical women. We discuss clothes, make-up, jewelry ... but we also have a lot of fun together. The queen has a wicked sense of humor and is a great mimic. She can do all accents — including mine." Though it may be hard to imagine Elizabeth in that light, it was apparently true.

These intimate visits prove that the relationship between Kelly and Elizabeth was far more than a professional one. If Elizabeth took it upon herself to go out of the castle and down to Kelly's cottage, it proves that there really was a special bond between them. Just "stepping out for a bit" was an open code to everyone — if one should need the monarch, they would know exactly where to find her ... gossiping with her dresser over a cup of tea. Queens can't venture out to coffee houses or even for dinner when they want to, so this private refuge likely meant a great deal to Elizabeth.

Not everyone liked the queen's dresser

While Angela Kelly and the queen may have been close for years, a book written by one of Prince Philip's friends released after his death claims that Kelly wasn't well-liked by everyone. Sometimes, being the queen's favorite actually worked against her when it came to popularity in the palace. According to Gyles Brandreth, Kelly didn't "always go down well" with some staff members finding her "a nuisance." The book, titled "Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait" was serialized in the Mail Plus, sparking great interest among the public. It's not often we get an insider's perspective on what goes down behind closed royal doors.

According to Brandreth, Kelly's main rivals in the palace were Queen Elizabeth II's aristocratic ladies-in-waiting, who couldn't seem to bond with her. "The dresser was from a quite different background to theirs, and irritated some at court with her no-nonsense Northern manner, her easy access to the Queen and her effortless familiarity with her," Brandreth explained in his book (via The Sun). "They particularly resented the way Kelly felt able to step out of line to adjust the Queen's clothes or drop a word in her ear at what they considered to be inappropriate moments." This certainly isn't the only tail of troubled waters between Kelly and another member of the queen's inner circle, but more on that later ...

Angela Kelly became the queen's carer toward the end

When Angela Kelly was initially hired by Queen Elizabeth II in the early 1990s, the monarch was fit and able, although not exactly young. While Elizabeth stayed in good health for many years, old age began to catch up with her in the last few years of her life. When the queen's health started to deteriorate in 2022, Kelly moved into Windsor Castle to help her get around, proving that she was prepared to go above and beyond her duties for her friend. Elizabeth kept Kelly close at hand, according to The Sun, which stated the dresser was staying in a private suite right next door to the monarch's private apartments.

Although much frailer in her later years, Elizabeth went to great lengths to convince the public there was nothing wrong. In the book "Our King," author Robert Jobson detailed just how important it was to the queen to appear strong and able during the 2022 Platinum Jubilee celebrations. "On her insistence, a military-style exercise was put in place so that no one could see she was having to use a wheelchair," wrote Jobson (via the Daily Mail). "At the Palace, she was wheeled right up to the balcony doors, then helped to her feet so that she could stand — with the aid of a walking stick — alongside Charles and Camilla, plus William and his family." Given her situation, Elizabeth likely relied on the help of Kelly a considerable amount.

Angela Kelly took her job very seriously

We know that Angela Kelly was Queen Elizabeth II's dresser, but what exactly did her job entail? Aside from helping the queen dress, Kelly was also in charge of Elizabeth's extensive jewelry collection. Considering the British royal family has some of the most valuable pieces in the world in the vaults, this is not something that would have been handed over to Kelly lightly. According to Prince Harry in his memoir "Spare," Kelly took her job so seriously that it caused him and Meghan Markle some serious issues in the lead-up to their 2018 nuptials.

The queen's grandson claimed that Elizabeth advised Meghan to practice trying on her chosen tiara before her wedding day. Harry and Meghan attempted to follow that advice, with Harry stating that he tried to arrange the delivery of the tiara with Kelly several times. "She was being obstructive, obviously, but for what reason? We couldn't even hazard a guess," the prince explained in his book (via Newsweek). "I considered going to Granny, but that would probably mean sparking an all-out confrontation, and I wasn't quite sure with whom Granny would side. To my mind, Angela was a troublemaker." When Kelly did appear with the tiara, she brought a release form with her for the couple to sign, proving that she took her duties very seriously indeed, regardless of who she was dealing with. Needless to say, Harry isn't a fan of his granny's best friend.

The dresser was part of the HMS Bubble during lockdown

2020 was a bizarre year for the entire world and the British monarchy wasn't exempt from the rules set out by England's government. In order to stop the spread of Covid-19, the public was instructed to create a "bubble" with a select group. This even applied to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who were classed as vulnerable due to their age. The royal couple retreated to Windsor Castle to ride out the majority of the coronavirus pandemic, avoiding London.

Angela Kelly was among a few trusted members of staff that were part of the queen and Prince Philip's isolation bubble, nicknamed the "HMS Bubble." Kelly spilled the tea on what it was like during that period in one of her books, explaining that the queen even allowed staff to use the swimming pool. In an updated version of her memoir, "The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen, The Dresser And The Wardrobe," Kelly wrote that she also became Elizabeth's hairdresser when she was forced to reduce staff. "The queen was so kind as she advised me on the very specific way to put the rollers in," she wrote (via the Daily Mail). "As I grew in confidence, I'm sure the queen thought I was a professional and started shouting at me: "Don't do that, do it this way. That's right, you've got it, don't change it." Kelly even did Elizabeth's hair prior to her annual Christmas address that year.

The queen gave Angela Kelly permission to write a book about her

Discretion is valued above all else when working for the royal household, which is why staff members are required to sign an NDA. When working in such close proximity to the royal family, it's probable that secrets would be overheard, but never, under any circumstances, shared. However, Angela Kelly was granted special permission by Queen Elizabeth II herself to write and release a book chronicling their friendship. This news was deemed extraordinary given the strict rules around the queen's staff, but it served to prove just how highly regarded Kelly was. 

"The Queen has personally given Angela her blessing to share their unparalleled bond with the world," Kelly's publisher HarperCollins explained (via the Daily Mail). "Angela Kelly is the first serving member of the Royal Household to have been given this extraordinary permission. Whether it's preparing for a formal occasion or brightening Her Majesty's day with a playful joke, Angela's priority is to serve and support." Amazingly, Elizabeth didn't give Kelly permission to write one book, but three. In fact, Elizabeth was so behind Kelly's written endeavors that she even turned up to the launch of "The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen, The Dresser And The Wardrobe" in 2019, something she wouldn't do for just anyone. There are books written about Elizabeth and the monarchy every day, but Kelly had the incredibly rare royal stamp of approval.

King Charles III has put a secrets ban on Angela Kelly

When Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022, Angela Kelly experienced a lot of change. Not only did she no longer have her primary job, but she lost one of her closest friends, and eventually, her home at Windsor. For the first time in decades, Kelly's life was experiencing somewhat of an upheaval, but as previously mentioned, King Charles III gifted her with a new home for life. However, the gift reportedly came at a cost. 

When arranging her new home, Charles had allegedly put a secrets ban on Kelly, preventing her from divulging any more of the monarchy's intimate matters. This came after Charles felt Kelly revealed too much in the updated version of "The Other Side Of The Coin: The Queen, The Dresser And The Wardrobe."

According to a report in the Daily Mail's sister publication the Mail on Sunday, Kelly was asked to sign an NDA in exchange for the property. This came after Charles was irked by a section in the memoir that described his mother following the death of Prince Philip. Among other things, the NDA allegedly stops the former dresser from mentioning the palace, the king, and other terms relating to the monarchy. This could largely scupper Kelly's plan for another book, but as she has prior written permission from Queen Elizabeth II, the battle may not be over. The queen's best friend hasn't finished telling her story just yet.