Kate Middleton's Private Secretaries Have Been Quitting. Here's What They Are Expected To Do

Landing a job working for the British royal family is a dream come true for many professionals, whether it's toiling away in the kitchens as a chef or driving them to destinations as a chauffeur. However, like with most industries, there's one job that's prized more highly than any other: being a private secretary to one of the most senior members. Private secretaries are the most trusted aides in the House of Windsor and are responsible for a plethora of things. Without them, the Firm just wouldn't work, but this is no regular secretarial job. 

Those lucky enough to be in this position can't be afraid of hard work, and they can't simply duck out when the clock strikes 5 p.m. It's a multilayered, multifaceted, and sometimes all-consuming role that isn't for the faint of heart — which may explain why Princess Catherine struggles to keep a private secretary. Over the past five years, the Princess of Wales has seen two secretaries leave her side — Catherine Quinn who served for just two years before leaving in 2019, and Hannah Cockburn-Logie who lasted roughly the same amount of time before leaving in 2022. Now, rumors are swirling that Cokburn-Logie's supposed replacement, Alison Corfield, has rejected the job offer.  

It begs the question: How hard is being a private secretary to Catherine, and what ridiculous tasks does the job entail that's making it so hard to fill? Let's find out. 

Princess Catherine's private secretaries have total control over her diary

Although Princess Catherine was a busy bee before she became Princess of Wales, her calendar is only likely to become even more frenzied. There are so many things to do, meetings to attend, and engagements to honor. It would be far too much for Catherine to organize herself. Just like a CEO of a high-flying business, she has someone to handle her diary and make sure that she gets to where she needs to be on time. That person is her royal private secretary. If you thought it was difficult getting the kids to school on time while also having to cook dinner and work your own nine to five, imagine just how packed Catherine's calendar is. 

Not only does she have three children to look after, but she has a million other things to do for the good of the realm. Scheduling conflicts happen with any big job that requires a lot of attention, so Catherine's private secretary would have to be incredibly skilled at timekeeping and being organized. If they aren't organized or if they drop the ball, it could have some very embarrassing (and very public) consequences for the Princess of Wales. 

We have yet to see any headlines about Catherine not turning up to events, so it appears to be a very well-oiled machine that hasn't malfunctioned yet. That's a testament to the ability of Catherine's trusted team! 

They have to be on hand to accompany her to public events

As anyone that's ever watched anything pertaining to the royal family knows, public engagements are a big part of what they do. Not only do they officially open places like hospitals and such, but simply getting out and about keeps them at the forefront of public consciousness. After all, their adoring subjects are essentially what keeps the House of Windsor in business. While it's a necessary part of the job, it's not always an easy task. 

In 2022, Princess Catherine attended a whopping 90 engagements, but that's part of what being a senior royal really means. Catherine would never complain about it (after all, she's the epitome of grace), but she would likely be the first to admit that these events are made a lot easier by having her private secretary on hand. 

Catherine's private secretary has to be by the princess' side while she greets well-wishers and undertakes her duties for a number of reasons. If there's anything Catherine needs, the secretary is right there. That includes taking care of the gifts given to her (as pictured above, with assistant private secretary Natalie Barrows handling flowers and cards) or simply making sure everything runs smoothly. It's also the secretary's responsibility to give her a run-down of who she will talk to throughout an event, i.e. what they do, who they are, and how they should be addressed. After all, it wouldn't do to shake hands with someone and not have the faintest clue who they are.

They must be incredibly educated and experienced

Though we wish it were easy, even getting considered for the private secretary role is beyond difficult. Catherine's private secretaries don't just need to be able to handle a diary and carry bags when needed, they need to be incredibly well-educated and experienced to tackle the role and give it the care and attention it deserves. As a result, Catherine's former secretaries have some very impressive credentials that aren't exactly common in the workforce. 

Catherine Quinn had one of the best educations Britain can offer as a graduate of one of England's most prestigious colleges, Oxford. Her replacement, Hannah Cockburn-Logie, somehow managed to top this as a former diplomat that spent two decades with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Her position saw her travel the world as a representative of the U.K., meaning she had plenty of experience with different cultures and environments — which likely put her in good stead for her years with Catherine. A few years before her appointment as Catherine's secretary, she was also graced with an OBE, making her an ideal candidate for the job. Sadly, it didn't mean she would stick around for more than a couple of years. 

Cockburn-Logie's supposed replacement, Alison Corfield, also had experience by the bucket load, having previously worked in public relations with big names like TV chef Jamie Oliver. If we can deduce anything from this information, it's that qualifications are super important!

Princess Catherine's secretaries need to manage multiple projects

We've established that being the private secretary to Princess Catherine means taking on a lot of work, but it doesn't start and end with keeping the princess well-organized. The job has a huge scope that seems to change depending on the person holding the position at the time. It makes sense, as utilizing someone's skill set to the fullest is often the best course of action for everyone. In the past, Catherine's secretaries have had to help her manage multiple projects. 

Hannah Cockburn-Logie wasn't just Catherine's right-hand woman, but she was also the director of the Royal Foundation of the Prince and Princess of Wales. According to the foundation's website, "The Royal Foundation mobilizes leaders, businesses, and people so that together we can address society's greatest challenges." It sounds like Cockburn-Logie had her work cut out for her, but she ended her involvement with the charity just before formally resigning as Catherine's secretary in late 2022. Alison Corfield was also supposed to get her hands dirty by helping Catherine's new initiative, Shaping Us, a scheme focused on the importance of early years education.

In short, the perimeters of being Catherine's secretary aren't exactly steadfast and set in stone. Candidates need to be able to exhibit a willingness to help out wherever they can, which may not always be suited to everyone. Some may want a more defined, consistent role with slightly less work — in which case, they should look elsewhere! 

They have to be respectful — even after they leave

Getting the scoop from any trusted member of the royal household is a tabloid's dream, but it's very rare to hear any of Princess Catherine's former employees speak about her. When they do, they do it with the utmost respect. Even after they have left the position, it's simply good manners to make sure they talk about the future queen in a way that's positive and light. Not only does it mean that all parties stay on good terms, but future employers won't worry about how they may be talked about in public! 

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, a former secretary to both Prince William and Catherine, did make the rare move of giving us a little bit of insight in an interview with People in October 2022. As you might expect, he gave Catherine a glowing review: "She is a matriarch. Not in the sense of an older woman in a twin set and pearls, but she guides the family and advises [William] when he wants it." He added, "She will [be the Princess of Wales] with humility and by acknowledging the past but in her own way." Lowther-Pinkerton's statement was refined and simple, without saying too much. 

Any secretary of Catherine's, past, present, and future, would do good to follow Lowther-Pinkerton's example. No one likes a bitter display, no matter what went down behind closed doors. 

Secretaries have to be prepared to drop everything at a moment's notice

The royal household is an undeniably busy one, and as such, things can change at the speed of light. Travel plans can alter, engagements can get canceled, and as in any other aspect of life, inconvenient things can happen. 

In 2022, when Hannah Cockburn-Logie resigned after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Catherine was left with no one to accompany her on an important royal tour at the end of the year. The jaunt was a long time coming, marking Catherine and Prince William's first official tour of America in almost a decade. With her top go-to woman no longer there, Catherine's assistant private secretary, Natalie Barrows, had to drop everything and pack her bags for the trip. 

Luckily for Barrows, this was a relatively short trip that lasted just three days, but it just goes to show how flexible secretaries have to be. Traveling the world with the royal family undoubtedly has its perks, but having to alter your own personal life to appease your boss is never an ideal situation to be in for an extended period. The needs of Catherine are paramount always — if one cog in the royal machine stops working, there could be a catastrophic failure that makes life incredibly difficult for everyone involved. That's a lot of pressure to carry ... perhaps too much for some. 

They must keep a low profile

As a royal, having any sort of scandal attached to you is never a good thing. Singers, actors, and even athletes may get away with a little controversy, but as a member of the royal family, you're expected to keep everything above board. We've all seen how badly things worked out for Prince Andrew, and the end of King Charles III's marriage to Princess Diana wasn't exactly one of the Windsors' finest moments, either. Staffers are also expected to keep their noses clean and stay out of trouble. It simply wouldn't do if Princess Catherine's private secretaries were making headlines for debauchery, would it? 

This position comes with a lot of public pressure, so keeping a low profile and making sure they conduct themselves as a representative of the royal family should probably be up there with their most important responsibilities. No secretary of Catherine's has ever been involved in a headline-making blunder, and if they were, it's not bizarre to suggest they would be shown the door straight away. 

Other employees have been given the boot for offenses in the past, such as Lady Susan Hussey, a former aide to Queen Elizabeth II. Hussey officially resigned in 2022 after a complaint was made about racist comments she made during a reception hosted by Camilla, Queen Consort. Shortly after, Hussey was able to make amends with the woman in question, Ngozi Fulani, by meeting with her in person at Buckingham Palace. 

Secretaries are expected to be totally discreet

Being a private secretary to Princess Catherine makes you privy to information that the royals wouldn't want to be made public. It's natural that when spending so much time with the likes of Catherine and Prince William you may be trusted with sensitive topics. As such, secretaries have to be 100% discreet. It's more than just an expectation, but a key aspect of the job that could land you in serious legal hot water should you decide to spill the tea. 

Although efforts have been made by the royal household to keep former staffers quiet for decades, it became a real issue in 1995 when a previous employee of King Charles III published "The Housekeeper's Diary: Charles and Diana Before the Breakup." Though the work was published in America, the palace's legal team put an order in place that meant every single penny in profit went straight to Charles. It didn't stop everyone from coming forward with their own stories, though, with Princess Diana's butler Paul Burrell notoriously making a mint from his own book. At the time, in 2003, The Independent reported, Burrell's work "resulted in the insertion of a clause [in staffer contracts] imposing a £250,000 penalty on employees who 'tell all' in a book." 

More recent reports suggest staffers are still bound by nondisclosure agreements, meaning Catherine's secretaries have to be okay with taking whatever secrets they learn to the grave — or they could face dire consequences.