Spalding bookshop’s pick for a good read

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Bookmark of Spalding has selected Backstairs Billy: The Life of William Tallon, as its book of the week.

From humble beginnings as a shopkeeper’s son in Coventry to Page of the Backstairs at Clarence House, William Tallon, or Backstairs Billy as he came to be known, always knew he was destined for a life in the royal circle. A fierce collector and fan of all things related to the royal family, even as a small boy Billy was fascinated by this glamorous world of pageantry and excess.

Charming, loyal, promiscuous and in possession of a truly wicked sense of humour, Billy entered royal service at the age of 15 and, over the next 50 years, became one of the most notorious figures, and most remarkable characters, ever to have graced the royal household.

Although nominally a servant, over time Billy became one of the late Queen Mother’s most trusted friends and confidants. While others came and went, Billy was the one servant the Queen Mother just could not do without. She adored him, and he her, perhaps because of his high camp style or his witty and provocative remarks about the well-born equerries, royal press people and advisers.

Sometimes scandalous, often shocking, always entertaining, Backstairs Billy is the fascinating life story of the man who spent more than half a century working for one of the world’s most elusive institutions, giving us a rare glimpse of what life in the British royal family is really like...

The book retails for £8.99 but there is a 20 per cent discount voucher in the Spalding Guardian of March 10.