SNOHOMISH — Janette Huskie isn’t a palace insider these days, but the Snohomish woman knows more than most about the British monarchy. She was once a housemaid for the royal family.
In 1980 and ’81, she lived and worked at Buckingham Palace in London.
Then Janette Walker, she met Lady Diana Spencer at Balmoral Castle before the 1981 marriage of “Lady Di” and Prince Charles. In her scrapbook, Huskie has a handwritten note from Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall and second wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. That note asked the maid to sew on some buttons.
With the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle coming Saturday, Huskie took time to remember that remarkable chapter in her life. She shared thoughts about a couple unlike any before in the royal family.
“People are quite relieved he’s chosen to get married,” she said of Harry, properly known as Prince Henry of Wales. The second son of Charles and Diana has been “a bit of a lad,” said Huskie, who believes Brits are glad to see him settle down and temper once wild ways.
And what of Markle, a divorced American actress who is biracial? Years ago, Huskie believes traditionalists “would have been horrified.” Times have changed. “The establishment is not as it used to be. It’s much more relaxed,” she said.
Huskie thinks the British people might also be less concerned about Harry’s choice of a bride because he is sixth in line to the throne, behind his father, his brother Prince William, and his brother’s three children.
A native of Scotland, Huskie came to the United States 36 years ago. Her husband, Ian Huskie, also Scottish, is a Boeing engineer.
She was living in her hometown of Falkirk, Scotland, when her mother saw a magazine ad. The royal household needed a housemaid for its linen room. “I had experience sewing,” Huskie said. She wrote a letter, received an interview invitation and took a night train to London.
“I did not think I’d get the job,” she said. The work itself was “doing the usual things, like dusting,” she said. “But it was very exciting. I was young, and in the big city.”
She lived in staff quarters on the top floor of Buckingham Palace. For a time, she worked for Princess Michael of Kent, looking after her clothes. “She was very grand,” Huskie said. The staff traveled with the royal family to Windsor Castle, where Harry and Meghan will marry in St. George’s Chapel, and to Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
Huskie recalled meeting Diana at Balmoral. “She was very young and very lovely,” said Huskie, who remembers Diana donning a silk dress for dinner and asking “Do I look OK?”
At Christmastime, she and other palace staff met Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. She received a modest gift and a Christmas pudding. “It was very nice — you curtsey,” Huskie said.
Wages were minimal, but staff received meals for a nominal price and lived rent-free in central London. Huskie’s scrapbook has programs from theater shows she saw, along with snapshots of the queen on her horse and other keepsakes.
Her days at Buckingham Palace ended in March 1981, a month before she and Ian were married in Scotland. Charles and Diana were married in July 1981.
Huskie and her husband will be in England on Saturday, but the trip is unrelated to the royal wedding. They’ll be on their way to see her 98-year-old father in Scotland. Here, she’s a member of Daughters of the British Empire, a philanthropic group of women sharing British or British Commonwealth heritage.
The nationwide organization, which has many chapters, helps support a retirement community in Sierra Madre, California, and contributes to local charities.
Christine Sellers, of Edmonds, is also part of Daughters of the British Empire. Her Thistle and Rose chapter in Edmonds held a baby shower for Princess Charlotte in 2015, and donated the gifts to Pregnancy Aid of Snohomish County.
“Some of us are very attached to the royal family,” said Sellers, 76, who grew up in Ashford, 60 miles from London. She, too, is pleased Prince Harry “has been captured.”
“I think it’s going to be a fun sort of wedding,” Sellers said. “She seems a lovely girl. You can only but hope for the best.”
This story was first published in the Everett Herald. Julie Muhlstein can be reached at 425-339-3460 or jmuhlstein@herald net.com.