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Death of Elizabeth II: who was “Tall Paul”, her trusted man for 44 years?

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He was the Queen’s most trusted servant, and served her for decades without ever betraying her greatest secrets. At 64, her slender figure (1.94m) earned her the affectionate nickname of “Tall Paul”, or in French “Grand Paul”. That’s what the Queen and her family called him.

Paul Whybrew, who was with the Queen at the end of her life, was a picture of iron determination.

On Wednesday, with clasped hands, he looked neither left nor right but focused only forward as he marched past the horse-drawn carriage carrying his mistress’s coffin.

Through all the domestic crises, family storms, and petty squabbles between staff and courtiers, he was never dragged down and emerged unscathed.

Indeed, it is said that he was friends with all the members of the royal family he served from the age of 19. And in the slanderous and harsh world behind the scenes of royal palaces, where everyone wishes to become Her Majesty’s favourite, that in itself was a remarkable achievement.

It was Paul who handed the Queen the phone for those anguished calls from Prince Harry, ringing from California. Paul, who was turning on the television, knowing by heart which were the Queen’s favorite shows. And it was Paul who, once she stopped drinking, replaced her old glass of gin and Dubonnet with apple juice.

This son of a bank manager had been with the Queen for 44 years. A year ago he became the most senior member of the Queen’s staff at Buckingham Palace, awarded the Royal Victorian Order and medal, silver and gold, for his long and faithful service.

Thanks to his closeness to the monarch, Paul has his own comfortably furnished accommodation, which the Queen has personally paid for the renovation costs. When in 2006 the Queen turned 80 and decided to spend more time at Windsor Castle, she asked him to move as well. He gave up his modest apartment above the old stables at Kensington Palace for a house near Albert Lodge in Windsor Castle.

“The Queen told him to decorate it to his liking and send him the bill. She said she wanted him to be comfortable,” a friend said.

Coming just after the Silver Jubilee, it was there for the Golden Jubilee in 2002, the Diamond Jubilee when the Queen shivered on the soggy Thames in 2012 and, just a few months ago, the Platinum Jubilee of this year.

He was there for some of the darkest times of his reign, his children’s years of marital discord and even the latest scandals.

And of course, it was Paul who was pictured escorting the Queen and James Bond, Daniel Craig, as part of the magical parody that opened the London Olympics ceremony.

All those years of service, however, have not been without sacrifice. He remained celibate, “married” only, friends say, to his duty. But in return, he held one of the most intriguing seats in modern British history.

Like other royal palace staff, his contract will expire 6 months after the death of the royal family member he served.