Ever wondered what it would be like working at Buckingham Palace for the Royal Family? Michael Heath, 78, knows the palace’s ins and outs, being a footman from the ripe age of 18. “My father had a friend who was a Page of the Presence, and that’s how I got the job working as a footman,” said Mr Heath, who now lives at Seachange Lifestyle Resort Emerald Lakes.
Mr Heath fondly remembers looking outside his bedroom window one day, which was located on Buckingham Palace’s top left-hand corner. “Someone spotted me through the window, and before I knew it, a crowd of people waved at me, and I waved back. They probably thought I was a Royal waving at them,” he joked. He witnessed the most extravagant and fabulous parties with many royals and famous people in attendance during his tenure.
Honouring his code of conduct even 60 years on, Mr Heath remains tight-lipped on his experience at the palace. “I am always cautious of what I say because you know some things are very personal, and I wouldn’t like to be known as a person who told their secrets,” he said. The modest former footman made it clear that honesty and politeness are the essential qualities that can get you very far in life and your career. “I like to think I have a bit of an effervescent personality, that seems to get you very far too,” said Mr Heath.
After his stint at the Buckingham Palace, Mr Heath worked at the American Embassy residence at Regents Parks, working alongside multimillionaire and publisher of The New York Herald Tribune, Mr John Hay Whitney. Mr Heath said he would never forget the time Mr Whitney’s wife spent £35,000 on Christmas decorations from Harrods, which is the equivalent to £820,000 (almost $1.5m Australian Dollars) today’s money. Mrs Whitney had some unusual requests. “She had her sheets ironed every night before bed because she didn’t like creases in the sheets,” he said.
After working as a footman for many years, Mr Heath worked in a Soho coffee bar, called “Act One Scene One”. “I had the Rolling Stones come into my coffee shop, even Tommy Steele,” said Mr Heath. Mr Heath has been fortunate enough to travel worldwide for work; he even lived in New Zealand after joining the Merchant Navy. He now enjoys an active yet quieter life at Emerald Lakes.
“I love living here at Seachange. I enjoy the community as I am very sports orientated,” he said. Mr Heath and his wife, Sue, enjoy playing trivial pursuit with other residents of Seachange. “Our only downfall is when they start asking questions about Australia,” he said. “But after being in Australia for 14 years, I am now starting to get better with those answers.”