LEAVING his Tyneside school at 16, Ian Armstrong went straight to the top in his search for work – writing to Buckingham Palace asking for a job... and getting one.
The boy from Todd’s Nook Junior and Slatyford Secondary schools in Newcastle was taken on in 1974 as a nursery footman to the Queen.
Ian, who was born in Barrington Street in Fenham as one of five children of joiner Walter Armstrong, went on to serve Prince Charles and Prince Michael of Kent in a career of almost 30 years.
He died aged 57 in 2009, and today his personal archive from his royal years will be sold by Newcastle auctioneers Anderson & Garland.
Ian worked for three years as valet to Prince Charles, and the sale includes a letter from the Prince, a seasonal calendar outlining his itinerary, a tentative programme for a visit by the Prince to Canada, and receipts and letters concerning his wardrobe including an order for a kilt and gaiters.
Ian then worked as butler-valet to Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. His keepsakes include a picture of him acting as loader for Prince Michael at a shoot, and a large selection of photographs of his visit with the Prince and Princess to Swaziland for the coronation of King Mswati III, and also a Foreign Office briefing on the country.
Ian’s career saw him later working as a butler/valet for the High Commissioner for Australia, the Diplomatic Service in London and the British Ambassador to Norway in Oslo.
In 1999 Ian returned to Buckingham Palace as a footman to the Queen. His brother, retired businessman Doug Armstrong, lives in Hexham in Northumberland.
He said: “Ian’s is an incredible story. He absolutely loved his job.
“He got to know the royal family and the princes, and they got on well. Prince Charles especially loves the Geordie accent.
“Ian devoted his life to the royal family and travelled the world with them. He was offered thousands and thousands of pounds to tell his stories but he was loyal to the core to the family.”
Doug and his parents were given invites to staff balls at Balmoral Castle. The music played at Ian’s funeral service was God Save the Queen and Land of Hope and Glory.
The collection, priced at £500-£800, includes a letter from Paul Burrell, a footman to the Queen and later butler to Diana, Princess of Wales, who has featured prominently in the media; ceremonial documents for the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday and her funeral, and an invite from the Queen to dance at Buckingham Palace.
His papers also include a 1979 invoice from clothing company J Barbour of South Shields for a Durham jacket costing £20.