We hear so much about the royals but not so much about the army of important people who support them behind the scenes.
So, I was fascinated by a recent obituary of Lady Roberts, the first woman to be appointed Royal Librarian, looking after the Queen’s extraordinary collection of books and historic documents.
She spent her entire working life in the Royal Library, where her many responsibilities included selecting items to be put on display for state visitors to Buckingham Palace and other royal residences.
When President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, stayed at the palace in 2011, it fell to Jane Roberts to present an appropriate collection of artifacts in the Queen’s Gallery, which would impress.
Below paintings by Rubens, a letter by Abraham Lincoln was laid out alongside two copies of the first edition of Uncle Tom’s cabin, an 1852 anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, widely credited with helping to pave the way for the Civil War, which was fought over the slave trade.
There was also a 19th century volume of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America in “double elephant folio” — one of the most valuable books in the world worth around $8 million.
As the party entered the gallery after a light lunch, the Queen was seen pointing out the exhibits saying: “Jane, you explain.”
Jane steered the President and First Lady to a letter from George Washington about the surrender of British troops at Yorktown in 1781, and beside it was George III’s neatly written note agonizing over the loss of the colonies.
“Just a temporary blip in the relationship,” commented Obama tactfully, clearly enthralled by the history lesson.
Jane, who wrote several books about royal homes and weddings, was in daily contact with priceless items including dozens of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci kept at Windsor Castle.
In 2002, she was appointed Royal Librarian and held the job until her retirement in 2013.
She continued to work and contributed to Long to Reign Over Us, the official souvenir album marking the moment the Queen overtook Victoria, as the longest reigning British monarch.
Sadly, she died in June at age 71, but what a lasting legacy!