Guyanese Colleen Harris resigns as Press Secretary to Prince Charles
Some mystery over reasons By John Mair in London
Stabroek News
July 4, 2003

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Guyanese-born Colleen Harris, the 47-year-old Press Secretary to Prince Charles resigned her 70,000 pound sterling job earlier this week in somewhat confused circumstances. She told the Stabroek News “I wanted a better work/life balance. They asked me to stay and offered me more money”. Her resignation has been very high profile as she was the highest ranking Black Briton in the Court of the Royal Family. Some British observers, especially in the Press, say her real reasons for quitting were ones of frustration and clashes with the Prince’s Private Secretary Sir Michael Peat.

Colleen lives in South London with her English husband Wayne and her two teenage sons, aged 15 and 13. She says that as a result “I want a job where I can be at home in the morning when my children get up and at home in the evening when they go to bed”. Acting as the foil, and some say a fall guy, between the Prince and a very combative press in Britain mitigates against any nine to five job. She was reputed to get on very well with the heir to the throne and he often joked with her about ‘the Guyanese mafia’ in British public life.

But she has had a rough ride in recent months. The collapse of the trial of Royal butler Paul Burrell, charged with stealing Princess Diana’s artifacts, led to much introspection in the royal household and an internal investigation by Sir Michael Peat. That resulted in one of Prince Charles’ closest aides, Michael Fawcett, being ‘cut loose’ from full time employment at St James Palace. It has not been the best of times to try to sell Prince Charles. Just this week there has been press controversy when the Wales household revealed their profit and loss account for the last year; some felt the figures showed the Prince was ‘profligate’.

Colleen’s has been anything but a quiet, family friendly life running a department of seven people, which issues one thousand press releases annually and deals with fifty thousand media phone calls. But as she resigned, Colleen expressed remorse that maybe she had not burnished the image of her employer enough “he is a good honourable chap who only wants to do the best..maybe we have not extolled the virtues of the Prince as well as they could have been”.

Colleen is expected to work out her notice at St James Palace until the autumn and then seek a more ‘family-friendly’ job within the Government Information Service. She has previously served as a press aide to Margaret Thatcher, Cecil Parkinson and the current Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Colleen was one of the participants in a recent ‘Diaspora Dialogue ‘at the Guyana High Commission in London and has been nominated (by this writer) for a Guyana High Commission UK Award this autumn.