Duchess of Cambridge appoints Catherine Quinn as new private secretary

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The Duchess of Cambridge has appointed the head of Oxford University’s business school as her new private secretary.

Catherine Quinn will take up the role at Kensington Palace in October, effectively becoming the Duchess’s chief of staff.

Ms Quinn is currently chief operating officer at the Saïd Business School, and has previously held leadership positions at Middle Temple and the Wellcome Trust.

She is also on the boards of the Charity Commission for England and Wales, the Met Office and the Royal British Legion.

The appointment of a candidate with such a heavyweight track record suggests that the duchess plans to carve out a more serious role for herself as a patron and charity campaigner.

Last October the duchess carried out her first solo overseas trip, visiting The Hague and Rotterdam, and in recent months she has stepped into the spotlight with speeches about motherhood and mental health.

Duchess of Cambridge

The Duchess of Cambridge talking about motherhood and mental health in May

Credit:
Heathcliff O’Malley

The Cambridges are increasing their charity work and their official duties on behalf of the Queen. The duke completed his last shift as an air ambulance pilot last week and is now a full-time royal.

The private secretary’s role involves running the duchess’s official programme and coordinating her charitable interests.

Ms Quinn gained her MBA from the Saïd Business School in 2006 and returned seven years later as chief operating officer and associate dean of administration and operations. Her stated aim was to transform “a rather unwieldy, old-school” organisation into something more modern.

She is also a graduate of the school’s Women Transforming Leadership course, and has said: “I can vouch for the fact that when women come together, they can create incredibly powerful networks and start conversations that lead to positive change.”

Ms Quinn replaces Rebecca Deacon, who steps down as private secretary this summer. Often referred to as the duchess’s ‘Girl Friday’, and of a similar age, she accompanies the duchess on engagements and is regularly photographed clutching armfuls of flowers and cuddly toys proffered by members of the public.

Rebecca Deacon and Maria Borrallo

The Duchess’s current private secretary Rebecca Deacon (l) with nanny Maria Borrallo

Credit:
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The appointment is one of several changes to the running of the royal households this year. It was also announced yesterday that Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s private secretary, is to leave his post after 10 years.

He will be replaced by his deputy, Edward Young, in October, the same month that Ms Quinn takes up her post.

Sir Christopher said: “It has been my very great privilege to serve the Queen since the Golden Jubilee in 2002 and, especially, as her private secretary for the past decade.

“In that time, as throughout her reign, her majesty’s authority has brought stability, purpose and colour to country and Commonwealth alike.

“With the Duke of Edinburgh’s recent decision to draw back from public life, the Queen’s own unwavering commitment as sovereign has the full and active support of the entire Royal family.

“It is therefore with every confidence, and with Her Majesty’s agreement, that I now hand over the responsibilities of the Queen’s private secretary to my successor, Edward Young.”