Royal record keeper 87 reveals he had to win over palace aides

He had served as a lay steward at St George’s Chapel, secretary of the Friends of the Chapel and had helped to organise exhibitions marking the Duke of Edinburgh’s 90th birthday and anniversaries of the Queen’s accession and Coronation.Profiled in the New York Times in his 40th year of record-keeping, Mr O’Donovan described how he had started “my tables” as a hobby, cutting out the Court Circular from his newspaper and pasting it into a ledger before keeping a running total.”It was just a fascination with what they actually did,” he said. “Some of them work extremely hard.”One has had a huge amount of enjoyment out of doing it, because one has met people one would never have met before. It has widened one’s life, in a way.” Tim O'Donovan's ledger “All engagements differ as to time and content and there is also the time taken in preparation to consider, whether it be a visit, investiture or speech.”In 2018, the Princess Royal undertook 518 public engagement, the Prince of Wales 507 and the Queen 283, while the Duke of Cambridge managed 220 and Duke of Sussex 193. The Duchess of Cambridge did 87, reflecting her time on maternity leave, whilt the Duchess of Sussex who joined the family in May managed 96. The Queen takes part in the annual Maundy money ceremony in 2016 “All I’m doing is recording their activities,” he said. “It’s just a straightforward table of events, really.”Mr Donovan, who does not know who – if anyone – will take over his record-keeping when he dies, has promised to continue “as long as I can write and use a pair of scissors”.He remains a great admirer of the Queen, who will celebrate her 93rd birthday in April.”I think we have been amazingly lucky to have such a wonderful monarch,” he told the newspaper.”Continuity is a great thing, and I think there has never been any question of impropriety, like there are among other heads of state around the world. She has had an unblemished record.” Tim O’Donovan’s ledgerCredit:Mary Turner/NYT A photograph of the Queen speaking to Tim O’Donovan, third from rightCredit:Mary Turner/NYT Mr O’Donovan also appears to have won over any doubters at the palace. In 2016, he was among 180 pensioners invited to the chapel to receive Maundy money from the Queen in recognition of their service to church and community. The Queen takes part in the annual Maundy money ceremony in 2016Credit:Richard Pohle For 40 years, he has contributed his valuable work to the history books, recording each and every public engagement undertaken by the Royal Family for posterity.But the work of Tim O’Donovan, which began as a hobby and is now a part of British national life, has not been universally appreciated by the palace itself, it has emerged.Mr O’Donovan, who each year produces a list of the number of engagements performed by senior members of the Royal Family, has disclosed he was once invited to see the Queen’s Private Secretary to discuss concerns.A few years after he began publishing his record in 1979, he said, the then-dean of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, where he attended services, pulled him gentle aside to pass on a message that palace officials wanted it to stop.Only after visiting the Queen’s private secretary was he able to persuade aides of the value of collecting data, in a record he has continued ever since.Ever since, Mr O’Donovan, an 87-year-old retired insurance broker, has allayed palace concerns by emphasising that his statistics should not be used as a “league table” of hardest-working royals: a plea largely ignored by the press and public who nowadays celebrate the Prince of Wales and Princess Royal at the top, and keep a close eye on the young team at Kensington Palace trailing behind. Relaying how he had visited the Queen’s private secretary in the early 1980s to reassuring them of his good intentions, he said: “I suppose one was anxious because one did not want to stop doing it.””If they had said, ‘Mr. O’Donovan, we don’t want you to go on doing this,’ I would have obeyed them.”He now accompanies the published version with a caveat which last year read: “I should, of course, emphasise that the table of figures below should not be converted into a “league table” of individual royal performance. A photograph of the Queen speaking to Tim O'Donovan, third from right

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