Princess Beatrice is one of the less visible members of the royal family, who only makes a handful of high-profile appearances every year and who very much keeps her private life out of the public eye.
But one person who has had the privilege of working with Beatrice and has seen first-hand what she’s really like behind closed doors is Andy Cook, Chief Executive of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity, of which Beatrice is a patron.
Anyone remotely familiar with King Charles’ niece knows just how avidly she advocates for people with dyslexia — as someone who has dyslexia herself, it is a cause that is particularly close to her heart.
And in an exclusive interview with HELLO!, Andy shared a sweet anecdote that epitomises just how down-to-earth Beatrice is, and how closely she cherishes the specialist charity — whose support she herself actually received during her school years.
Reflecting on his personal encounters with the Princess, Andy told us about one particular instance when Beatrice visited the Helen Arkell Centre in 2019. “She met all the children, she spent ages with them,” he told HELLO! “She was just enjoying herself, going around and talking to everybody. She made sure she spoke to absolutely everyone in the room before she left.”
Andy then explained that following this visit, Beatrice jumped in the car with him to visit Helen — the charity founder — at home in her bungalow. Aged 99 at the time, Helen was house confined due to poor health.
“It just felt like, she could have been anybody, taking me for a lift in the car, but it just happens to be somebody really special,” he said. “That’s something that I will certainly remember in particular. It epitomised what she’s like. No airs and graces. Very down-to-earth.
“She arrived in this old person’s bungalow which wouldn’t have been posh in any way, wouldn’t have been tidied up particularly,” he continued. “In we went, Beatrice comes in with a cake, comes in with a tea, sits down with Helen. And it was just so easy, so personal and so relatable as well.
“Everybody that’s met her comes away saying, ‘I just can’t believe how easy she was to talk to.’ Whether it’s school children who have got dyslexia or Helen, our founder, and everyone in between – that’s the first feedback, that she was so easy to talk to and she was so interested in hearing what they had to say.”
This poignant and touching encounter came just before Helen passed away. “It was the last opportunity to see Helen when she was well enough to be able to appreciate a visit like that, albeit, you know, she got out of bed,” Andy explained. “She hadn’t got out of the bungalow. She was housebound but she was well enough to receive a visit like that and she passed away about six months later.”
He added: “I know it meant a lot to Helen at the time, but it meant a lot to her family as well. The fact that she got to have tea with a Princess. How many people can say that?”
Although the initial plan was for Beatrice to visit the Centre and hopefully meet Helen there if she were well enough to attend in-person, Beatrice and her team decided to adapt when the circumstances changed. “It became quite clear that Helen wasn’t going to be well enough for it,” Andy explained. “And so Princess Beatrice and her team said, ‘Well, that’s fine, Helen only lives around the corner.'”
According to Andy, this stand-out moment was truly representative of Beatrice’s kind and caring nature. He also reminisced on the first time he ever met the Princess at Buckingham Palace, and how quickly she put him at ease. “When I went for a meeting with her, she made me a cup of tea, poured the tea and, you know, it was just like having a cup of tea with anybody else,” he said.
“I didn’t need to have felt apprehensive at all, because she was just a completely normal person. She would be talking and saying, ‘What are we doing this year? It’ great that we’ve taken you on. What can I do to help?’ She was really down-to-earth.”
As a patron, Andy explained that Beatrice takes her role very seriously. According to Andy, Beatrice is determined to change the narrative and stigma around dyslexia — she previously told HELLO! that having dyslexia is a “gift”.
“Princess Beatrice is a brilliant patron. She opens doors for you,” Andy explained. “What she does for us is raise our profile in a very genuine way where she feels, of course, so deeply herself.
“She hasn’t got nearly as many patronages as maybe some of the royal family, so she’s able to give much more of herself to those that she is a patron of, which is brilliant.
“She’s absolutely passionate about changing the narrative about dyslexia and promoting it as a positive thing. It’s thanks to people like her that the narrative will change and the public will view dyslexia differently.”