"Humble and obedient"? Andy Burnham was just following protocol when writing to Prince Charles

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham's sign-off on a letter to Prince Charles, which he wrote while Health Secretary, may seem obsequious, but it's nothing personal.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Poor Andy Burnham. The Labour leadership frontrunner has been getting an earful on twitter today over a letter he sent to Prince Charles while Health Secretary.

The postscript, in Burnham's own handwriting, is all too easily mistaken for an act of personal obsequiousness, leaving commentators cringing.

But sharpminded readers may recall another letter from the Black Spider batch which employed remarkably similar phrasing...

Photo: Cabinet Office scan

Being a creature of some class, this mole turned to high society guide Debrett's to confirm its suspicions - and found that the phrase is, indeed, a matter of routine protocol.

I would like to write a letter of thanks for a gift to HRH The Prince of Wales. How should the letter be addressed, and how should the letter be started and ended? 

A letter written directly to HRH The Prince of Wales (as opposed to his private secretary) would begin, 'Sir'. The letter would close: 'I have the honour to remain [comma, new line] Sir [comma, new line], Your Royal Highness's most humble and obedient servant'. The envelope should be addressed to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

While mocking the traditions of the royal household is a right no citizen should be denied, it seems unfair to censure Burnham just for following convention. Stand down, Twitter.

I'm a mole, innit.

Free trial CSS