Honoured by the Queen

Honoured by the Queen

Christopher Sandamas (OE 1978-1983), who is Chief Clerk in the Private Secretary’s Office at the Royal Household, has received a personal award from the Queen.

Christopher was made an MVO (Member of the Victorian Order) in last month’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Founded in 1896 by Queen Victoria, the Royal Victorian Order is given by The Queen to people who have served her or the Monarchy in a personal way. It is entirely within the Sovereign’s personal gift.

Christopher, who is from a Cypriot family, attended QE under the headmastership of Timothy Edwards. He left at 16 and took various jobs, including work in retail and as a warehouse operative, before deciding in his late twenties to return to education. He then completed a degree in Music and a Master’s in Historical Musicology, both awarded by the University of London.

On completing his studies, he joined the Royal Household as a part-time records clerk and has since enjoyed a successful career that has seen him rise to become Chief Clerk. From his base in Buckingham Palace, Christopher fulfils a varied role that includes outreach work on behalf of the Royal Household.

He re-established links with the School last year when he was in touch with the School in his capacity as one of the judges for the Achievement Awards run by international children’s charity, Wings of Hope. This year, he was again among the judges, serving alongside actor Sir David Jason, the former British High Commissioner to India, Mike Nithavriankis, and leading figures from the business world. QE’s team Be The Change, won the charity’s 2015 Community Action Award and were presented with their prize this month in a ceremony at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Earlier this term, Christopher had arranged for three current QE pupils to have a rare behind-the-scenes tour of Buckingham Palace. The School chose the three by holding an essay competition on the subject of What it means to be British.

After clearing security checks at the palace gates, the winning trio, Year 8 boys Hector Cooper and Zakariya Shah, and Ivin Jose, of Year 7, enjoyed tea in Christopher’s office and went on an extensive tour of the Palace. This included State rooms and some areas not usually open to visitors.

They were accompanied by Head of Pupil Progression, Dr Sarah Westcott. She said: “The party was also given a ‘back stairs’ view of the Palace. This involved meeting the numerous people who support The Queen in her duties, from handling correspondence with Heads of State or members of the public and acting as intermediaries with various departments of Government, to organising her extensive engagements list.”

The tour concluded with lunch in the staff canteen, where Christopher was keen to hear about the boys’ current experiences at QE, and to share his own memories. He was interested to hear about the boys’ preconceptions about Palace employees and was amused by Hector Cooper’s comments on how “normal and pleasant” the people working at the palace are.

Students were given an insight into careers within the Palace organisation and the skills necessary for such roles. Many working in the Royal Household have a background in the arts, especially History and Politics, and the message that the boys should study what they enjoy came through loud and clear, according to Dr Westcott.

“I think we were all amazed at the number of people working behind the scenes to support the Royal Household’s work and how welcoming they were when asked to tell us about their roles. It was a wonderful experience and we are all grateful to Christopher for giving us this rare opportunity,” she concluded.