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Ronald Allison, CVO, who has died aged 90, was press secretary to the Queen from April 1973 until April 1978 at a time when the press was generally less confrontational and tabloid than it is now. Before that he was the BBC’s court correspondent from 1969 to 1973, and in his later life he was a writer and a commentator and behind-the-scenes adviser on royal matters for ITN.

Ronald Allison - ITN/Shutterstock © ITN/Shutterstock Ronald Allison - ITN/Shutterstock

The job of press secretary at Buckingham Palace suddenly fell vacant in the spring of 1973, when the then incumbent, Robin Ludlow, informed the media that there was no truth in suggestions that Princess Anne might be getting engaged to Mark Phillips. Gradually his credibility was lost and he returned to the private sector.

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During his years at the Palace, Allison oversaw the first wedding of Princess Anne, the Queen’s 1976 visit to the United States, and Silver Jubilee Year. All welcomed his arrival at Buckingham Palace, though it caused one royal servant an anxious moment. Like many a journalist, Allison had cultivated a “mole”, who occasionally alerted him to impending royal news.

This figure never expected that in the changing times of the 1970s the Palace authorities would – as it were – convert a “poacher” into a “gamekeeper” by appointing Allison as press secretary. The pair came to a swift and gentlemanly agreement to leave their earlier association a permanent secret.

Allison during his time as the Queen's press secretary - ANL/Shutterstock © Provided by The Telegraph Allison during his time as the Queen's press secretary - ANL/Shutterstock

One of his first assignments was to deal with inquiries from the world press concerning the forthcoming marriage of Princess Anne. He established a way of being both bland and informative, which found favour among the press corps. He made a point of giving four answers – “No,” “I don’t know,” “I do know but I can’t say,” or “Yes”.

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He resolved not to spoil a journalist’s scoop, though sometimes he urged them to hold back to the second edition and check their facts. He came to expect the daily question during his five years at the Palace, which concerned a possible bride for the Prince of Wales, a matter not resolved until well after Allison left his post.

In 1975 there was a fracas when the Palace agreed to newsreel shots of the Queen opening Parliament being used in what turned out to be a fictional thriller called Hennessy, starring Rod Steiger and Lee Remick. Allison was quick to apologise, while apportioning no blame. In this as in all matters, he remained a man of great friendliness, and a sound and reliable spokesman for the Queen. In those days he was the only Palace press officer, and there were no rival courts. It was Allison who confirmed the official breakdown of the marriage of Princess Margaret in 1976.

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Allison's 1978 book about the Prince of Wales © Provided by The Telegraph Allison's 1978 book about the Prince of Wales

Ronald William Paul Allison was born on January 26 1932, the son of Percy Allison and Dorothy, née Doyle. He was educated at Weymouth Grammar School and Taunton’s School, Southampton. His first job following National Service was on his local paper, the Hampshire Chronicle.

He joined the BBC as a reporter in 1957 and in due course became a sports commentator, work which included commentating for radio on the 1966 World Cup final (he was a lifelong supporter of Southampton FC). He left to do freelance radio and television work, concentrating on sport and religious affairs.

During those years he caused some controversy in the offices of Fulham FC with an outspoken remark on Grandstand. “When you come to Craven Cottage, you expect rubbish,” he said, “and that is what we got today.” He also covered the tragic 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Allison during his time as Thames TV's head of sport - ANL/Shutterstock © Provided by The Telegraph Allison during his time as Thames TV's head of sport - ANL/Shutterstock

He returned to the BBC to be court correspondent following the retirement of the veteran broadcaster, Godfrey Talbot, in 1969. Among the events he covered were the Duke of Windsor’s funeral in 1972 and the Queen’s Silver Wedding the same year.

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Prince Harry drew the ire of politicians, religious leaders, and the public when he appeared at a colonial-themed costume party dressed in a Nazi uniform, including a swastika armband, in January 2005. His ill-advised attire made the front page of the British tabloid The Sun, and he subsequently apologized.

There were times when his diplomacy was tested. On a royal tour in the Indian Ocean, Lord Mountbatten marched over to the press corps and informed them: “Y’know, it was only five miles from here that it happened.” No one had an idea what he was talking about, but Allison chipped in: “Good heavens, Sir, I never knew it was that close.”

After leaving the Palace in 1978, with a CVO from the Queen, Allison set up his own public relations company, Ronald Allison and Associates, while combining journalism with serving as a presenter for Thames Television. His private clients included the Duke and Duchess of Westminster for a time.

He was Thames’s controller of sport and outside broadcasts from 1980 to 1985 and director of corporate affairs from 1986 to 1989. During that time, Channel Four was introduced, and Allison was to the fore in rivalling the sports coverage offered by the BBC. Thereafter he was a freelance writer and broadcaster. He also served as chairman of Barter TV International from 1990, Grand Slam Sports Ltd from 1992 (managing director from 1993), and chairman of Bafta again from 1993.

Allison's 2001 illustrated book about the Queen © Provided by The Telegraph Allison's 2001 illustrated book about the Queen

Allison was an informed voice commenting on many a state occasion, and one of the commentaries he undertook for ITN was for the wedding of the Prince of Wales in 1981.

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At the time, the Queen Mother’s health was poor, since she had fallen down the stairs at the Trooping the Colour ceremony a month before. The Queen Mother was then nearly 81, and Allison’s commentary makes enjoyable listening 20 years later, since he was commending her stalwart resolve in being present, and commenting on how unthinkable it would have been had she not been there. No one enjoyed her subsequent longevity more than him. He was a studio guest for ITN for the funeral of the Princess of Wales in 1997.

Allison wrote a number of books, including Look Back in Wonder (1968), The Queen (1973), and Charles, Prince of our Time (1978). He was the editor of The Royal Encyclopedia, an authoritative reference book about many aspects of royal life, which he co-edited with Sarah Riddell in 1991. In the autumn of 2001 he edited a picture book called The Queen: 50 years – a celebration, which was published by HarperCollins with the front cover regrettably reversed.

Allison's and Sarah Riddell's definitive volume on all matters royal © Provided by The Telegraph Allison's and Sarah Riddell's definitive volume on all matters royal

He was a supporter of the Hyde900 history project, launched in 2005 to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the founding of Hyde Abbey, a Benedictine monastery near Winchester, helping them to secure a Heritage Lottery grant.

Allison and his first wife, Maureen Macdonald, whom he married in 1956, were separated in 1987, and she died in 1992. They had two daughters. Allison married secondly, in 1993, Jennifer Loy Weider, and had a further son.

In 1992 he underwent a triple heart by-pass operation, and underwent a further serious operation in 2001.

Latterly he and his second wife had made their home in Winchester.

Ronald Allison, born January 26 1932, died July 26 2022

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