Terry Wilson: ‘The Queen’s hair is a work of art’

Terry Wilson shares his private day perfecting Her Majesty's 'do.

Terry Wilson still has traces of the excited boy from Blenheim when he talks about his private day with the Queen. The hairdresser is no stranger to celebrities after 14 years in London – where he runs his own salon, Hair Organics, in trendy Notting Hill. But his work with Keira Knightley or David Beckham can’t beat the thrill of a guard at Windsor Castle saying, “Terrence Wilson, we’ve been expecting you”.

Terry’s day shadowing Her Majesty’s personal hairdresser came when the palace wanted someone fully vetted, in case the current coiffeur ever stepped down. On Monday, June 16, 2003, Windsor Castle was closed to the public, but 3000 spectators were gathering for the annual Royal Garter Day parade, led by the Queen, to mark England’s oldest and most prestigious order of chivalry.

Terry’s mission took him beyond the crowds and underground, past kitchens, staff rooms and people arranging flowers. Terry recalls Her Majesty’s butler came in to the room where he was waiting, presenting a tray of tea and sandwiches.

“He smiled and said ‘welcome to the madhouse’. “I didn’t remember to be nervous until Angela Kelly, the chief of the Queen’s five personal dressers, opened the door. At the end of the room by the window was the Queen, walking out in a red polka dot dress and slippers.

“Before I knew it, back – in shoes! – came the Queen. She took my hand and said good morning. I said, ‘Good morning, ma’am’ – it rhymes with jam – and bowed my head.” Terry was joined by Sharon, one of the dressers who would do the Queen’s hair while he watched. Terry says “There was a lot of laughter, but Angela was very courteous and called the Queen ‘Your Majesty’”.

Terry learned that the Queen has a shampoo and set every Monday afternoon, but that day she would have her hair dressed at 11am for the parade at 2pm, then shampooed and set at 4pm. The Queen has very thick hair, says Terry. “She wanted extra hairspray as it was a heavy hat”. Next thing: enter Prince Charles. “’Good morning, Mother,’ he says. They chatted about the day. I sensed a very friendly bond between them.”

After lunch with the staff, Terry and Sharon watched the parade. “As she passed, she acknowledged us and said, ‘The hat fits nicely, doesn’t it?’” Before the afternoon appointment, Terry was handed the box of royal rollers. “The equipment was at least 30 years old and in need of replacement and cleaning – rollers, pins, comb, brush, net and spray, kept in a shoe-box!”

Back in the Queen’s bedroom, her parade gown now hung on a mannequin. Terry says three corgis followed them into the Queen’s bathroom. She leant forward over the sink and held a towel to her face. She slipped a ring off her finger and held it out to stop it getting wet. “I took the ring and she called for one of the dressers. She sounded just like my mother yelling out for a cup of tea.”

As Sharon worked on the Queen’s hair, Terry passed the rollers and Her Majesty flipped through magazines. “To my surprise, the Queen opened up Horse and Hound, and showed me a picture of dogs running next to carriages in the 17th century, saying, ‘I never knew this was what Dalmatians were bred for.’ I felt she was enjoying this moment of normality.”

Her Majesty told Terry that her late sister Princess Margaret had wanted salon-style basins in the palace apartments, but the Queen felt it was “unnecessary”. With her hair in rollers and a net, the Queen settled in under a 1960s hood hair dryer. Terry laughs, “Old ways never die in the House of


He watched as Sharon backcombed the Monarch’s hair, then arranged it into place, starting at the nape with the curls and piecing it together on top. “Her Majesty often said, ‘A little higher there,’ or, ‘less here’. The Queen’s hair is a work of art and she directs it all the way.”

Unfortunately for Terry, Her Majesty’s hairdresser is still there, but he relishes the day he spent with the Queen and her hair.

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