Kate Middleton writes of her grandmother in foreword for The GCHQ Puzzle Book

Kate Middleton writes of her grandmother in foreword for The GCHQ Puzzle Book

Kate Middleton has written about her code-breaking grandmother in the foreword to a new book, The GCHQ Puzzle Book, the proceeds of which will be donated to Heads Together.

Kate plays pretend with Morse Code machine

GCHQ, the UK’s Signals Intelligence and Cyber Security agency, has written its first ever puzzle book, The GCHQ Puzzle Book, which features over 140 pages of codes, puzzles, and challenges created by GCHQs expert code breakers in their spare time. Ranging in complexity from easy to mind-bending, the challenges include ciphers and substitution codes, tests of numeracy and literacy, as well as picture and music challenges.

All GCHQ proceeds from the book will be donated to Heads Together to tackle stigma, raise awareness, and provide vital help for people with mental health challenges.

The GCHQ Puzzle Book is published by Penguin Random House and available on Thursday, October 20.


Because of her connection with Heads Together and Bletchley Park, Kate has written the foreword to the puzzle book. Kate’s paternal grandmother, Valerie Glassborow, was reportedly a duty officer at Britain’s Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park during World War II.

In her foreword, Kate wrote about her grandmother:

    “I have always been immensely proud of my grandmother, Valerie Glassborow, who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. She and her twin sister, Mary, served with thousands of other young women as part of the great Allied effort to break enemy codes. They hardly ever talked about their wartime service, but we now know just how important the men and women of Bletchley Park were, as they tackled some of the hardest problems facing the country.
    “In a new century, their successors at GCHQ continue this intellectual tradition. Like their Bletchley predecessors, they have become well known for valuing and understanding the importance of mental wellbeing. This is so important when dealing with such discretion and the pressure which comes with this.
    “William, Harry and I are very grateful that this book is supporting our Heads Together Campaign. I hope it will not only amuse and challenge readers, but help promote an open discussion of mental health problems, which can affect anyone, regardless of age or background. Together, we are aiming to change the national conversation around mental health from stigma and fear to openness and understanding. Those who buy this book and support the Heads Together campaign will be playing a part in helping people get the important mental health care they deserve.”

Kate visited Bletchley Park in June 2014. At the time, she said of her grandmother: “I was aware of it [her work at Bletchley Park] when I was a young girl and I often asked granny about it but she was very quiet and never said anything.”

I have to say, Kate (Rebecca?) outdid herself with this foreword. This is the best written message Kate’s ever produced.

PS. This is a two post day; be sure to read my post on Kate’s visit to Manchester.


Valerie Glassborow

Kate at Bletchley Park

80 thoughts on “Kate Middleton writes of her grandmother in foreword for The GCHQ Puzzle Book

  1. Ikr. This is really well written compared to her previous efforts. I wish she said more about her grandmother though, like what qualities she admired in her. That said, good effort. I wonder if you can buy the book online. They should have a book launch or something to promote it better.

    1. When I read that letter, my first thought was “who really wrote this?” I’m sure the book’s editor caught and fixed all the grammar, spelling and punctuation ctuation errors by which ever staffer wrote this.

      But I’ll buy a copy of this book. I love brain teasers, and the money supports a worthy cause.

        1. I thought so, too.

          Interesting that she was a twin. If they run in families, and if Kate tries for a third, maybe twins ala Mary?

          1. OMG, don’t put that out into the spectrum because we would be treated to stories ad nauseam of Kate and the twins. Talk about a get out work free card.

  2. Well – what does one say – In my case I lived in the UK (Gerrards Cross) in 2003-04 and near Bletchley Park – beyond that ??? The Cambridges are out and about – but to what effect ? I think Kate needs to be enabled to find something that works for her – I am not seeing it

      1. But, why wouldn’t she be proud of her grandmother? I am fascinated learning of her family members — beyond Carole, Pippa and James. We hear far too much about them Mike keeps a more low profile. His mother served her country — and the Allied Forces — well!!!

  3. I am amused, just.

    The women at Bletchley Park is fascinating WW II history.

    If only KM had been influenced more by her spunky, bright paternal grandmother than her grasping, supercillious maternal grandmother.

    1. I had the same thought, Indianna. What a shame the social climbing side won out rather than the intelligent, dutiful side of the Middleton family. We live in an age where the least deserving reap enormous benefits while the most worthy are humiliated by their own virtue.

  4. 1.) I’ve always loved history so this type of story catches my interest. I wish I had seen the movie when it came out.

    2.) The forward is great so kudos to whomever wrote it.

    3.) Kate’s granny was adorable!! I just Googled her and it seems that Kate was born right after her 58th birthday!! (Valerie’s birthday was January 5, 1924 and Kate’s is January 9, 1982). How sweet!!

  5. Very nice statement. I think Kate is very proud of her family and is close to them, so the genuineness shines through. With other written statements she tends to be short and vague; this is a huge improvement.

  6. Well done. Cute granny. I’ve read a fair bit on Bletchly park, though, and mental well-being in the emotional sense has never been of particular interest to GCHQ either then or now. This sort of thing is an excellent way to promote maintaining mental agility to stave off dementia, though, so it’s still a good fit with the charity. And wouldn’t it be grand if Kate could say something to that effect sometime.

  7. Mike Middleton’s Mum was ahead of her time, it seems. Too bad, Kate doesn’t take after her more. Who wouldn’t be proud to have such a grandma! I think Kate’s words were mostly genuine, but I would have liked her to say a bit more about the work her grandmother did — especially during a time when women didn’t usually follow such paths.

    I thought the same thing about Kate maybe having twins in the future. If Granny was a twin….

    Thank you for this post, KMR. Gives us all a nice look into the family that Kate comes from. We tend to focus on Carole’s controlling ways. Obviously, Kate’s paternal grandmother was cut from a different cloth.

    Graymatters, thanks for your words on the mental health connection — or apparently, lack of a connection to GCHQ. Obviously, a way to promote Heads Together. But, if the money helps, good.

        1. Same here actually! I don’t think she wasn’t involved or didn’t care but I think there’s a difference between writing as giving the idea or even writing a first version and writing as paying close attention to wording, grammar and style and putting it together for a final book version.

      1. It sounds exactly like everything else she’s had written for her – the language onward. Reminds me of the forward she supposedly wrote about being a RAF wife (which obviously she wasn’t, she refused to consort with them and ignored invitations to parties and events the ladies invited her to) in a book a few years back.

    1. Somebody in her position, who is really a figurehead, unless they show some talent, never writes their own forewords, speeches etc. it’s just not done.

      1. @Lis

        Yes, like Queen Letizia, who has written a lot (all?) of her own speeches since marrying Felipe. Of course her degree & career in journalism makes that possible. All speeches, statements etc have to be vetted though & that goes for all the royals.

        In re: to this book forward, maybe Harry’s ELF went over to the dark side & wrote it bcuz it’s the opposite of everything that Kate’s team has ever produced. Clear, concise & hits the right note with her personal connection.

        Whatever the case may be, I hope they keep up the good work.

    2. Kate would not have written this. The royals’ role is essentially one of PR so their PR staff would have penned the words.

      1. It’s true that the royal role is mostly PR, and I know that some constitutionally important speeches are penned by gov’t people (such as the Queen’s speech for Parliment openings and I think her speeches at state banquets), but it does not follow that the royals don’t write their own speeches for their own charities, etc. I know Anne, Charles, and Sophie write their own. It’s possible that Kate wrote this. It’s just so much better than what we’ve seen from her so far that it raises suspicions. If she were to make coherent, intelligent speeches and off-the-cuff responses more often, we could more easily believe that she writes her own stuff (and did so at uni, too).

        1. Thanks, graymatters for the info about BRF members. Charles, Anne & Sophie are so invested in & research the projects they take on, so it makes sense that they write their own speeches. Letizia is the first royal who came to mind for me since she has the work/life experience & same approach to her work that the other 3 royals do.

          Do you think it’s possible Kate has found someone like ELF who’s able to put Harry’s voice to a subject?

          1. I wouldn’t be surprised if HM had sent over one of her staff to show the Cambridge staff how to get the best thoughts out of and letter out for their boss.

            Does anyone know about the timing of the visit? iirc, the visit to Manchester (at the football museum) was announced shortly after it was revealed that Will does fa for the FA.

        2. It’s hard to tell who wrote this. It’s so different from anything else from KP. And I’m glad it’s written so much better than the other stuff. But I’m not sure if this is from Kate. She can barely string together a coherent sentence. The inconsistency makes it hard to tell who wrote what.

  8. What an interesting family connection and interesting partnership between GCHQ and Heads Together – some creative thinking seems to have gone into that. I’d guess that the book’s invitation to match wits with the Bletchley Park experts would be plenty strong on its own, but perhaps publicity arising from Kate’s connection will give it an extra nudge. Thanks to this post, I’m planning on buying a copy for my granddaughter for Christmas. Also – a belated “Brava” and thank you to Valerie Glassborow for her work.

  9. Valerie looks so young in that photo! Which then got me thinking about the men and women who served in both world wars at a young age. It’s a really hard act to follow?


    1. Cathy, how true. Such hard work, such sacrifice. From those who served and the loved ones they left at home. Thanks for reminding us.

      1. Cathy, Very good point. As horrible and at times hopeless it seemed for Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and later the US and other countries during both world wars, it’s astonishing how young people grew up fast to contribute in any way they could to the war effort.

    2. My mother was one of many thousands of women who were “ahead” of their time. In a previous post, I gave sketchy details about her interests and work; she was an interpreter for the Department of War (now called Defense); she spent the five years after WW 2 living in Berlin and Rome. I think that there have always been women like my mother and Kate Middleton’s grandmother, but the majority of history books were written by men. However, I believe that the more one does in service to country and mankind, regardless of sex, the more modest one is, and will be very quiet about their individual talents and accomplishments. The bigger the deed, the smaller the ego.

      1. Hi PotomacPrincess
        Wow! Your mother is very inspiring! I hope you could get as many stories from her about what she encountered as possible? I have been told that Continental Europe was in chaos for quite a few years after the Second World War ended so she must have seen quite a few extraordinary things while stationed in Berlin and Rome! And I was told that it was quite dangerous for a woman to travel on her own in that time too. I think she was very brave.
        The irony though is that, post war, the women were meant to stop working and stay at home raising babies, even though they would have been doing important war work!

        1. Berlin was still smoldering from the Allied bombings, when my mother’s Army plane almost crashed, trying to land in blinding city smoke.

          My mother, while living.and working in Europe from 1945 to 1950, was never fearful for her own physical safety, but instead was afraid she might lose her sanity, after listening and seeing, first-hand, the atrocities the Germans had afflicted upon all of Europe, especially to the Jews. She lost any and all fears for herself while interviewing war victims for the Nuremberg Trials, which was just one of her many work duties.

          I can only imagine my mother’s reaction if she had ever met Kate Middleton. She would tell Kate that since the hopeful future princess had debased herself by being at the beck and call of a disrespectful, man-child, Kate would have to work her rear off, more than any other Royal, to gain the public’s respect, and erase her pitiful role model to young girls and women of today.

          My mom loved all things Royal, since she knew that there had to be beauty and tradition left in Europe, to overcome not just war horrors, but everyday tedium. Kate needs to stand up straight and give speeches, day after day, to come close to touching the minds and hearts of the common “remarkable” lives of so many women of past and present. Please, receive new help!

          1. PotomacPrincess

            Thank you for telling us your mother’s story. She was quite some lady! And brave!
            I met women when I lived in the UK who were probably her work mates and doing similar work, I was thankful I was able to hear some of their stories too.
            I’m not sure if I would have been brave enough to hear the stories of the war victims though, especially when collecting information for something as important as the Nuremberg Trials!

            Thank you for sharing

    1. Eh. I mean, if I were going to release my grandfather’s old army photo like this I would say copyright my family. Even though we didn’t take the photo it still belongs to us.

      1. The Middletons would have realised that – particularly in their unique position – there’s another income stream from photographs of their family that will be used over and over again throughout the world eg the first portraits of George.

        1. I suspect that the military could challenge that copyright if they wanted to but don’t bother. Normally the copyright goes to whomever created the work product and not the subject. There wouldn’t be any exception for army photos. If the military permits the photo to be in the public domain then copyright cannot be asserted after the fact by another party.

          1. Yes, copyright with creator (or their employer, the crown!). Far be it for the Middletons to grasp what they can. I wonder if the photo was reproduced free of charge? It is for charity after all.

          2. This photo of Valerie was released for free by Clarence House when Kate went to Bletchley Park in 2014.

  10. Wow £10 for a puzzle book? Too much for me.
    And before I donate to a charity I want to know how my money is used. I still don’t know this about Heads Together.

    In fact I’m still not clear about how Heads Together differs from the individual charities. I will not donate just for Royals, I need some facts .

    So Will and Kate please tell me , how will money raised be used, what is the cost of the Umbrella organisation over and above the cost of each charity?

    No facts , however good the cause, means no money from me.

  11. Birdy, I agree. And actually your comment made me realize that I completely misunderstood Heads Together. I had thought it was an independent organization that the Royals decided to support and I stupidly (perhaps distracted by Kate’s hair and fashion choices) didn’t realize that it is a campaign that “they” initiated (most likely the great brainchild of PR super guru Jason Knauf). And although Heads Together is an umbrella organization of sorts, it itself is under their own Royal Foundation.

    So, like you said, I will not donate just for royals. They’ll never reveal how much of the money donated to their foundation actually reaches the charities versus how much just supports maintaining their high-profile lifestyle. I do not want to see my hard-earned money go to fund expensive jaunts for them and their team. I don’t want my donations to be spent so Kate and Will (and all their team and security) can attend a fundraising dinner in NYC. Or attend an NBA game in DC. Or view wildlife in Africa. Or even so they can ride the London Eye. Nope.

    And as a sidenote, about their foundation’s website, as I was clicking through the various pages it really bugged me that most of the photos are of Kate. The one who has done the least seems to be highlighted the most.

    1. How much money did Will and Kate donate personally to any Canadian charity after their visit. : ZERO. They can stay home next time. I would rather my tax dollars go directly to charities than to fund their useless visit. Can anyone actually name where they went now that we are a few weeks after the visit?

    2. Looks like I need to amend my comment. After all my fuming, I have to admit I was wrong–the Royal Foundation does disclose its finances (although it doesn’t itemize, like, exactly how much that NBA game cost to attend). So instead of sorting laundry this afternoon, I spent some time looking over the foundation’s financial statement for 2012. Not sure if I’ve interpreted everything correctly–I do well to keep my checking account balanced–but just will share a couple of things it revealed:

      For the year 2012, the foundation spent 676,431 pounds (I’m too tired to look up how to do the pound sign) on “support costs” (management, finance, marketing, legal fees, etc), 372,962 pounds on staffing (for an average of 5 employees) and distributed 1,941,414 pounds in grants–that is, funds to the charities themselves. Obviously, there’s a lot more info but these were the lines that stood out to me. There must be similar reports for more recent years or maybe even news articles breaking it down, but I didn’t have time to look atm. Laundry must be sorted and dinner must be cooked.

      In case anyone is as nutty as I am or if you want to double-check what I just wrote, here’s the link: [KMR’s Note: clicking this link will automatically download a pdf onto your computer] https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwi9zYzbmODPAhWDdz4KHT1BCXAQFgghMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Froyalfoundation.com%2Fabout-our-foundation%2Fdownload%2F%3Ffile%3D171&usg=AFQjCNFSdwm6nEXTsa5y-cNG8zXS5rsCIw

      1. These expenses look way out of line in ratio to their charity outlays, at least compared to charities to which I contribute.

      2. You really need to look at the accounts for 2013. In 2012 the foundation was disbursing funds W&K received for the wedding and many of the those grants were not repeated. There was also some consolidation between grantees. Also keep in mind that the foundation receives money that is restricted and can be used only for the purpose it was given. There are also matching funds that are not granted until the match from outside sources is received.

        1. Thanks, GraceH. I will look for 2013 and 2014 as well for comparison. And you made a good point: 1,836,728 of the foundation’s funds in 2012 were carried over from 2011 wedding year. And, for 2012, when looking at the distribution of unrestricted and restricted funds to the charities, no unrestricted funds went to the charities themselves but 653,159 was spent on foundation costs; of the restricted funds, 1,941,414 went directly to charities (including that carryover from 2011) but an additional 32,380 of restricted still went toward support costs for the Royal Foundation.

          So obviously, if anyone donates to the Royal Foundation, they should make sure they designate how they want their gift to be used. And even then, a small percentage will still go toward the foundation itself.

          1. I found the accounts records for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. I’m planning on doing a post about it because some stuff I found is interesting to me.

          2. For the year 2015, these are the major grants and funds distributed. The figures are rounded.

            2015 Unrestricted grants total: 1,758,884
            ..Glasgow Life 280,000
            ..Epic Partners 229,000
            ..Greenhouse Charity 225,000
            ..Zoological Soc. Of London 186,000

            2015 Distributed restricted funds total: 2,850,000
            ..Supporting Conservation 759,000
            ..Coach Core 609,000
            ..Endeavor Fund 265,000

            When reviewing accounts keep in mind that some consolidation between projects and charities has gone on over the years.

          3. From the Charities Forum web page:

            ”The Charities Forum is the collection of charities, of which The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are Patrons.

            The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry founded the Forum in 2006 as a way to bring their individual charitable interests together and to explore how they could best lend their support to them all in an effective and efficient way.

            The Forum has evolved over the years, expanding as The Princes’ charitable activities grew. Today, there are over 30 organisations involved in the group including The Duchess of Cambridge’s charities.

            All the charities work in sectors that support Their Royal Highnesses key charitable areas of focus, including: supporting members of the armed forces and their families, helping children and young people, and promoting conservation and sustainable development.”
            The last paragraph shows how the RF groups its grants and restricted fund distributions in the annual accounts. It will help if you’re trying to follow the grant/fund trail from year to year.

            The web page says little else about the Forum and has links to WKH charity visits and some links that have nothing to do at all with charities.


            Direct link to RF accounts (scroll to bottom of page)

          4. Thank you again, GraceH. I don’t have time atm to really look it over carefully, but glanced at the link and am confused: Is the Charity Forum different from the Royal Foundation? If so, why both?

            Sorry if that’s a stupid question and the answer is very apparent–but their websites are just so confusing!

          5. Thanks GraceH for this info. If it is a charitable foundation with an endowment, that makes a difference. I still think expenses seem high.

            KMR, looking forward to your article.

            Does England have anything comparable to the U.S. Charitywatch?

  12. I can say that I love learning about Kate’s past. I think we all have a rich history regardless of our heritage. Add to that her work in World War II? That is beyond amazing. I just wish that she spoke more of her grandmother and left Will and Harry out of it.

    I really liked this letter. Hopefully KP can keep up the good and professional work!l

    1. +1 sister!
      I’m a history nerd & genealogy nut so this kind of stuff speaks to me. I think it’s so important that we learn from our past mistakes so as not to repeat them and many of us gain, not just our outside appearance from our ancestors, but our internal strength and spirit from them too. 😀

      1. rhiannon and kimothy, I agaree with you both. So interesting to read about Kate’s grandmother. And, we all have relatives/ancestors whose lives need to have lights shone upon them. I love hearing stories about my grandparents and their parents. Even other relatives from years gone by, too. Love finding out their interests and how similar interests and talents often crop up in today’s family members. It’s fascinating how people — everyday people — impact/impacted our world.

        I hope you both are doing well and that good health is brightening your day.

  13. The press keep calling Kate’s grandmother a ‘codebreaker’, which is an outright lie. She was a ‘duty officer’ which means she was basically a secretary, she wouldn’t even have been allowed into the codebreakers’ offices. I know bending the truth makes for more interesting storylines, but this is ridiculous.

    1. Is it an outright lie or a misunderstanding? Because me saying she was a codebreaker is not an outright lie, which involves knowledge of the lie; it’s a misunderstanding based on ignorance. Perhaps for the press it is the same?

    2. When I read the foreword of Kate, I thought if her grandmother would have been a ‘codebreaker’, we would have read about it long ago. As the Cambridges desperately have to improve their image, everything is used for this purpose. They did not lie directly, but the phrasing of Kate’s foreword make people believe Valerie Glassborow was a ‘codebreaker’, although she was just a kind of secretary. The PR team did a good job this time.

      1. I wondered that too. Because the work was so secretive, how do we know what anyone did?

        Anyway, the main point should be that she worked at Blechley no matter what capacity and to highlight the role that young women and men played in the war effort.

        And the Midds do love to spin to give their image an advantage.

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