Sadism or Royalty! One Woman's Tale With a Saudi Princess

Published May 12th, 2020 - 06:45 GMT
This file photo shows Saudi King Salman flanked by his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a session of the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 10, 2019. FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/GETTY
This file photo shows Saudi King Salman flanked by his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a session of the 40th Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 10, 2019. FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/GETTY
Highlights
Catherine Coleman says she took Riyadh-based job as she wanted an adventure.

A formed PA to a Saudi Arabian princess has revealed she had to follow a four-page list of protocols, including never turning her back on her employer, while servants were physically punished by beating. 

Catherine Coleman admitted that she took the Riyadh-based role because she wanted an adventure and was tempted by the higher pay and the prospect of adventure after spending years running her own antiques business.

But the middle-aged woman was not prepared for the vicious displays she would soon witness during her three months in the job.

Writing for The Times, Catherine recalled how the cruel royal, who has not been named, would physically punish her servants and refer to them as 'animals'.

Catherine, whose job involved managing a staff complement of Filipinas, said she was eventually asked to take over the role of disciplining them should they break any of the princess's demanding rules.

With servants at the bottom of the hierarchy - which featured butlers, PAs, teachers and nannies above them - they were not even allowed to take out the royal's rubbish without her permission.

Catherine also had her own rules to follow, explaining that the protocol list she was forced to abide by was four pages long.

It included never arguing with a royal, even if you're in the right, never showing your back to them, no intimate relationships, plus no making friends with the staff. 

She often had to work until 4am and during a trip to Paris, was made to clean the royals’ bathrooms and handwash their clothes - which included five outfit changes a day.

Catherine, who accepted the position as butler and personal assistant five years ago, was also warned that should she break any of the country's rules and get herself arrested, the Saudi authorities would be under no obligation to let her embassy know and nor would she be entitled to legal representation.

During her time with the royal, Catherine claimed she saw photographs of servants' previous injuries following physical punishments and 'felt sick to her stomach'.

One punishment from the princess involved a staff member pouring a bucket of ice water over another before they were forced to stand outside until the next morning during a winter evening.

Another maid showed an angry bruise where she said the princess had kicked her before being gifted with cheap costume jewellery.

The servants explained to Catherine that every time they were beaten, they were given jewellery or money, and accepting it meant accepting the pardon of the person that beat them.

But very soon, Catherine's resentment for her employer grew and three months into her year-long contract, the princess and the PA fell out 'once and for all'.


The royal had found that her personal assistant was not disciplining the staff according to her very specific instructions. 

'On this particular occasion a small bowl of sugar had been found in one of their rooms,' Catherine recalled. 'She had told me to punish them by scattering their belongings all over the floor and covering them in a paste made from sugar and water. 

'Instead of wreaking havoc as the princess instructed, I didn't use the sugar mix, but just put their belongings on their beds. Suddenly all her anger was directed at me.'

The next day, Catherine was sent for a psychiatric evaluation, without explanation. She said this was the moment when she realised the princess, who hardly ever left her bedroom, found being cruel entertaining.

Catherine quickly decided she wanted to leave but could not flee Saudi Arabia without an exit permit from her employer.

She also couldn't break her contract without facing a penalty of $4,000, as well as the prospect of paying the remainder of the commission due to the employment agency that had placed her.

So instead, Catherine wanted to manipulate the princess into ending the contract and granting an exit permit.

She did this by threatening to complain about the princess' cruelty to her kind and gentle brother, who was her guardian.

Women in Saudi Arabia have a male guardian and during Catherine's time in the country, they could do very little without their permission.

The rules have been relaxed a little since, allowing women over 21 some freedoms, including obtaining passports without seeking the approval of their guardians.

Catherine said she explained to the princess that she would not seek an audience with her brother if she allowed her to go home without any repercussions.

Two hours after the conversation, Catherine received an envelope containing her exit visa and flew home the next day.

She admitted: 'Saying goodbye to the staff, knowing they had no means to escape, was one of the hardest things I've had to do. Yet I knew I had to leave — for my sanity and my survival.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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