Totally unplanned, but actually quite interestingly enough, I ended up reading a “book flight” about the Royal Family. I began reading SPARE by Prince Harry when the book came out in February. But, it is quite long, and I put it aside for a bit. I also watched Harry and Meghan’s documentary on Netflix during this time. Then I started reading THE ROYAL GOVERNESS which had been on my Kindle for a few years. Then my book club chose SPARE as our next read, so I picked it back up and finished it while also reading THE ROYAL GOVERNESS which focuses on Queen Elizabeth’s childhood. Then I started THE PRINCESS which is all about Diana’s life through 10 years after the wedding to Prince Charles. It gave me a very interesting perspective to have all those stories in my head at the same time. You have to know that now I’ve started watching The Crown on Netflix. My mom’s side of the family is from Wales so I’ve always had a deep interest in the Royal Family, but I must admit, after reading these three books, my opinion of them is quite different.
THE ROYAL GOVERNESS
A Novel of Queen Elizabeth II’s Childhood
Royal Outsiders #1
By: Wendy Holden
Published: August 25, 2020
Lilibet and Margaret were cared for and taught school by their governess, Marion. Marion is a real person and you can find photos and stories of her life online. She gave up her life for this family, even after expecting to only work for them for a few weeks. As an employee of the Royal Family, she lived there and wasn’t allowed to marry until after her service was complete. She did not have any other children and felt like Lilibet (Queen Elizabeth) and Margaret were like her daughters because of the enormous amount of time she spent with them.
Marion felt it was her duty to teach the girls not just the regular subjects of Math and Reading, but also teach them about life outside of the Royal Palace. Marion attempted to take them on field trips around London which always seemed to end in chaos or paparazzi on their tails. But, Marion was determined to expose as much of the “real world” to these girls as she could.
Her story starts with Marion’s life before being a governess and instead working with the poorest of the poor in the city. Her time with the Royal family ends when Lilibet marries Prince Phillip and her duties are no longer needed.
I was quite thankful I was reading this on my Kindle which allowed me to easily look up the numerous British words I was unfamiliar with like bonhomie, sarcenet, and catafalque. My eyes were opened to the life of young children growing up with such privilege that school seemed to frequently take a back seat to photo opportunities or dance lessons, things that were considered much more important than math much to Marion’s best efforts.
“Queen Mary’s bosom was invariably stiff with diamonds. It would have been like weeping on a gravel drive.”
I knew very little of Queen Elizabeth’s upbringing and life before becoming the Queen of England. I appreciated the extensive research and perspective Holden gave the reader and her descriptions of life inside the palace. I also was surprised by how much Margaret was a stinker. But, like Prince Harry, she tended to be ignored and not treated nearly as special as Lilibet was. I could imagine Margaret as a child when she realized the Palace guards had to salute her whenever she passed, purposely running back and forth at every opportunity just to make them salute her.
This is a great introduction to the Royal Outsiders series and gives a solid backdrop of how the Monarchy operates and some of the long-standing traditions that you still see today.
Royal Outsiders #3
By: Wendy Holden
Published: August 1, 2023
I remember as a young girl, waking at 4:00 AM to watch Diana marry Prince Charles. I’ve been to the traveling museum about her life and I can tell you with complete clarity where I was when I heard she had died. Then again, watching her funeral. I have always admired Princess Diana and reading her story was devastating to me. I expected to love reading about how she came to be The Princess but instead, was heartbroken by how her fairy tale dream was shattered by Prince Charles and his family.
“That’s what I want more than anything, Sandy. To fall in love and become a part of someone forever.”
I realize this depiction of Diana’s life is fiction, but Wendy Holden does her research and I have to assume that most of it is based on facts from other resources, books, and interviews. Plus, after reading Prince Harry’s story, I frankly am even more angered by the Monarchy.
Diana fell madly in love with Prince Charles but sadly, as we all know now, it wasn’t reciprocated. Diana was used as a “perfect bride” for Prince Charles while he continued his unsavory relationship with Camilla. The way she was treated by the staff, the family, Prince Charles, and Camilla made me so angry. Diana’s friends tried to warn her and protect her, but her dream of marrying the Prince was too strong, and even once she moved into the Palace, she realized her mistake but it was too late…” her face was on all the towels.”
“And Charles can keep Camilla in his cupboard,” the old queen went on, “so long as he marries Diana Spencer. That’s always been the arrangement for Princes of Wales.”
As heartbreaking as this story was to read, Holden did an amazing job in the telling of Diana’s innermost thoughts, her conversations with the Royal Family, and how she decided to continue the charade of their marriage. Diana was loved by so many people, the children she cared for in the daycare, her college friends, and her sisters (her sister Sarah was even supposed to marry Charles first), that her genuine care and love for others overpowered the ways she was treated by the Royal Family. She rose above all of it and came out a better person. In fact, it made me quite angry to watch Charles and Camilla on TV when he became King. I just couldn’t stomach it.
All she had wanted was for the man of her dreams to return her love. And of all that had happened in her epic, extraordinary life, that was the one simple thing that never had.
Holden makes you feel like you are a fly on the wall inside the palace. Her conversations felt real and she placed the reader inside pivotal moments in time. If you grew up admiring Princess Diana, check out this personal novel of her life.
The other novel in the Royal Outsiders series is THE DUCHESS: A Novel of Wallis Simpson. Wallis Simpson is the woman who was in a relationship with Edward when he chose to abdicate from the throne. This relationship is talked about in the first book, THE ROYAL GOVERNESS because his abdication allowed for Queen Elizabeth to become the Queen.