In 1933 a progressive young teacher, Marion Crawford, becomes governess to little Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret. Inside the castles and palaces she finds a family frozen in time. Determined to give her pupils a fun and normal childhood, she takes the princesses on buses, swimming at public baths and Christmas shopping at Woolworths.
During her seventeen years at the heart of the royal family, ‘Crawfie’ occupies a ringside seat at some of the most seismic events of the twentieth century. The drama of the Abdication, the glamour of the Coronation, the trauma of World War Two. When Elizabeth first sets eyes on Philip, Crawfie is there.
But such devotion demands sacrifice, a personal life put on permanent hold. And Crawfie’s dedication counts for nothing once she publishes The Little Princesses, a loving, harmless account of life as a royal governess. It earns Marion the Windsors lasting fury…
Her story, glamorous, dramatic and tragic by turns, shines a captivating light into the world’s most famous family as never before. It is also the story of the making of a Queen. Basing her fiction on Marion Crawford’s own accounts, plus a wide range of historical sources and her own imagination, Wendy Holden weaves a majestic tale of love, sacrifice and allegiance.
A glorious piece of historical fiction detailing Marion Crawford’s 17 years as Governess to the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Margaret. As well as being an enlightening piece of historical fiction this book offered very real glimpses into the British Royal Family during a tumultuous time in history.
We first meet Marion as an idealistic, left wing trainee teacher living in Scotland with her mother. Volunteering in the slums her plan is to change the world from the bottom up, by educating children and offering them a path out. However things don’t quite go to plan and one opportunity leads to another and she finds herself, with some encouragement working as Governess for Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, where she remained for 17 years, leaving only after the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Never completely losing her ideals she shifts to determining to change things instead from the top down, ensuring the advantaged girls have some awareness of the circumstances of others less fortunate and the plights of the country.
Told entirely from Marion’s perspective in the third person the book offers a micro view of life from within the Royal Family, including ‘Crawfie’s’ efforts to try to normalise the girl’s childhoods and offer them insight into the lives of those less privileged and her later sense of having failed in this endeavour. The wider historical context is interesting particularly World War II and the Abdication of King Edward and the impact this had on everyone, for Marion overnight she became Governess to the future Queen of England.
Within the book there were, unsurprisingly aspects of elitism, with this really hitting home for Marion as the Princesses got much older, the characters were strong and the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret came across particularly well and were very much as I expected them. For Marion the story was not especially a happy one and there was an overwhelming sense of her having given up a lot and then found herself cast aside and subsequently estranged from the two girls she had loved as a mother. I was also struck by how difficult it was for Marion to extricate herself from the royals with the Queen Mother coming across as a skilled communicator who allowed no room for disagreement and always got her own way.
A very accessible and engaging read that I found both informative and enjoyable, leaving me feeling that I knew more than when I started and wanting to further learn – passing my test for historical fiction! A fascinating insight into this family and time period with some fantastic characters featured, including Wallis Simpson and the dashing Prince Edward!
Definitely recommended for fans of historical fiction – this book covers lots including World War II, three Kings and a royal wedding and so much more. Thanks to Welbeck Publishing for my gifted copy of this book, its very much appreciated and I have seen this book on book shop shelves recently and would definitely recommend picking it up.
About the Author
Sunday Times number one bestseller Wendy Holden was a journalist before becoming an author. She has written ten consecutive top ten bestselling novels and sold more than 3 million books.