The Royal Nanny
by Karen Harper
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062420640
Trade paperback, $15.99, 384 pages
If you are one of the many people who love seeing photos of the young Prince George and Princess Charlotte on your Facebook page or when you see William and Kate and their beautiful children on the cover of People
magazine must buy it, then Karen Harper's new novel, The Royal Nanny,
is for you.
Harper based her historical novel on the true story of Charlotte Bill, the royal nanny to the children of the Duke and Duchess of York, who eventually became King George V and Queen Mary, grandparents to today's reining British monarch, Queen Elizabeth.
The children called Charlotte Lala, and she came to the family as an assistant to the main nanny, until Lala discovered that she had been mistreating David and Bertie, who would one day go one to become King Edward VIII, best known as the man who abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, and King George VI, whom we know best from Colin Firth's portrayal of him in the Oscar-winning movie, The King's Speech.
Lala was devoted to her charges, including four more born after the boys. When the Duchess was giving birth to a baby named John, she had a very difficult birth and feared that she wouldn't live through the birth. She begged Lala to promise to always care for the baby and Lala agreed.
Lala became very attached to baby Johnnie, and as he grew, John appeared to be different from the other children. He had trouble sitting still, and he was slow to learn. Today, we would probably place him somewhere on the autism spectrum.
As Johnnie got older, he began to have seizures. These seizures frightened everyone, and doctors recommended that John be sent away to be cared for. But Lala would not allow that to happen. She appealed to the Duke and Duchess, and promised that she would care for John herself. Eventually, John and Lala were moved from the family home to a smaller home nearby, where Lala cared for him.
Lala gave up her entire life to care for the children, never marrying. She had feelings for Chad, a young man who worked on the family estate, but her sense of duty got in the way of her happiness.
Fans of Downton Abbey
will love The Royal Nanny
. You get such a sense of what life was like as a servant and as child in a royal household. History fans will enjoy it too, as we see David and Bertie's childhood lives, and how they grew up into the men they became.
Harper has some interesting insight into why David would marry Wallis Simpson and abdicate, she believes that he was attracted to women who dominated him.
In what could have been stock portrayals of real people, Harper brings out their humanity. The Duke loved his son Johnnie, and was torn about sending him away to avoid a scandal. The King and Queen are shown to be particularly fond of their grandchildren, just like every other grandparent. The King plays games with melting pats of butter and the Queen shares her love of small glass animal figurines with her grandchildren.
I found the relationships among the royals and their extended family members who ruled in Germany and especially Russia intriguing. We tend to forget that the Windsor family had such close ties to the rest of Europe and how that affected them during times of war.
The Royal Nanny
is an utterly fascinating fictional look at a real historical character, and Anglophiles will want to put this one on their TBR list. I highly recommend it, and I'll be looking for more information on the real Charlotte Bill.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Karen Harper's tour. The rest of her stops are here:
Karen's Harper's website is here.