Twenty two year old Marion Crawford is determined to become a teacher in the slums. She wants to educate the poor and help them live a better life. Instead she is summoned by the Duchess of York to become the governess of her daughters. What she initially thought to be a temporary position ended up a lifetime role, bearing the huge responsibility of tutoring the two little princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, one of which was destined to become the Queen of England.
The Scottish woman goes from her little house to the Buckingham Palace, the Windsor Castle and Balmoral, defying court protocol and trying to bring some sense of normality into the princesses lives, especially that of little Elizabeth. A ride on the tube, a visit at the museum, Christmas shopping at Woolworth’s maybe be something of the ordinary for the average citizen, but it was more than extraordinary for the princess. And Marion Crawford did her best to show all this to her young little princess!
As Wendy Holden writes in her author’s note, she once came across with Crawford’s memoir , “The Little Princesses”. That book is said to be written after Crawford was retired and under encouragement by her husband, a bank manager who seemed to have expected more for his wife from the royal family. It seems though that Holden has done her research well and has managed to create a wonderful fiction novel based on true historical events and figures.
The main character in the book is Marion Crawford and all the story is told from her point of view. We therefore get to know all her deepest thoughts, all her secrets, everything that she ever wanted and ever tried for. She considered herself a modern woman, with a modern haircut, wearing modern cloths, made by her mother. She was studying to become a teacher in a patriarchal society, where schools were only for boys and teachers were men with dusty minds. She wanted to change that. She wanted to bring much more change than that to her country. So she was convinced that the best way to do that, was to shape the minds of those in high places. She thought she could do it. She really fought for it! She had achieved quite so many things, until war broke and Elizabeth grew and she understood she could not fight royal protocol and win all the fights.
I really loved how I got to see that insight on the royal family and the early age of Queen Elizabeth II. It may be a work of fiction, but still, the character built is so unique, giving every bit of information possible about the real people. Queen Elizabeth II is protruded as a very clever child, one that understood more than the people around her realized. She was so keen on getting any kind of information she could and she would use that information to understand how the world spins. Always on a good way and always appreciating what was given to her. Or at least to some point. People that were raised up having everything and a unique social status, sometimes fail to understand a few basic things in life.
I really loved Marion, the main character of the book, as well as I loved little Elizabeth. Holden’s writing style is captivating and if you like historical fiction of royal stories, you are bound to love this one too!
“The Governess” is coming out in Britain on August 20, 2020, by Welbeck!