I first met Tessa when we were both nominated for Best First Novel Agathas five years ago. We’ve both moved on to new series since then, and I’m delighted to welcome her to the blog to talk about her latest novel, In Royal Service to the Queen. Welcome, Tessa!
The true story behind IN ROYAL SERVICE TO THE QUEEN
by Tessa Arlen
The Royal House of Windsor has been providing headlines ever since the glamorous and charismatic King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne. He ran off to Paris with the twice divorced Wallis Simpson, who looked good in clothes and was considered by the British government as having all the appeal of a rattlesnake, leaving the second son to step into the picture.
Reserved to the point of diffidence and plagued by a speech defect, Bertie, the Duke of York, came to the British throne as King George VI in December of 1936. The new king appeared to have little to offer except a vivacious wife with an instinct for PR and two delightful little girls: Elizabeth and Margaret.
Within three years the world was at war, and the new king with the help of his savvy wife hauled the monarchy out of the yellow press and into the searchlights of the London Blitz to become Britain’s most loved and respected monarchs. Queen Elizabeth proved quite a force to be reckoned with when it was suggested that the king and his family take shelter in Canada. “The children won’t go without me, I won’t leave without the King, and the King will never leave,” she said to the press as she picked her way through the rubble of bombed London streets in her three inch heels and powder blue ensemble to boost the morale of homeless and bereaved East Enders.
So where were the children during these dangerous years of war? They were scurried off to Windsor Castle, twenty-five miles outside of London, with their crew of nannies and Marion Crawford, or Crawfie as the family called this young, energetic woman who had already been with the family for seven years. It was Crawfie’s loving encouragement and sense of humor (important when working for the royal family) that undoubtedly kept morale high at Windsor.
The war ended and the eighteen year old Princess Elizabeth announced to her parents that she was in love with a young man they considered highly unsuitable for a future Queen of England. Tall, extraordinarily handsome, and with a worryingly liberal cast of mind, Prince Philip of Greece was doubly more royal than Elizabeth but penniless and an exile from his country.
IN ROYAL SERVICE TO THE QUEEN, is Crawfie’s story. She was twenty-two when she was first employed as the Windsor’s governess: a Presbyterian Scotswoman from a humble background who put her life and marriage to the man she loved on hold to do her duty during the war years and support Elizabeth’s determination to marry Philip after it. There is very little information about Marion Crawford except a few photographs of a tall, slender, and rather shy looking young woman. She is never mentioned by the royal family—not even in the well-researched series The Crown. And the British public had never heard of her until 1950, when she wrote her book THE LITTLE PRINCESSES after she retired. Crawfie’s book is a loving and loyal account of the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. The book was immensely popular internationally, lifting Crawfie and her husband out of the straitened lives they were living in post-war London, and earned her complete banishment from the royal family and her rent free cottage on Kensington Palace grounds.
Tessa Arlen is the author of both the Lady Montfort and The Woman of WWII mystery series. She lives with her family in the Southwest where she gardens in summer and writes in winter. For more information on IN ROYAL SERVICE TO THE QUEEN and the Royal House of Windsor please visit Tessa’s website at www.tessaarlen.com