Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Book Review: The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper book cover and review
As I wait for the release of the new season of The Crown, I decided to experience The Royal Nanny to satisfy my thirst for all things related to the royal family.

The novel is based on a real person, Charlotte Bill (nicknamed Lala), the nanny to the Duke and Duchess of York's children beginning in 1897. So those are the Duke and Duchess that became King George V and Queen Mary, grandparents of the current Queen Elizabeth II.

The story starts out dramatically as, upon her arrival, she gets the current head nanny fired because she is abusing the children (David and Bertie--the Duchess was pregnant with Mary at the time.) Instantly, Lala is promoted to head nanny. If you are keeping track, David is the one that abdicated the throne for Wallis Simpson. And Bertie becomes King George IV and father of Queen Elizabeth II.) So she is the nanny to two future Kings of England.

The lives the children (and their nanny) lead is interesting and unusual, of course. It is astounding to realize that all of the monarchs of England were pretty much raised by their nannies. Think of the influence. Lala's influence was a good one. She tried unfailingly (and without much success) to change David's belief that he was deserving of special treatment, lauding over everyone. A true example of the "born with a silver spoon in his mouth" idiom. He was a little tyrant and didn't think much of his younger brother Bertie. Not that their father helped much. He, also, was a tyrant and didn't show much affection for his sons. They did get spoiled and loved, however, by their grandparents.

The Duchess went on to bear four more children, the cornerstone of the story being the last child, Johnny, who had severe epilepsy and potentially some sort of autistic disorder. As Johnny's seizures get worse, Lala and Johnny are banished to a small house on the Sandringham estate (where the children spent most of their childhoods.) Lala truly loved Johnny as her own and resented that he was mostly hidden from the public and not included in most of the family activities.

Lala's personal life, including a romance, add to the story, although this part is not necessarily historically accurate. Harper describes the lives and settings of The Royal Nanny so that you can understand the trials of Lala's position, as well as that of some of the other servants and of course, the children. The Author's Note gives some detail about the facts and embellishments of the story and includes an interesting note about the current royal children. It seems Prince William and Duchess Catherine decided their children would not have a nanny, but quickly changed their mind after the birth of their first child. It seems the reality of their royal duties just take too much time to be able to care fulltime for their children.

If you are at all interested in the royal family, I highly recommend you add this one to your list.

Published by William Morrow, 2016
EBook purchased
384 pages

Rating: 4/5

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  1. This sounds like an interesting saga based in reality, which makes it even better! I love the Crown and look forward to the new season as well.

  2. I don't pay any attention to the doings of the royal family, but I do like interesting, well-written historical fiction and this sounds like it fits the bill. I'll definitely have to check this one out. Glad you enjoyed it!


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