If you haven’t figured out by now that I’m a big fan of the Queen and Prince Philip, you haven’t read much on this blog! I’m picky though—I expect accuracy and cited sources. For far, far, too long biographers have relied on the highjacked prose of the Queen’s former governess, Marion Crawford, as the be-all, end-all on her childhood. In the last 10 years old friends, Prince Philip’s cousins and others have given good interviews in documentaries and magazines, that put the nails into the Crawfie-Little-Princesses-book’s coffin once and for all. First Hugo Vickers exposed the sham the book became in the hands of its American editors. What governess, who knew them intimately, would still be calling them “little girls” when Elizabeth was busy making out with Philip? Right?! So, it is with this in mind that my interest was peaked when I opened a copy and instantly saw a new name being quoted–a name who WOULD know how things were.
What I Liked
That person, Myra Wernher Butter, is sort-of related to Prince Philip (it would take too long to explain). And, she grew up knowing both of the Queen and Philip. It is Philip’s presence throughout the story that I love. Because he WAS there. Oh, not necessarily in the same room with Elizabeth and Margaret. He was, however, a descendant of both Queen Victoria and Christian IX [“The Father-in-law of Europe and father of Queen Alexandra]. His mother was born at Windsor Castle and, for most of his widohood, his Grandmother lived at Kennsington Palace. After her marriage in 1934, his first cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark [the Denmark part always gets left off–hence “Phil the Greek”] was Duchess of Kent–wife of Elizabeth’s paternal uncle.
Philip and Elizabeth with George VI and Lord Mountbatten (among others) 1939
Philip was around the royals from time-to-time both at royal residences and at the home of Wernhers and of Myra’s sister, Gina [who married Edwina Mountbatten’s former long-term lover, but that remains for another day’s discussion]. He spent nearly all of his life after age 8 at school in Britain (except one brief year in Germany at school on his sister’s estate) and was looked after by his mother’s brothers, the former Princes of Battenberg aka George, Marquess of Milford Haven and [as he was titled then] Lord Louis Mountbatten. George’s son, David, was Philip’s best man.
Princess Elizabeth with paternal first cousin George Lascelles, the future Earl of Harewood
I also liked that it put paid to Crawfie’s stupid assertion that boys were a rarity in Elizabeth’s world. Hogwash! Crawfie didn’t necessarily go with the family on visits to friends with stately homes–that was Nanny “Alah’s” job. Not only were her two nearest-in-age Royal cousins both boys (Princess Mary’s sons), but many of her parents’ friends sons figured in her life as she visited their homes, attended dancing class, visited with Eton boys who were sent up the hill for the annual tea and more.
This is a much more balanced view of Elizabeth’s childhood. It is fun reading this today to realize she is a contemporary of Downton Abbey’s Sybbie, George and Marigold. Imagine!
The christening of FDR’s royal godson in 1942
One Head-Smackingly Awful Error
I point this out because it is in the “You had ONE job” category.
The author mentions that one royal is a godson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. You choose which one, ok?
- Prince Edward George Nicholas Paul Patrick of Kent [now the Duke of Kent] born October 9, 1935.
- Prince Michael George Charles Franklin of Kent born July 4, 1942.
Pretty obvious, yes? No, not to the author! She said it was Eddy! Duh. Yes, I e-mailed the publisher.
Happily, Eddie and brother Michael have no barring on the quality of the book!
Well worth reading–espeically if you are new to all things royal.