Before the Crown: a Novel of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip by Flora Harding

If you love Netflix’s The Crown (season four premiered November 15th-yay!), you will love Before the Crown. This book was just the balm I needed after reading a couple of pretty dry non-fiction books.

From the publisher:

“Before the crown there was a love story…

Windsor Castle, 1943

As war rages across the world, Princess Elizabeth comes face to face with the dashing naval officer she first met in London nine years before.

One of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy, Philip represents everything she has always been taught to avoid. Instability. Audacity. Adventure.

But when the king learns of their relationship, the suitability of the foreign prince is questioned by all at court.

He is the risk she has never been allowed to take. The risk not even the shadow of the crown will stop her from taking…

Step through the palace gates and discover a captivating historical novel of royal secrets and forbidden love exploring the tempestuous courtship between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the wake of WWII.”

In Before the Crown, (Amazon) (AbeBooks) Princess Elizabeth has had a crush on Prince Philip since she was 13. As she gets older, she carries on a correspondence with Phillip during World War II when he was in the British navy. The Queen Mother thinks nothing of the correspondence, but King George doesn’t like it. He doesn’t like anything that would break up “We Four”.

Prince Philip of Greece has no country, as his family is exiled, no money, no wardrobe, doesn’t like shooting, his sisters married Germans, his mother has some mental illness, and cast off most of her worldly goods to become a nun. He is not, in a word, a hot prospect to become the future queen of England’s husband.

The story is told from both Elizabeth and Philip’s point of view, which I thought was interesting as I listened to the audiobook featuring Edward Killingback and Imogen Wilde. Philip is a lot more unpolished in private and so are his thoughts. He enjoys Princess Elizabeth’s company and is genuinely fond of her, and his uncle, the highly ambitious Dickie Mountbatten encourages him to pursue the relationship.

Elizabeth grows from a school girl crush to genuine first love as she gets to know Phillip and spend more time with him. She knows that if she wants to marry him, she’s going to have to ask him, which is something she’s not comfortable doing since she’s an old-fashioned girl. Phillip agrees to marry her, saying he was willing to do his duty for Britain. Elizabeth thinks he is doing this as a matter of state.

When, in fact, the two get engaged, King George orders the two to keep the engagement a secret. Then he whisks the family away for a trip to Africa for three months, hoping the distance will make Elizabeth second-guess her decision to marry.

When Elizabeth returns to Great Britain, Phillip confesses that he’s in love with her and he’s not just marrying her out of a sense of duty. The book culminates with the moments before the wedding.

This was thoroughly enjoyable listen on audio. Phillip’s chapters were shorter, but I’m glad the producers decided to have both male and female narrators. The female narrator sounds like the young woman Elizabeth was, and Phillip the more unpolished prince in exile. I highly recommend Before the Crown, (Amazon) (AbeBooks) if you like a good love story, the royal family, or historical fiction.

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