An historical fiction novel about the British royal family? Count me in! I was given an ARC of The People’s Princess by Flora Harding (Amazon) from NetGalley and One More Chapter in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
“Buckingham Palace, 1981
Her engagement to Prince Charles is a dream come true for Lady Diana Spencer but marrying the heir to the throne is not all that it seems. Alone and bored in the palace, she resents the stuffy courtiers who are intent on instructing her about her new role as Princess of Wales…
But when she discovers a diary written in the 1800s by Princess Charlotte of Wales, a young woman born into a gilded cage so like herself, Diana is drawn into the story of Charlotte’s reckless love affairs and fraught relationship with her father, the Prince Regent.
As she reads the diary, Diana can see many parallels with her own life and future as Princess of Wales.
The story allows a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life in the palace, the tensions in Diana’s relationship with the royal family during the engagement, and the wedding itself.”
The People’s Princess is definitely geared towards fans of the Netflix’s The Crown or PBS Masterpiece’s Victoria. What you have is two different timelines: the months leading up to the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981, and the early 1800’s with the story of Princess Charlotte, King George III’s granddaughter and the first “people’s princess.”
Lady Diana Spencer is having a hard time adjusting to life in the palace before the wedding. Charles is often engaged and she doesn’t want to do any of the prep that one should do before becoming a royal princess, like learning the royal family’s family tree. That is, until she sees a portrait in the halls of Buckingham Palace of a young lady. It turns out to be Princess Charlotte, granddaughter of George III and in the line of succession to be Queen of England. Diana’s intrigued, and a staffer gives her a diary of Charlotte’s to read.
Diana’s story is told in the third person and doesn’t cover any new ground for those that have read about Diana’s isolation and hard time adjusting to life living in a bubble. She reads about Princess Charlotte, whose father kept her hidden most of the time, refusing to let her attend balls and the like. As Prince Regent, he’s highly unpopular, but the same can’t be said for Charlotte, whom the public adores whenever they get a fleeting glimpse of her.
The majority of the book concentrates on Charlotte’s “diary” and her insubordination to her father, who wants her to arrange her marriage for his advantage in the ruling of Europe. Back then, it was all about alliances by marrying off your children. But Charlotte wants none of it and refuses to marry the man her father picked. He’s in a rage, so she runs to her mother’s household since her parents loathe one another and live separately. It’s decided that Charlotte will live elsewhere while she considers whom she should marry.
Charlotte is young and impulsive, and after two brief romances, she think she’s found the one in Leopold. It’s true, she doesn’t love him, but she certainly likes him. Eventually their relationship grows and they develop true love with each other, so you expect a happy ending. That is, unless you know British history and know that there was no Queen Charlotte. Alas, she dies young after childbirth, leaving Diana to wonder what sort of queen she would have made.
Overall, this quick read satisfied my royal fix; I’ve enjoyed Flora Harding’s works before and can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
The People’s Princess will be released March 31, 2022.
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