I recently saw the TV series The Crown, a fictionalised, behind the scenes view of the British royal family based on real historical events.
I’ve had Robert Lacey’s Royal for over ten years but hadn’t read it until now, when I wanted to see how close the TV series came to depicting real events.
The book was written not long after the death of Princess Dianna, so it’s now about 20 years out of date.
While mostly focusing on the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Lacey places her story within the context of royal celebrity originating in Victorian times.
The author’s respect for the current Queen is clear, but it doesn’t extend so much to those involved in the Charles-Diana soap opera that drove the monarchy into crisis. While Lacey doesn’t portray Prince Charles in a favourable light, he also bursts the bubble of sainthood created around Diana.
Lacey reveals quite a few interesting insights into modern royal history, such as the fact that Alice Keppel, Camilla Parker Bowles’ great grandmother, was also mistress to the Prince of Wales of her time (later Edward VII). But unlike her descendant, Keppel didn’t have her relationship with the monarch-to-be legitimized through marriage. [Charles and Camilla’s marriage was still a future event when the book was written].
Overall it was a fascinating book, an enjoyable insight into the privileged but difficult experience of the world’s most well-known monarch. While there is an inevitable distance created between the royal family and their “subjects” – Lacey is able to show a much warmer side of the Queen than would have been shown of earlier generations of her family.