by Mary Jo
Hi, there! Today we are lucky enough to welcome Karen Harper as a return guest. Karen has been writing even longer that I have <G>, and she's known for her versatility and superb research. She started out with historical romance and has since branched out into main stream historical, romantic thrillers (including contemporary Amish suspense), and historical mysteries. She isa winner of the Mary Higgins Clark award. (Note the many varied covers included in this blog.)
A New York Times list bestselling author, among other honors, Karen is with us today to tell us about her just released, and utterly fascinating sounding book, The Royal Nanny. Over to you, Karen!
THE NANNY’S HAND THAT ROCKED THE WORLD
Victorian writer William Ross Wallace once wrote, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” He may well have meant the loyal nannies who reared generations of the children of the British Empire.
He most certainly was right on about the heroine of The Royal Nanny, Charlotte Bill, the Cockney woman who raised the children of King George V and Queen Mary, the current queen’s grandparents.
Two of those six children became kings, and in a way, Charlotte, or ‘Lala’ as the children dubbed her, saved both of these boys. When she arrived in the royal household of the then Duke and Duchess of York, David (later King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor) and Bertie (later King George VI) were being abused by their current nanny, who was later committed to an asylum. (Remember The King’s Speech flashbacks where Bertie was ignored and starved? And why did the Duke of Windsor gravitate toward abusive, take-charge women, including his beloved Wallis?)
All the major royal characters in THE ROYAL NANNY are as real as research can make them. This includes the family’s cousins, Tsar Nicolas, and “Willie,” Kaiser Wilhelm. But the downstairs staff are amazingly important. Yes, shades of the beloved Downton Abbey series. But it was the plight and the power of this royal nanny which amazed me.
If there’s one theme I took away from my three years of research for this novel—including a fabulous trip to England—it’s that the movers and shakers of the great British empire did not rear their own children. When Winston Churchill died, he had only one photo on his bedside table, not of his wife, daughter or mother, but his nanny whom he had supported for years before she died and comforted on her deathbed.
Another example: A nanny employed by Queen Victoria, once fell ill on a trip and, despite a retinue of nursery maids and servants, Queen Victoria and two of her ladies found that, by accident, they were in charge of two royal children in a railway carriage for a journey of several hours. The women had no clue how to entertain or control them. The children ran around, broke things and yelled. “The queen became irritated, then furious, finally exhausted, despairing and helpless.” (From the book THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ENGLISH NANNY.)
Of the six royals Lala reared, her most precious child was the last of the brood, Prince John, sometimes called ‘The Lost Prince.’ The boy was epileptic and probably autistic. Epilepsy had brutal treatments at the time, and some considered those stricken to be “idiots.” Johnnie was probably autistic also, and that was unknown. Lala fought the family on their plan to send him away and until he died young, lived with him in a house on the royal Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
Lala Bill was the perfect person for me through whom to view the intimate lives of this royal family but also the sweep of late Victorian and Edwardian history.
MJP: Karen will give away a signed copy of THE ROYAL NANNY and also a copy of THE QUEEN'S GOVERNESS, her novel about Elizabeth I's "nanny," Kat Ashley to one lucky commenter between now and Saturday midnight.
To learn more about Karen's many and varied novels, visit her website at www.KarenHarperAuthor.com and her FaceBook page at www.facebook.com/KarenHarperAuthor
Mary Jo, who can't wait to read this one!