In a departure from perhaps what we known Fern Britton for in terms of writing, she has branched into historical fiction. Historical fiction very much in reality.
The Good Servant is in fact Marion Crawford, the governess to the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in the 1930s onwards. Names familiar to us a Princess Elizabeth is now the longest serving monarch in British History having just celebrated her platinum jubilee.
Marion Crawford had ambitions on becoming a child psychologist and helping those less fortunate than her and certainly her later charges to be educated as she saw as their right. However after a interim job before she starts university with Lord and Lady Elgin, she comes to the attention to the Duke and Duchess of York and suddenly finds herself in London, in Windsor Castle. A far cry where she thought she would end up.
Becoming ingratiated within the castle walls and within the Royal Family, Marion or Crawfie as she is known to the children finds herself watching some the most momentous changes in the monarchy all from the close quarters. All of a sudden she is not in charge of princess but a future heir to the throne. Her loyalty, her trustworthiness in fact her worth should be valued highly.
And for the most part it is, until she meets George, older than her, but with the ambitions of becoming Marion’s husband much to the delight of Marion’s mother. Marion is loyal and faithful to the household she serves as well as falling in love with George. She has to choose duty and the path she thinks is best. It is not until much later that she chooses a married life. All that time George waited. But is there something bitter from Marion’s dedication to something other than the man she is supposed to love.
Loyal up until circumstances take Marion down a different path, her words her twisted, her actions questioned and her loyalty broken. She told of what happened behind palace walls. She broken the trust. But did she? Was she a victim of something else, influence by those around her who were fed up of being in her shadow?
No one will really know the true story but I have to say Fern Britton clearly has researched and gives us a very good fictionalised account of what could have been. What could have happened. I for one, would like to think that Marion was influenced by her husband, the world he existed in was so far removed from Marion’s, there was a sense of jealously. However I also feel that perhaps the palace were at fault for not being clear enough in some of their later intentions when it came to Marion’s writing. Something I think they are still carrying with them to this day and perhaps haven’t learnt from?
I adored this book, I like anything historical and this of course gives you a glimpse into something we well never really know about unless we are amongst it. Royalty is steeped in mystery no matter how old you are and I think it should be, to know the real truth would somehow ruin that.
This book had me gripped from page one to the very end, I knew much of the story, but there were gaps in my knowledge and I was surprised to learn how much I actually didn’t know about Marion Crawford and more importantly how much I assumed about what happened. I think it is always wise to challenge this thinking even if it is with a fictional story, it then opens your reading more widely. Thank you Fern Britton you have done this.
A must read for fans of history, monarchy and that overarching sense of duty.
Thank you to the publishers via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.
The Good Servant is out now.