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Friday, September 19, 2008

The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen's Childhood by her Nanny...Review

About the book:
"Once upon a time, in 1930s England, there were two little princesses named Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Their father was the second son of King George V, and their Uncle David was the future King of England." "We all know how the fairy tale ended: When King George died, "Uncle David" became King Edward VIII - who abdicated less than a year later to marry the scandalous Wallis Simpson. Suddenly the little princesses' father was King. The family moved to Buckingham Palace, and ten-year old Princess Elizabeth became the heir to the crown she would ultimately wear for over fifty years."

The Little Princesses shows us how it all began. In the early thirties, the Duke and Duchess of York were looking for someone to educate their daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, then five and two years old. Enter Marion Crawford, a twenty-four-year-old from Scotland who was promptly dubbed "Crawfie" by the young Elizabeth and who would stay with the family for sixteen years. Beginning at the quiet family home in Piccadilly and ending with the birth of Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in 1948, Crawfie tells how she brought the princesses up to be "Royal," while attempting to show them a bit of the ordinary world of underground trains, Girl Guides, and swimming lessons.

I thoroughly enjoyed this gem. First published in 1950, it is the story of Marion Crawford, who was the nanny to Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret. It begins in 1932 when Marion, called Crawfie by Princess Elizabeth, joined the royal household of the, then, Duke and Duchess of York. Crawfie was 24, and came to be the princesses' teacher. She stayed with the royal family until the time of Prince Charles' birth in 1948.

The story is tender and revealing. The Duke and Duchess relished their quiet family life. Being the second son, the sensitive Duke never imagined the path his life would take when his brother abdicated the throne. Plunged into the roles of King and Queen, the royals relied on Crawfie to help raise their daughters while maintaining their family life as best they could.

Crawfie's affection for the family, but especially for Princess Elizabeth, or Lilibet as she is referred to, is strong. And, it is apparent that the affection they have for her is equally as strong. She shares details of their daily lives and provides an insight into the life of royalty that is fascinating. A significant portion of the story is told from the WW2 viewpoint and how the struggles and rationing affected the royal family. We also see the changes in Princess Elizabeth as she comes to accept her role as future queen. Her courtship and marriage to Prince Phillip are chronicled as well.

The class system has never left England. Even today. I have no understanding nor respect of "royalty". That of being important simply because of a person's birth, nor the devotion and loyalty that people show them, especially since they're mainly figureheads. Crawfie nearly gave up her chance for marriage, simply to serve the King and Queen. I don't get it. I never will. I don't share the public's fascination with royalty nor celebrity for that matter.

The story, however, is an entertaining one. It's a tender, touching account of the childhood of Britain's current queen by the woman who, perhaps, understood her best.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 9/08

* * * *
4/5 Stars


  1. I read this when I was a teenager, when I first became interested in my family's history and my mother told me that we're distantly related to Britain's royal family. (I'll never forget her asking me, "Did you ever wonder why our last name is King?") My great aunts were fascinated with the family connection; they even traveled to England and spent months working on a detailed family tree.

    I remember enjoying this book quite a bit, even though I wasn't much of a non-fiction reader when I was in my teens.

  2. I never understood the facination with royalty either.