On the Fourth of July the other day I found myself wondering why America so proudly celebrates its independence from Britain every year, champions equality and democracy, and yet is still so fascinated by the British royals. Their lives are followed more closely than those of any movie star. When I asked my Facebook followers two years ago to predict the new royal baby’s name I had thousands of replies (and several people got it right!) Equal interest with the birth of Princess Charlotte. And how we loved William and Kate’s wedding, as we did Charles’s and Diana’s before them.
So what is it about the royals that intrigues us so? I suppose because their lives are so different from ours. We’d all like to live in a palace, wouldn’t we? And be waited on by servants. And have everyone curtsey to us? What little girl hasn’t played at being a princess? And the most successful Disney movies all seem to involve princesses, from Snow White to Frozen. It is the ultimate fantasy for many people, although I have to tell you that I wouldn’t want their lives. I go on a book tour once a year when my new book is published. A week or so of flying to a new city every day, of being “on” all the time, having to make speeches, answer questions, pose for photos. It is lovely when fans turn out to my events and want to take me to meals and have pictures taken with me. It is also really tiring being gracious and witty and cheerful at every moment. At the end of each day I collapse onto that hotel bed and just want to fall asleep.
But the royal family does this every day–including the queen who is now approaching ninety. A usual day for them is an event in the morning touring a school or factory, opening a new wing of a hospital, welcoming an ambassador, then a luncheon somewhere else, another event in the afternoon and sometimes even an official dinner. And for them every moment they are being observed and in the spotlight. If the queen happens to yawn because she didn’t sleep well the newspapers take a picture and say she was bored with the performance. If she happens to smile when something important is happening, she’s not taking it seriously. She can never look bored, or annoyed, or even surprised. And she often can’t go to the loo for hours—something else to remember.
So no, I would not like their lives. I wouldn’t even like servants hovering over me or helping me to get dressed. But I suppose they take that part for granted. The heroine of my Royal Spyness novels certainly does when we first meet her. She’s only a minor royal, thirty-fifth in line to the throne and second cousin to the king, but she’s grown up in a drafty castle with servants waiting on her. It’s only after she strikes out on her own that she realizes how little she knows about the outside world and how ill-equipped she is to survive. It’s a steep learning curve until she can make her own tea and toast! But luckily in my new book, MALICE AT THE PALACE, she has returned to the lifestyle in which she was raised. She is again among royal kin, at Kensington Palace, helping a foreign princess prepare for her wedding to the king’s youngest son. You’d think this was an assignment in which nothing could go wrong for Lady Georgie, wouldn’t you? But she does have her maid with her… probably the worst ladies maid in the history of the world being let loose at Kensington Palace in the present of foreign royalty… a perfect recipe for disaster. Yet all is going relatively smoothly until a dead body turns up in the archway under the haunted clock tower. Not only that, but it’s the body of the bridegroom’s former mistress. And it’s Georgie’s job to prevent any whiff of scandal from leaking to the press. Who would want to be a royal? Not Georgie!
Malice at the Palace is the ninth in the New York Times bestselling Royal Spyness mystery series by Rhys Bowen. It is on sale August 4th, 2015.