When I set my novels in a historical time and place I am very aware of the real history that was taking place at that date. Was a war going on somewhere? Had someone just been assassinated in another country? Was there a blizzard? Of course, I am writing fiction and I could choose to overlook these things. But I want my reader to feel they have been transported back in time. I want them to feel that Lady Georgiana and her adventures really happened in the scenario of nineteen thirties England.
So I’m always thrilled when real history actually plays into one of my stories. My timeline for Georgie had reached late nineteen thirty four and I checked to see what the real royal family were doing. And of course it was the wedding of the Duke of Kent to Princess Marina of Greece. What a gift for my story! Prince George, the Duke of Kent, had led a playboy existence. He had been, in fact, a very naughty boy. He had had affairs with both men and women, including, if the rumors were right, with Noel Coward and Barbara Cartland! It was also reputed that he had fathered a child with party girl Kiki Preston, known as the “girl with the silver syringe” because of her cocaine habit. How thankful the king and queen must have been when a marriage was arranged with a sweet and respectable princess like Marina. Now maybe he would reform and behave as a prince should! By all accounts it was a love match. Who could not fall for the charming prince? And Marina herself was a stylish beauty with impeccable English, thanks to a British nanny. The royals just hoped that one of his past sins did not rear its ugly head and come back to haunt them.
So this was where my storyteller’s brain sprang into action: what if one of his former mistresses was found murdered on his fiancee’s doorstep? It would certainly stop the marriage and disgrace the royal family. If he were proved to have committed the murder, it might even bring down the monarchy. So the whole thing had to be hushed up and luckily Georgie is on the spot and asked to use her insider knowledge to solve the crime while keeping it from the press.
When I tamper with real history I try to keep it as true to reality as possible. Members of the royal family only express opinions I know they held. So I had a fine line to tread not to make Prince George a murderer and thus disgrace his memory but to make all the suspicion fall upon him.
The fun part about writing this book was setting it at Kensington Palace. I spent several happy days wandering around the palace, taking pictures, talking to the guards and monitors about the various royal ghosts that are reputed to haunt it. I asked one man if he had ever seen any of the ghosts. He said he hadn’t but there had been times when a room became inexplicably cold. And he told me of a ghostly encounter at another royal residence. So the ghosts also have a part to play in the recreation of Kensington Palace. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Will and Kate, have an apartment there now. I wonder if Prince George has encountered any of his royal ancestors?
As for the Duke of Kent. His death was also cloaked in controversy. During World War II a plane he was flying in crashed, under suspicious circumstances, into a mountain in Scotland. I should perhaps add that his children have gone on to lead exemplary lives, each of them a credit to the royal family.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rhys Bowen has been nominated for every major award in mystery writing, including the Edgar, and has won many, including both the Agatha and Anthony awards. In addition to her titles in the Royal Spyness series, she is the author of the Molly Murphy Mysteries set in turn-of-the-century New York, and the Constable Evans Mysteries set in Wales. She was born in England and now divides her time between Northern California and Arizona.