Commoners in the Royal Family

Pink dahlias
Pink dahlias in the Dahlia Garden at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge.

Whilst watching the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel last June, I became very irritated by sentimental comments about ‘breaths of fresh air’ and inferences that Meghan Markel was the first commoner to marry into our (British)  Royal Family.  How could they be so wrong and so ignorant?

Of course, the Duchess of Cambridge (formerly Kate Middleton) has no blue blood, but, then, she is discreet, restrained and sensible, so not of interest to tabloid newspapers.   But – for millennia – the Royal Family has attracted hangers on, social climbers and those with the eye to the main chance.   The Boleyns and the Woodvilles come to mind.   Also Wallis Simpson.

Elizabeth Woodville is generally regarded as being pushy and a bit of a slapper, but, being a widow without any means to support herself or her sons, it seems she was just dogged.  Legend has it that she sat under an oak tree, where she knew King Edward IV would pass, and pleaded for the return of her lands, confiscated in the Wars of the Roses.  Later, when she became queen, she obtained a papal indulgence for those who said the Angelus three times a day – the sorts of thing that all slappers always do.

Red dahlias
Red dahlias in the Dahlia Garden at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge.

Anne Boleyn, on the other hand, came from a family on the make.  Her sister, Mary, was Henry VIII’s mistress for a short time and her father and brother were seeking out offices near the King.  In The Queen of Subtleties, by Susannah Dunn, we see Anne in super-bitch mode, a veritable Alexis Carrington, with an extra finger which she used, if necessary, to spook those who came across her.  He doesn’t understand what he’s up against.  When I’m good, I’m very good.  These are some of the remarks which Dunn has Anne say.  The author has all characters used modern parlance and modern idioms, so, as you can imagine, the dialogue is very punchy, and does not detract from the historical period.  She has drawn Anne Boleyn to perfection, an anti-heroine, breathlessly funny and clever, and her story is un-put-down-able..  (I haven’t finished Queen of Subtleties yet.)

Queen of Subtleties has two narrators, Anne Boleyn, and King Henry’s confectioner, Lucy Cornwallis, who is sweet and well-meaning.  Guess whose story carries me along?  As I’ve commented before, we are attracted to evil – aren’t we?

Yesterday, we went to Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge, which has nothing to do with any of the above, but the dahlias were amazing – hence the photos.


Publishing? Don’t Shake the Boat

Time for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.  This month’s optional question has mined my writerly insecurity.  The question is: What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

  • Well, Dear Reader, as you know, apart from a few short stories, my breathtaking contributions to the world of literature are as yet unclaimed by publishers.  To be brutally frank, The Novel, which I would like to see in print or even in electronic form, is still unfinished.  I am getting through the editing slowly, but the word publishing brings me out into a cold sweat.  I will, however, try to answer.
  • When editing is done, I will ask people to read it.  One dear friend has already volunteered.  Anyone reading this who would like to read a bordering on historical novel based in the 1980s, featuring the Polish trade union Solidarity, is very welcome to contact me.  As I’m female and no spring chicken, I would particularly welcome younger readers and male readers.
  • After that, I will send the result of my endeavours to a professional editor.  Yes, I know, these cost, but I’m assured that it’s worth it.
  • I will attempt to persuade an established author to endorse my big work (having read it first, obviously).
  • I will try the traditional publishing route, having first obtained advice from my writer friends as to which ones are likely to work for me.
  • If I get no biters, I will try self-publishing, but the promotion work necessary for self-publishing terrifies me.

This evening, when I relax with Ian McEwan’s The Children Act, I shall attempt not to fall in despair.  McEwan writes so well, sets scenes and describe people’s actions so brilliantly.  My prose, my characters and my settings are nothing in comparison.