The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford by Marion Crawford

The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford by Marion Crawford
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Once upon a time, in 1930s England, there were two little princesses named Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Their father was the Duke of York, 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. They already had a nanny—a family retainer who had looked after their mother when she was a child—but it was time to add someone younger and livelier to the household.

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.

The Little Princesses was first published in 1950 to a furor we cannot imagine today. It has been called the original “nanny diaries” because it was the first account of life with the Royals ever published. Although hers was a touching account of the childhood of the Queen and Princess Margaret, Crawfie was demonized by the press. The Queen Mother, who had been a great friend and who had, Crawfie maintained, given her permission to write the account, never spoke to her again.

Two little princesses and their life with their nanny – what could be sweeter?

I picked this up because it was recommended to me and I’m glad I did. It’s an original look at the princesses, one who would become queen, when they were small, through the eyes of their nanny.

I have to admit the writing is good, but it’s not as flowing as it could be. It comes off a bit pretentious at times because of the circumstances – these girls are the princesses, and the nanny is in a place she never expected to be. I did like that there were glimpses into who the girls were as individuals. There are some nuggets of info, like how the future queen really got into organization and her ponies, then her dogs. Princess Margaret, to my dismay, is labeled as plump rather often and I know I’m looking at this through the lens of current times, but it seems like it wasn’t a kind thing to say or think about the little girl. Still, I liked seeing how the girls handled the War, handled growing up in the spotlight, dating, and one marrying before the other. It was interesting.

There were times when the writing did get bogged down in details of furnishings and food eaten, but it wasn’t as much of a distraction as it could be. Others might love the descriptions.

If you’re looking for another perspective into the little princesses, then this might be exactly what you’re looking for.

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