Popsugar Reading Challenge 2021 – Book 32

Prompt – A book that was published anonymously

Thus was another prompt where I had no idea what I was going to read. The group chat on Goodreads had loads of suggestions but I was yet to make a decision. I requested Princess Margaret: Royal, Romantic Rebel by Helen Cathcart from Netgalley. I’ve read a few books featuring/about Princess Margaret recently so this sounded interesting.

What it’s about?

A compelling biography of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon.

A tribute to an extraordinary life of faith, love and royal duty. Ideal for readers of Hugo Vickers, Philip Ziegler and Anne Glenconner’s Lady in Waiting.

Loyal sister and friend to Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret grew up in the public gaze and during her lifetime was one of the most-discussed women in the world. But what was early life like for the younger sibling of the future monarch? And what role did she carve for herself within the Royal Family?

Royal biographer Helen Cathcart offers a fascinating personal study of the first four decades of the Princess’ life, from her birth at Glamis Castle and phenomenal childhood popularity in the nostalgic era of ‘the two little princesses’, through watching her parents crowned in Westminster Abbey and dancing among the crowds after her sister’s Coronation. The author casts crucial new light on ‘the Townsend affair’, a crisis once compared with that of the Duke of Windsor, and the culminating love story of the Princess and the young photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones.

Against the changing scenes of royal palaces, Thames-side hideaways and Caribbean islands, and with deep family insight, Princess Margaret is the definitive inner story of the Queen’s beloved sister, charismatic and unconventional, yet always her steadfast self.

What I think:

This is a really interesting biography if Princess Margaret.

Originally published in 1974, the book is a fascinating portrait of the Princess and her family.

The writer is clearly a royalist and portrays the princess as hardworking, dutiful and devout. The emphasis is on royal tours and how Margaret promoted Britain around the world. There is no salacious gossip and little time is spent on well-known scandals.

The detail of the Royal tours are really interesting. The schedules are demanding and there are lots of gossipy anecdotes and quotes from conversations that bring the tours alive.

The writer presents the marriage between Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones as wholly positive and romantic. Published before they had officially separated, all rumours of unhappiness are dismissed and there is no mention of extramarital affairs.

The Peter Townsend scandal is presented factually and calmly. All of the drama is removed. Princess Margaret is portrayed as happily ending the relationship for the greater good.

This is an interesting contrast to more modern biographies and TV series like The Crown which focus on Princess Margaret’s unhappiness and the turbulent relationships.

The story of writer Helen Cathcart is just as interesting as the book! A prolific and popular royal biography in the 1960s and 70s, she was never seen in public. People dealt with Cathcart through her agent Harold Albert. After Albert’s death, it was reveled that Cathcart was a pseudonym for Albert himself. He believed that he would sell more books about royalty as a woman and picked a name that sounded trustworthy to hide behind.

Thank you to Sapere books and Netgalley for this gifted digital copy. A really interesting perspective and another prompt ticked off.

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