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Summary

Marion Crawford was 22 when she became governess to the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret in 1933. A working-class girl with progressive ideas, she had intended to teach children in the Edinburgh slums. Instead, she had a ringside seat at some of the most seismic events of the 20th century. 

The castles and palaces housed a family frozen in time. But outside the royal gates, poverty and unemployment were breeding unrest in 1930s Britain. Hitler was on the rise in Europe. If royalty was to survive, it must draw closer to the people. And so Marion took the princesses on tubes and buses, swimming at public baths, Christmas shopping at Woolworth’s. 

Marion’s devotion meant personal sacrifices. Her passionate affair with a socialist ended tragically. The royals refused to let her leave to marry and start a family. But 17 years of dedication counted for nothing once she published The Little Princesses, a loving, harmless account of life as a royal governess. It earned Marion the Windsors’ lasting fury. 

Basing her fiction on Marion’s own accounts, plus a wide range of historical sources and her own imagination, Wendy Holden shines a captivating light into the childhood of the world’s longest reigning monarch. This is a story of conflict and contradiction, of state dinners and hunger marches, of a left-winger amongst the ultimate conservatives, of a modern woman in an ancient institution. And the divided Britain of the 1930s: the unemployment, the opportunity gap, the rise of the far right. All of this resonates with our own troubled times.

©2020 Murgatroyd Ltd (P)2020 Audible, Ltd

Behind the scenes

Freya Mavor on recording The Governess during lockdown
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What listeners say about The Governess

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A book for teenagers

This book is ridiculous . The observations are juvenile And trite . The romantic scenes are really implausible for the person and the period when pregnancy was always a threat. These are written badly and are unnecessary . Similarly implausible“encounters” with people like Wallace Simpson ! Perhaps I should have sourced the original !

9 people found this helpful

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Fiction ?

If this book is written as fiction, it,s quite a good read. BUT if this book is purporting to be true it,s absolute tosh.

4 people found this helpful

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  • J
  • 16-01-21

Fascinating story poorly retold

I had recently read Marion Crawford's book The Little Princesses which is a fascinating factual account of her time spent as governess to the Queen and Princess Margaret, so I was interested in reading The Governess to see how the author would approach the story. I was disappointed to find the book is basically a rewrite of Marion Crawford's book with the addition of a lot of flowery prose and descriptions plus a bit of romantic interest to justify calling it a novel. The pace of the book is slow anyway and for me the narrator's reading style slowed it down even more. Listening was a chore rather than a pleasure. I skipped over large chunks - without missing any of the story line as it was so close to the Marion Crawford book - and was glad when I finally finished

1 person found this helpful

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Heavy going

This is potentially a great story of the governess to the Queen and her sister. But the heavy signposting of future events is clumsy and the narrator’s inability to pronounce duchess (Duch- ESS. Instead of duchuss) and governess (ditto) was intensely irritating and spoilt it.
If you like Royal history this is for you. But not for me.

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Shame

I was really enjoying this
It's pretty good as a story. I was getting in to it but, as is sometimes the case, the narration let's the book down. I am so annoyed by it that I'm going to have to stop listening. After 2 hours. Mispronounced words, over and over.

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Question

This was an edifying and gripping read, and it was very interesting to get an insiders vision of royal life and the early years of Queen Elisabeth’s early life. However, I do wonder what the authors references were, eg where did she get all her information?

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fascinating

Really enjoyed listening to this book. Made me realise how the Royal family back then were so detached from ordinary people.
Marion Crawford was never really appreciated or valued by her employers, or the Princeses for thst matter.
Such a sad ending to a devoted woman.

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Excellent!

Beautifully presented. A joy to listen to, but so very sad! Very well written prose too.

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Different Lives

although i enjoyed itm not sure it should have been published during the Queens lifetime.some of it made me feel uncomfortable.history of wartime good.

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Brilliant

A fantastic insight into a story I had never heard before. Beautifully written and the narrator was perfect. Highly recommended.