30 April 2011

Weekend Reading List: Royal Wedding Long Weekend

"Nothing has changed in the royal household since the time of Queen Victoria, and it remains a very old-fashioned house," Burrell warns, in a new interview. Be careful, Kate. Try to draw on the experiences of your late mother-in-law and understand that not everyone in the royal household has your best interests at heart." - Paul BurrellThis long weekend, I'm mostly pottering about and fussing with my plants (they are not looking all that well due to the wilting heat) and reading books inspired by the royal (to-do) wedding of William and Kate. Yes, that wedding. I remember immensely enjoying the vivid gossip provided by Princess Diana's controversial ex butler. Paul Burrell is a former member of the British Royal Household, and was a footman for Queen Elizabeth II when he begain service at the age of 18. I think I must have been one of the first to dash down to Kinokuniya in 2003, to buy Mr Burrell's just-released autobiographical book, A Royal Duty, which revealed frank details about life as a member of the Royal Family staff. It was fascinating, voyeuristic, behind-the-scenes tattle about the Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales at home in Highgrove and at Kensington Palace. It was no wonder that the book was an international bestseller because it was a complete tell-all, masquerading as a defense of Diana's morals and an apology for her behaviour. I'm a rabid anglophile and true royalty fanatic so you can imagine how I lapped it all up. This was followed by his 2006 The Way We Were. It became apparent that he was milking his connection with the late Princess for all it was worth: We learn of her tawdry Hollywood affairs, her happiness with Hasnat 'The One' Khan; The stable lad, etc. There was also that bizarre episode that involved the interment of the Princess's best friend's baby in the garden; Her ambiguous rivalry with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of Pork; And the seedy and tragic story of the affair with Dodi Al Fayed.I made another mad dash down to the shops for Tina Brown's 2007 The Diana Chronicles. It goes through much the same high/low ground as the Burrell books, but with less inane slobbering and much better subtext. It certainly was less sympathetic to Princess Diana (in fact, it was unsympathetic to almost all concerned, and no one, royal or otherwise comes off looking very well). And as ex editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, Talk and The New Yorker, Ms Brown certainly has more credibility, if less access, than Burrell the Besotted Butler. Ms Brown's book also has more bite: She described Dodi Al Fayed vividly as "an Egyptian lounge lizard". You like? I couldn't put it down - even today."Don't be afraid of the Queen. Her Majesty is one of the friendliest, most approachable ladies. The way to her heart is through her corgis, so accompny her on walks often. Make friends with the palace's downstairs. Make friends in low places, because it is the downstairs that makes the upstairs work. It's not the royal family who are the snobs at Buckingham Palace. The real snobs are the people who work on behalf of them." - Paul Burrell


  1. dear DG

    Ms Brown simply writes better, and that makes all the difference in this whole cottage industry of royal memoirs/exposés.


  2. Dear EA: Agreed. It is very much the same below-stairs tattle made that much more juicy by a keen eye for detail and nuance.