The Royal Nanny (Paperback)

By Karen Harper

William Morrow & Company, 9780062420633, 384pp.

Publication Date: June 21, 2016



Based on a seldom-told true story, this novel is perfect for everyone who is fascinated by Britain's royal family--a behind the scenes look into the nurseries of little princes and the foibles of big princes.

April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted--and about to meet royalty. . . .

So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte--LaLa, as her charges dub her--nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. LaLa knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.

But the greatest impact on Charlotte's life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala's love--the kind of love his parents won't...or can' him.

From Britain's old wealth to the glittering excesses of Tsarist Russia; from country cottages to royal yachts, and from nursery to ballroom, Charlotte Bill witnesses history. The Royal Nanny is a seamless blend of fact and fiction--an intensely intimate, yet epic tale spanning decades, continents, and divides that only love can cross.

Conversation Starters from

  1. Do you think it is true that “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”? If so, why did the upper-class ethic during the Victorian and Edwardian eras allow servant women to rear their young children? And what sort of people did this practice produce? How has that thinking changed over the years to now?
  2. Really, what is the definition of “motherhood”? Is it strictly biological or is it more?
  3. A study of the royal Yorks/ Windsors reveals a lot about the relationships of fathers to their children. It’s obvious that the dynamic between Prince Albert, later King Edward VII, and his son George, later King George V, was dysfunctional. Can you read between the lines to say why? And how would you assess the relationships of George, Duke of York, to his six children?
  4. Likewise, the royal marriages of Edward/Alexandra and George/ May have unique arrangements. Is this just because “the royals and very rich are different,” is it the result of arranged marriages, or is it just a product of a stricter, different time? Have you seen modern marriages with similar problems?
  5. David, later king and Duke of Windsor, is a fascinating study, a man who gave up the throne for “the woman he loved,” a twicedivorced American who pretty much wore the pants in their marriage. Do David’s early years with the strict and cruel nanny really explain this, or is his family to blame also for his later lack of duty?
  6. Many of us saw the movie The King’s Speech. Does this book throw more light on why Bertie stuttered and had a bad digestive system? Yet where did he find the strength to rule and take the British nation through the trials of World War II?
  7. Perhaps the Yorks/Windsors coped with Johnnie as best they could for that era—or did they? Autism was not known, and epilepsy was feared. Did they handle their youngest child well? Did Lala?
  8. As a reader, what do you think of historical novels that are what Alex Hailey, author of Roots, dubbed “faction”—that is, well-researched books that have fictional scenes and dialogue and some invented characters? Does faction work in a way a straight history book would not?
  9. Is it “better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”? Lala loses much in this story, but is she better for having known, loved, and helped those who have died?
  10. Would you become a British royal of these eras (or Russian royalty) if you had the choice? (And for the Russians, if you didn’t know the revolution was coming?) Or would you like to be part of the British royal family today? What are the pros and cons of such a life?
  11. Charlotte Bill and other nurses and nannies like her were some of the first “career women” who gave up their own romantic and domestic futures for their duty. Are they caught between the past and the future during this early “suffragette” movement? Are they to be admired or pitied?
  12. There has recently been much worldwide upheaval over big-game hunting and the overhunting of species in general. How do you feel about the massive number of game birds killed by the upper class of this era? Why do you think this sport was such a passion?
  13. As dreadful as World War I was for the British (and others), did any good social movements come from so many men being lost? How so?
  14. Those of us who have enjoyed such BBC series as Upstairs, Downstairs or Downton Abbey have had a peek into understanding England’s servant class at this time. Were there both joys and sorrows, triumphs as well as tragedies in this lifestyle?