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The Princess


The Princess

You don't have to be a Princess Diana fanatic or even a huge fan to enjoy Wendy Holden's THE PRINCESS, an incredibly well-researched novel based on her life. Holden presents the information through the eyes of a fictional friend of Diana's from boarding school. Sandy is invited to visit Diana in April 1992 in Kensington Palace. They reminisce about the past, and Diana shares the details about the "romance" with Prince Charles that led to their marriage. What we find is not much romance and a lot of backstage maneuvering.

There are a few important takeaways from this well-written and touching novel. According to Holden, Lady Diana Spencer was truly in love with Prince Charles, although it certainly was not mutual. Charles was in love with Camilla Parker-Bowles and had no intention of ending his relationship with her. They assumed Diana knew. She did not. The Diana we meet in these pages is an unsophisticated 18-year-old.

"You don't have to be a Princess Diana fanatic or even a huge fan to enjoy Wendy Holden's THE PRINCESS, an incredibly well-researched novel based on her life."

Diana's naiveté is almost painful to read about. We know that Charles' inattentiveness, lack of affection and even occasional hostility toward her was because he didn't really want to marry her. But because he was Diana’s destiny in her eyes, her beloved Prince (she was a huge fan of Barbara Cartland's sappy romance paperbacks), she made excuses for him. Over and over and over. When he unkindly called her "Chubby," she began to binge and throw up to lose weight.

The careful research opens our eyes to the machinations behind the reason that Diana became the Princess of Wales. There was literally no one else who fit the bill: wellborn, no scandals, a virgin, and approved by the Queen, the Queen Mother, Prince Philip and Charles. And yes, perhaps Charles came last in that order. She was presented as the one he needed to make his Princess of Wales to continue the royal dynasty.

There are fascinating details that serve as evidence of the huge chasm between the behavior of Queen Elizabeth II and Charles. At Balmoral, Diana is surprised when told that the queen personally checks all the guest rooms, while Charles is apparently incapable of tying his own shoes and putting his toothpaste on his toothbrush. We see Prince Philip explain to Diana that his irascible character was a choice he made early in his marriage so he would never overshadow his wife, the queen.

Diana is told that royalty must "never explain and never complain." And she must never overshadow Charles. While the story ends at the point when Diana realizes that hers was to be a loveless marriage, the one thing she had been certain would never happen to her, we wonder. We know how Diana overshadowed Charles. She was loved and revered around the world; she was not just a celebrity but an icon. Charles was a stuffy old fuddy-duddy; Diana was everything beautiful, kind and compassionate. And eventually, of course, Diana did not only explain (about there being three in the marriage during that famous interview), she also complained. If Charles led her astray, she had her own kind of revenge.

But as we look back and remember her heartbreaking death at a young age, while Charles is king and his former mistress his queen, we realize that he won. He ended up with everything he wanted. And I, at least, hate that. But this novel did pique my interest in reading more about what happened during the marriage, the time after the book ends. Holden provides a list of books that she used in her research, so there are plenty of choices for readers who want to continue learning about this famous, doomed union. I highly recommend THE PRINCESS, which is quite obviously based on cold hard facts.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on November 10, 2023

The Princess
by Wendy Holden