Book #83

The People's Princess by Flora Harding


Her engagement to Prince Charles is a dream come true for Lady Diana Spencer but marrying the heir to the throne is not all that it seems. Alone and bored in the palace, she resents the stuffy courtiers who are intent on instructing her about her new role as Princess of Wales.

But when she discovers a diary written in the 1800s by Princess Charlotte of Wales, a young woman born into a gilded cage so like herself, Diana is drawn into the story of Charlotte’s reckless love affairs and fraught relationship with her father, the Prince Regent.

As she reads the diary, Diana can see many parallels with her own life and future as Princess of Wales.

I wasn’t too sure what I was getting into with this. What more can we learn about Diana which isn’t already out there? We know her story and her struggles, how she rose into royalty before being scorned with divorce. We know her tragic end. Harding, however, plays things quite differently in The People’s Princess.

In the beginning of the novel, Diana is wandering Buckingham Palace and discovers a portrait of a woman who piques her curiosity. Asking after her, she soon finds out this is Princess Charlotte of Wales, a nineteenth century royal. Keen to please, royal aides soon present Diana with Charlotte’s diary, and a dual timeline is roared into action.

The double narrative here between Diana and Princess Charlotte is captivating. Their stories seem to engender them kindred spirits, with each of them experiencing the struggles involved in being part of the royal family. It was soon clear, however, that we were getting far more Charlotte than Diana, and I soon became quite tired of Charlotte’s diary entries. The Diana entries themselves seemed very basic, and focused hugely on her eating disorder, which does not encapsulate who Diana was. I’m no royalist by any means; I just found this distasteful, and a lazy route to go down.

Nevertheless, this is a good glimpse into the lives of the princesses. Buy one princess, get one free.