I still haven’t recovered from those feelings, but this book did help to lessen the hurt.
Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl is set in London during the year of 1836 (so yes, almost one hundred years before Downton, but whatever). The main character, Liza, and her parents moved to London for her coming out, planning to spend the year at dances and balls, being wooed by suitors and dressing fancy. But when her parents die in an accident and Liza learns she is left penniless, she has to go to work to pay off her father’s debts and try to make a way for herself.
Through some connections of her father’s, she finds her way to Kensington Palace where she becomes the maid of Princess Victoria. Victoria is held captive by her mother, the Duchess, and her scheming right hand man, Sir John Conroy. Their plan is to portray the Princess as incapable of inheriting the throne when the King (who is sick) dies so they can become her regent and control the throne and its purse.
There’s lots of trickery, scheming, plotting, and, in the end, freedom for Princess Victoria and her maid, Liza. It was a fun read that helped feed my fascination with life in England.
After I finished the book, I learned from the author’s notes that the book was based on real life stories and letters left by Victoria, the Duchess, the King, and the Queen. Liza and her plot line were entirely made up, but Sir John and his thievery, Victoria and her mother’s relationship, and the struggles the Queen had to conceive a child were all historically true. And the writings used in the book (from Victoria’s diary or letters from the Duchess) were not made up, but straight from the archives of the British family. It was a fun twist at the end to learn that and I wish I had known from the beginning.
Prisoners in the Palace, a young adult book for all ages, would be a great read for anyone who needs a British aristocracy fix while they’re waiting for the next season of Downton Abbey (like me) or anyone who is a history buff that likes a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Another way I’m helping with my Downton issue is watching Call the Midwife on Netflix. It’s produced by the BBC and just as great as Downton, but again, a slightly different time period, but with that same mix of lovely British life. Which, for some reason, I can’t get enough of.