CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 3 . . . . September 21, 2012
It would hard for any child to grow up in the shadow of an older sibling. Younger children may feel jealous of their sibling or have feelings of inadequacy, but what if your older sister was the future Queen of England? Would you still feel the same way, knowing that the weight of the world will soon be on her shoulders?
Princess Margaret Rose had an idyllic childhood. She is happy, growing up with her older sister, Princess Elizabeth, nicknamed "Lilibet", and her father and mother, the King and Queen of England, plus the countless palace staff who serve them. Hers is a life of privilege, of yacht rides and theatre outings, of sparkling parties and family holidays.
Although this book is subtitled Her Royal Highness Elizabeth Windsor 1939, and the cover has a picture of Princess Elizabeth in her Auxiliary Service uniform, do not be fooled! Wartime Princess is the fictional diary of Margaret, who is eight-years-old when the diary begins in 1939. The reader learns about the young Princess Elizabeth through the eyes of her adoring little sister. Margaret sees her sister as an obedient child with a strong sense of duty to her parents and her country. Compared to Elizabeth, Margaret is the lighthearted, funny one who often leaves her sister exclaiming, "Don't be so silly, Margaret!" There are only a few times when Margaret mentions her jealously of Elizabeth, such as when Elizabeth is allowed to do something that Margaret is not, but Margaret is quick to justify and understand her circumstance because Elizabeth is a Very Important Person.
Margaret's world is turned upside down at the outbreak of World War II. She is suddenly thrown into a world of evacuee children, German doodlebug bombs and rationing. The war and events that happen in London as a result of the war are not explained in great detail. Margaret knows that there is a bad man who is at war with her father, and she learns about the destruction of buildings in London through palace staff, but the story seems sheltered. At one point, Margaret confesses that there must be so much worse going on than she will ever know, and, because Margaret is the author of the diary, the reader is left wondering what it could be.
Against the backdrop of war is the story of the unlikely romance between Elizabeth and Prince Philip of Greece. Margaret describes how happy Elizabeth is each time she receives a letter from Philip who is stationed with the British Navy. However, because this aspect of the story is told from Margaret's point of view and Elizabeth is a carefully guarded character, the reader learns quickly that Elizabeth is infatuated with the young naval officer, but her inner feelings are left unknown.
Told through a diary format in which each short entry is dated (excluding the year), Margaret's voice does not appear to grow, change or develop. Her last diary entry reads the same as the first, and the reader might find it confusing how quickly the diary moves through the course of five years.
A brief afterword introduces readers to what happened to the Royal Family after the diary ends, and this section includes five full-page photographs, many which illustrate an event Margaret mentions in her diary. This book, part of the "My Story" series, is a good introduction to Queen Elizabeth's childhood and the relationship she had with Margaret.
Recommended with reservations.
Gillian Green, a children's librarian in Woodstock, ON, is an avid royal watcher.
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