The diaries of Alathea Fitzalan Howard, who spent her teenaged years living out World War II in Windsor Great Park with her close friends Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth, the future queen of the United Kingdom.
Another facet of the British royal family emerges via the diary entries of a young, devoted Windsor Park neighbor ... The author diligently chronicles the stultifying round of royal visits and duties and her grinding work as a nurse in training, none of which makes for interesting reading. But she does provide some intriguing insights into the characters of the princesses as well as her own: She was an old-fashioned girl whose mother was deeply critical and emotionally remote, leading to bouts of depression ... A litany of dull, dreary royal goings-on peppered with the diarist’s sharp, dark observations.
A compulsive diarist, Alathea provides an unforgettable picture of those innocent, harmless times. While giving us a glimpse of the princesses’ early years, this diary – skilfully edited by Celestria Noel – also offers the most wonderful record of a world and a mindset now as extinct as the dodo ... Thank goodness Alathea’s own museum – this diary – is intact and we can now observe, with the curiosity of travellers in the Amazon rainforests stumbling across a hitherto undisturbed tribe, the attitudes, hopes, heartbreaks and vulnerable dreams of a prewar aristocrat whose like we shall never look upon again ... Alathea is so old-fashioned, and so authentically old-style Catholic, that she makes Brideshead Revisited seem progressivist. To read of her life at Cumberland Lodge, or back at Arundel Castle, seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, is to feel that the Reformationnever happened.
The diary entries, some only a few lines long, are intimate and endearing ... Howard also acknowledges the 'heavy nameless cloud' of depression that sometimes settles over her, and reflects on her parents’ unhappiness. Royal watchers and British history buffs will cherish these frank reflections.