I don't know that I've ever done a book review on this blog.
Reading is a large portion of our home life and homeschooling, and since that is what my blog is about, I will take a stab at it...
I do a lot of reading. I read fairytales and school text books to my children. I read political and news articles on-line. I read recipes from my cookbooks, and posts from my favorite blogs... And every once in a while, out of curiosity, I scoop up one of my antique books (their main purpose is to sit in vignettes for decoration) and begin to read...
This is what I did several days ago and it altered my life for three straight days.
I don't know what came over me. It never appealed to me to read it before, but I opened up this darling little book...
And it grabbed a hold of me and sucked me in.
It transported me over to England, where I lived with the Royal family in my mind for several days, and staying awake until midnight to read it, two nights in a row.
I originally found this book in an antique shop, and purchased it for my daughters' bedroom because it is pink.
When I picked it up to begin reading it, I knew nothing about the book. I saw that it was titled, "The Little Princesses" and was published in 1950. I thought it to be, at first, a primitive little novel.
It was written from the perspective of a young Scottish girl who found a job as a tutor for a wealthy English family. By the evening of the first day of my reading it, a line in the book struck me as odd, and I wondered, Is this a true story?!...
A quick Wikipedia search of the author's name, Marion Crawford, revealed to me that, yes, this was a true story! Discovering this immediately made the book far more interesting to me! This was the true story of how Crawford, governess to the Royal family, took charge and care of the little Princesses during their growing up years. At the time when she was hired on, the King and Queen were Duke and Duchess of York, living a happy, quiet life in a country home. But the Little Princesses became who we know today as (the still reigning) Queen Elizabeth II, and her younger sister, Margaret.
In my reading on Wikipedia, I also discovered something quite bothersome. When a copy of the manuscript was sent to the Queen for her approval before it was published, Her Majesty became upset and wrote to Crawford saying, "I do feel, most definitely, that you should not write about the children, as people in positions of confidence with us must be utterly oyster." Sadly, Crawford went ahead with it, and had it published disregarding the Queen's extreme disapproval. She was completely ostracized, and no one from the Royal family ever spoke to her again.
Upon learning this, I felt very guilty for reading it!
Crawford was for seventeen years responsible for the education of Princess Elizabeth and Margaret. So many things stood out to me in the book that I found to be either absolutely fascinating, (why are the British Royals so intriguing to Americans?) thought-provoking, or actually quite helpful to my life as a homemaker and homeschool mama.
I'll list a few of those here...
I was very interested to learn that the Princesses were homeschooled! Of course I find this to be quite validating! Crawford includes her schoolroom schedule in the book:
A lot of their childhood was spent outside in the palace gardens for games and fresh air. I would love to have an impressive garden someday, but for now we have this little back patio area. In the winter it looks like this:
But in May it comes alive...
and looks like this:
The Princesses really had a sweet, peaceful life, with parents who were good and loving. This portion of the book struck me as quite endearing- "There was no official schoolroom. We did lessons in a pleasant little boudoir belonging to the Duchess. I have never known a house with a nicer atmosphere. The Duke and Duchess were so young, and so much in love. They took great delight in each other and their children. They had private family sessions in the parents' room every morning. This continued right up to the morning of Princess Elizabeth's marriage. The children's bath hour and bedtime ended the day. Nothing was ever allowed to stand in the way of these family sessions."
I found their home life to be very inspiring! Many times while reading I would catch myself silently praying within me, Please let this be our home!
Take this one for example:
"Although Elizabeth was fourteen and had reached the age when girls so often get 'romantic crushes,' there was never any sign of that with her. I think they both had love and affection enough in their own home circle and so had no need to go looking outside for emotional thrills."
That challenged me. Are we making our home atmosphere this loving and stable? I thought.
Would our mealtimes...
Our school days...
Our time together...
Our home atmosphere...
Their friendships with each other...
And their relationship with me...
Be strong enough to accomplish this?
I can get my stomach in knots if I wanted to, because most days all I see are my shortcomings. But instead I will simply give all this to the Lord, ask Him daily for His grace which is sufficient, (2 Cor. 12:9) and continue doing what is right and best.
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"The Queen liked to have lots of flowers about her. Her rooms were always full of them, wherever we happened to be."
I like this line! There seems to be nothing else quite like the uplifting effect that fresh flowers have in the home! I have long enjoyed selecting a bouquet when doing my weekly grocery shopping. A small bundle at most grocery stores is as little as $5.00.
What a delight it is to be unpacking the groceries and to have among the bread and milk, a fresh bouquet waiting to be placed on the table.
I like to consider it my reward for this unpleasant weekly task, haha!
Another striking portion of the book is this one:
"There is nothing in the world so attractive as gentleness and manners. I have often thought that the young people who copy the Princesses' hats and frocks, and shoes, and ways of dressing, would do well also to copy the beautiful manners of the Princesses. To me, gentleness and lovely manners are a charm that never goes out of fashion, and requires no capital outlay."
Again, this challenged me as a mother, and inspired to me to consider the training of manners with my children as one of my top priorities. I have noticed in our culture today a decline in the manners of young people. It is a shame. But I think no one can train a child in manners the way a mother can, and most children spend their days apart from their mothers in daycares and schools. If this is you, and your children are away from you during the day, gentleness and manners can still be taught in the evenings and on weekends. A little more effort and diligence may be required on your part, but it can be done!
There have been times when the kids and I will make a game out of it, and before entering a store I will say, "Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to be a blessing." And we look for ways to keep a door held open, return a dropped item to its owner, or help a young mama struggling with bags and a baby.
Of course, let's not forget to practice manners ourselves! I try to make a point to smile at people when I am out and about. (Warning: This can result in the making of new friends. I currently have a sweet, little cashier at my local Walmart who has taken a liking to me. Just this past Monday night I walked into the store's front door, and immediately heard, "Hi, Courtney!!!" I glanced up, and there was my friend at her post, the self check-outs. She waved me over and told me all about how she had just been accepted to a great college where she plans to attend in the fall. I shared in her excitement for a few minutes before I began my shopping.)
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Of all of the interesting stories in this book, the one that stands out to me the most is the peculiar way Princess Elizabeth became Queen.
Her parents were never meant to be the King and Queen of England, as her father had an older brother who was heir to the throne. The Princesses called him Uncle David. However, only months into his reign, he caused what the book calls a "Constitutional Crisis" by proposing marriage to a divorced, American woman. The Prime Ministers of the UK, as well as all of England opposed the marriage and would not accept her as their Queen.
"A very strict standard of moral behavior is enforced in court circles. No divorced persons have the entree to the palace courts..." The book records.
Uncle David (unwisely in my opinion) chose to give up the throne to marry this woman. This made his younger brother (Elizabeth's father) King almost over night. And Princess Elizabeth, unexpectedly, England's future Queen.
All this got me to thinking about how our choices affect so many of the lives around us! Did this Uncle David ever consider if his brother and sister-in-law wanted his responsibility? There is this sad line in the book:
"The King and Queen must have thought often, regretfully, of their quiet evenings, one on either side of the fire. They who had wanted only a simple life with their children were now besieged by photographers, pursued by press agents and harried by officials."
Yes, it is important to realize how our choices affect other people! We should not do only as we wish, or only consider our own happiness. Look at the bigger picture, and understand the ripple effect on others our life choices bring!
(Of course, God can bring beauty and blessing from all circumstances. Can you imagine a more perfect Queen than who England has had in Queen Elizabeth II for the last several decades?! She certainly rose to the occasion and embraced her calling! I read that she will go down as England's longest reigning monarch of all time.)
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Well friends, thanks for joining me in this little recap of my most recently completed book. I hope you benefited as I did from these insights and lessons.
As I mentioned above, the Royal family did not approve of the publication of the book. But I found it to be very sweet. Crawford never speaks ill of the Royal family, but does reveal a few family secrets that maybe the Queen felt was too private and not her place to share. Like the exact location where the Princesses were hid during the bombing of England during WWII... and several little mishaps and mistakes that occurred on the morning of Elizabeth's wedding.
Maybe consider checking your library or Amazon, and read it for yourself! I think you'll love it!
Thank you for stopping by my blog today!
Take care sweet friends,
~ Courtney ~