Last week I saw a book called The Queen’s Secret by Charles Templeton. Curious to see if it was by the late Canadian journalist of that name, I pulled it off the shelf. Yes, and even better, due to my being in a Royal mood with the expected arrival of HRH Baby, the plot hinges on the line of succession to the throne.
It was published in 1986. Its queen is a fictitious Mary III who has one heir, a daughter. References are made to previous monarchs, including Elizabeth II and her father and uncle. It also refers to times of conflict between personal life and duty in their reigns. Conflicts that caused crises for the individuals, the monarchy and the nation.
The book is set in an unspecified future. It is one in which scientific discoveries and technologies now commonplace clearly have not been invented. Problems that have beset the monarchy in past and present times move the story along.
Those problems include the political and religious aspects of marital choice for Royals, especially those who are heir presumptive or apparent, and the intrusion of media attention into the private lives of Royals and the governance of the country.
According to the book jacket, Templeton got the idea for the book after a man broke into Buckingham Palace in 1982. The intruder succeeded in getting into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom. When The Queen’s Secret was published, media attention on the Royals was high. Particularly so for Diana and Sarah, wives of Charles and Andrew.
Critic: “quaint and archaic”
We had not yet reached the apex of attention, and tragedy. But we did not know that then, of course. A 1987 review of Templeton’s novel considered the plot outdated. “[T]he glory days of royalty are clearly waning,” the reviewer said. He called stories about mésalliances of Royals “quaint and archaic to a generation weaned on People magazine and prime-time soap operas. The British nobility itself is now in decline…” Little did the reviewer know, in 1987, that the Royal soap opera had barely begun.
The solution in the novel to the problem of reconciling the personal and political would not be possible now. Queen Elizabeth made a change in succession protocol in anticipation of William and Kate’s baby. As the firstborn, their child, whether female or male, will in time be the heir apparent. Prior to that change, a firstborn daughter of the monarch was the “heir presumptive”. If a boy was born later, he would displace her in the line of succession.
Victoria is the name of the heir presumptive in this Templeton novel. That’s also the name I’m betting on if William and Kate’s baby is a girl.