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, and to periods in their reigns when conflict between personal life and duty to country caused crises for the individuals, the monarchy and the nation.
The book is set in an unspecified future, 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 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 news broke in 1982 about a man breaking into Buckingham Palace and succeeding in getting into Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom. When The Queen’s Secret was published, media attention on the Royals, particularly on the wives of Charles and Andrew, was high. It was before the apex of attention, and tragedy, was reached. A 1987 review of Templeton’s novel considered the plot outdated. “[T]he glory days of royalty are clearly waning,” the reviewer said, calling 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 to the problem of reconciling the personal and political given in the story would not be possible now due to a change in succession protocol made by the Queen 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 would be called “heir presumptive” because the birth of a younger brother would displace her in the line of the succession.
Templeton’s heir presumptive is named Victoria, something that pleased me because that’s the name I’m betting on if William and Kate’s baby is a girl.