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  #1  
Old 05-31-2008, 11:28 PM
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June 2008: "Princess Margaret" by Tim Heald

Here is the schedule for the discussions and chat about the June 2008 Book Club book (Princess Margaret: a Life Unravelled by Tim Heald). If you wish to take part in the discussion during June, you should have read (or be reading) the chapters specified in the thread title. We have divided the book into sections for weekly discussion, and there will be an hour of facilitated discussion at the beginning of each new period. However, the thread will be open for general discussion at all times. Please note that discussion of later chapters than those specified in the thread title is not permitted, and posts containing such spoilers will be deleted. If you have any questions, suggestions, comments, or feedback, please contact Empress, GlitteringTiaras, or me.


Sunday 1 June: Thread opens for discussion of chapters 1 and 2 at 4 pm (US East Coast time). Facilitated discussion of chapters 1 and 2 (4-5 pm East Coast time, 9-10 pm British Summer Time), led by Elspeth.

Sunday 8 June: Facilitated discussion of chapters 1-4, with emphasis on the new chapters (4-5 pm East Coast time, 9-10 pm British Summer Time).

Sunday 15 June: Facilitated discussion of chapters 1-6 (4-5 pm East Coast time, 9-10 pm British Summer Time).

Sunday 22 June: Facilitated discussion of the whole book, including the Epilogue (4-5 pm East Coast time, 9-10 pm British Summer Time).

Sunday 29 June: Live chat in the Book Club chat room to talk over the book (starting in the morning and running for the rest of the day).

Tuesday 1 July onward: Thread is available for anyone to post about the topic, regardless of whether they've read the book. This is the time for recommendations and discussion of other books and wider-ranging discussion of the book topic in general.
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Old 05-31-2008, 11:57 PM
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Princess Margaret: a Life Unravelled is a new biography of the Princess by Tim Heald, who was granted access to the Princess's papers in the royal archives at Windsor and who also interviewed many people close to Princess Margaret. This is not an authorised biography, but it does include material from sources not available to earlier biographers.

The book is divided into eight chapters, each one dealing with a decade of the Princess's life, as well as an introduction and an epilogue. This week covers the introduction and chapters 1 and 2, dealing with the 1930s and 1940s, the decades of Princess Margaret's childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, including growing up in wartime and her introduction to the world of royal duties.

Introduction
  • Purpose of the book, and explanation about Princess Margaret's significance in the 20th century.
  • Discussion of the sources available to the author, both written and personal.
Chapter 1: The Thirties
  • The chapter covers her birth in Scotland and mentions that this was the last royal birth attended by government ministers.
  • As the younger daughter of a younger son, she wasn't considered a senior royal.
  • This changed when her uncle abdicated in December 1936 and her father became King.
  • The unequal destinies of Margaret and her elder sister meant that Elizabeth gained in prominence, which possibly affected their previous closeness.
  • Perhaps in compensation, Margaret was spoiled and indulged by her parents and even by Queen Mary.
Chapter 2: The Forties
  • The princesses spent the war at Windsor with their governess and with regular visits from their parents. They were used as wartime propaganda, including the famous broadcast by the two princesses to the children of the empire.
  • Margaret's interest in the arts as opposed to the country becomes more obvious.
  • She travelled to South Africa with her family after the war. While the King and Queen were busy with their duties and Princess Elizabeth was missing Prince Philip, to whom she would shortly become engaged, Princess Margaret was left to her own devices and spent a lot of time in the company of the King's equerry, Group Captain Peter Townsend.
  • In the late 1940s Margaret undertook her first solo engagements abroad and also experienced negative press coverage for the first time.
  • Her routine royal engagements in Britain are described in some detail.
  • After Princess Elizabeth's marriage she remained at Buckingham Palace with her parents, knowing that her father was an increasingly sick man.
Some questions to consider

1. Princess Margaret received a very limited education. Might she have benefitted from going to a boarding school rather than being taught at home?
2. The two princesses were raised to be very close - they wore the same clothes despite their age difference, and they shared a lot of activities. Do you think this exceptionally close family life was helpful to Margaret?
3. There are many claims from people who knew the princesses as children that Elizabeth's destiny after the abdication of her uncle didn't affect her close relationship with her sister. Is this possible, or are rose-coloured glasses in play?
4. Princess Margaret's interests were, from fairly early on, different from those of her parents and sister. Would that have affected the family closeness in any significant way?
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Old 06-01-2008, 04:02 PM
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Right, we're open for discussion.

For me, the early chapters of this book didn't say much more about Princess Margaret than previous biographies, with the exception of the quotes from letters she wrote to her grandmother and other quotes of material from the royal archives. One thing I found interesting was the PR game being played by and on behalf of the Yorks. We hear so much about Crawfie's "betrayal" and subsequent banishment for daring to write about the princesses, but it seems as though selected authors and photographers were given access to the family as long as they were carefully controlled. The set of photos with the original captions by Lisa Sheridan was a real education in how times have changed!
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Old 06-01-2008, 04:31 PM
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1. Princess Margaret received a very limited education. Might she have benefitted from going to a boarding school rather than being taught at home?

Anything is better than being taught at home. Although, I do understand why she was in the first place, but I don't believe it was beneficial for Margaret overall, I mean, look at the outcome hence her attitude as well as development as a person. Education, up until those days, really wasn't exactly high on their priority list. Why would it be? It's not like she (or they)needed it. Essentially from boarding school on, a liberal education, in those days, was primarily a social and cultural experience particularly for those who didn't have to work.


2. The two princesses were raised to be very close - they wore the same clothes despite their age difference, and they shared a lot of activities. Do you think this exceptionally close family life was helpful to Margaret?

In some ways yes and no. The latter, again, doesn't help a person develop proper social skills needed in life; too appreciate things in a manner that one would not take for granted. However, too close of a relationship with her family hindered her... it may have been too insular.

3. There are many claims from people who knew the princesses as children that Elizabeth's destiny after the abdication of her uncle didn't affect her close relationship with her sister. Is this possible, or are rose-coloured glasses in play?

Slightly tinted glasses I would say. How could it not affect their relationship? A major shift happened not only personally, but for the country on a whole. Prior to the abdication the young princesses would have been minor royals, equal to each other in a sense. With the crisis of 1936 things changed. One was destined for bigger things while the other had a wealth, yet slightly limited, opportunities. Unfortunately, Margaret never "grabbed" it.

4. Princess Margaret's interests were, from fairly early on, different from those of her parents and sister. Would that have affected the family closeness in any significant way?


I'm not sure. However, later in life I would say so. Hanging out with a different crowd than the norm, hence artists, writers, musicians, it may have been unsettling for the Tweedys. (Sorry, I couldn't think of a better word.)
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Old 06-01-2008, 04:41 PM
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This book as well as other biographies of both sisters says that the Duchess of York wasn't all that concerned about education, and nor was the King. Queen Mary seems to have been the one who tried to insist that they actually learned some useful things as well as just being initiated into the arts of upper-class womanhood.

I suppose their educational experience wasn't all that different from a lot of aristocratic girls at the time (and even later if you look at biographies of Diana), but I can't help thinking that Princess Margaret's precocious intelligence wasn't served well by it.

You can see the seeds of some of her later frustration in her early life, although I suppose she isn't unique in that respect.
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Old 06-01-2008, 05:05 PM
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1. Princess Margaret received a very limited education. Might she have benefitted from going to a boarding school rather than being taught at home?

To me, she should have been sent to boarding school. Being taught at home isn't a good way to develop social skills. You are surrounded all day by people you live with and since education is crucial, especially when you'll become a Royal figure, it wasn't helping for her. However, boarding school can be damaging for the person and I believe Elspeth drew a great parallel by taking Diana's example. Once again, all types of education has its problems.


2. The two princesses were raised to be very close - they wore the same clothes despite their age difference, and they shared a lot of activities. Do you think this exceptionally close family life was helpful to Margaret?

I agree with GlitteringTiaras on this one. Being too close can be a handicap. It doesn't incite you to go see elsewhere and on the other hand, Elizabeth's support was determinant in Margaret's life.

3. There are many claims from people who knew the princesses as children that Elizabeth's destiny after the abdication of her uncle didn't affect her close relationship with her sister. Is this possible, or are rose-coloured glasses in play?

I doubt Elizabeth became pompous or snotty with her sister. But it's almost impossible to remain completely insensible when you learn that one day you'll become Queen of the United Kingdom. Their sister relationship may have been twisted a little since Elizabeth was already predicted to a grand future and Margaret was now the spare one. I'm not sure Elizabeth made Margaret feel the change. I tend to think their parents have created the feeling of difference between the two girls.

4. Princess Margaret's interests were, from fairly early on, different from those of her parents and sister. Would that have affected the family closeness in any significant way?

They may have had less to share but their closeness remained the same IMO. They spent their childhood together and the family brought them up so I'd be skeptical if being told that enjoying different interests could alter a strong relationship.
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  #7  
Old 06-01-2008, 05:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elspeth View Post
I suppose their educational experience wasn't all that different from a lot of aristocratic girls at the time (and even later if you look at biographies of Diana), but I can't help thinking that Princess Margaret's precocious intelligence wasn't served well by it.

True, which should have been addressed in a proper manner, but it really wasn't in my opinion. Someone recalled that she was incredibly intelligent, but her status in life hindered her from using it in a proper way (paraphrasing here). If only the circumstances were different...



Quote:
I tend to think their parents have created the feeling of difference between the two girls.
Yes! Excellent observation!
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Old 06-02-2008, 06:31 AM
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Education

I always think that the English seemed to be terrifically old-fashioned in their methods of educating upper-class women. Diana Cooper, for instance, could quote reams of poetry and Shakespeare, but apparently her mathematics was entirely neglected. They were obviously just meant to marry and have children - this even applied to Princess Diana!

Many years ago I read Cynthia Asquith's Diaries (well-worth it) and I also bought a biography of her at great expense. She wanted very much to go to university but her family was entirely against it.

I read this book last year and reviewed it on my blog. I am not going to read it again so I hope to discuss it from memory.

Best,
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Old 06-02-2008, 11:53 AM
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I am of the older generation and went to what was a public school and I am hopeless at math but I can paint a nice watercolour. They put emphasis on history and the arts as girls werenīt expected to earn a living. Queen Mary got Miss Crawford to cut down the arithmetic lessons and give them more history as she thought these lessons would be more useful. The Princessesīmother wanted them to be happy and that to her was far more important than an education. Crawfie as they called her tried her best to give them what she considered a more normal education but it was a bit of a struggle as it all had to be fitted into morning lessons. Princess Margaret comes out as an extremely talented young lady and she was beautiful as well. Her talent for mimicry managed to get everyone laughing, which she seemed to enjoy.
All in all she seemed to have a happy childhood despite the restrictions and of course the war.
I too am discussing the book from memory as I read it last year and the book was left behind at our house in the country.
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Old 06-02-2008, 09:08 PM
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It sounded from this book as though Margaret's education, which was fairly sketchy anyway, was considered so much less important than Elizabeth's after their father became King that she really didn't have much opportunity to learn the self-discipline that goes along with a good education. I don't think that did her any favours in her later life.

I was surprised how little this book talked about her education. Marion Crawford seemed to be mentioned mostly in the context of the book she'd written about the general family life of the princesses rather than the actual education she was giving them and the Duchess's rather cavalier attitude toward it.

It can't have been easy for her, either, to be the younger sister of a girl who sounded like Little Miss Perfect from the adult point of view. That's a hard act to follow.
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Old 06-03-2008, 02:12 AM
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Elspeth I can only think that not much was mentioned about Princess Margaretīs education because she didnīt get much. It was an hour or so in the morning, break for orange juice and games, another hour or two, lunch and then games or a visit and all this interrupted when the King and Queen could manage some time with their children. Then of course Friday they were off to Windsor or somewhere else with their parents. There was not much time for lessons at all, when you think they learned to ride, swim and dance as well it shows that they could only have time for the basics.
I think that Miss Crawford was an absolute marvel.
I agree that the elder sister was the important one and she had the right temperament for this, whereas Princess Margaret was the artistic one.
I almost forgot that Princess Margaret at least, had piano lessons and as it turned out a great talent for this instrument as well.
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Old 06-05-2008, 10:29 AM
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Well, this is annoying. I've been looking for my copy of Marion Crawford's book to check what she said about Princess Margaret's education when the Princesses were both young and Queen Mary was getting worked up about what they were and weren't being taught, and I can't find it. I know it's around somewhere because I fell over it while looking for something else a couple of weeks ago, but I suppose it's my own fault for having my books shelved pretty much at random in several different rooms.

I was also reminded of that book by the references to the Lisa Sheridan book in the early parts of Tim Heald's biography and the way that the Princesses were used as propaganda both before and during the war. You can see some of the same stuff going on now, as has been going on throughout the Queen's reign - the attempts to portray this incredibly privileged family as really just living the simple life and having simple tastes and pastimes, like tramping around wet fields with the dog, just like Mrs Thing down the road.

Margaret's embracing of the more showy luxuries from early on in her life must have been a bit embarrassing to Mummy, who was trying hard to make it appear that the royal family were really just like everyone else but had all these extra responsibilities that regrettably required them to live in palaces and wear fabulous jewels (such a shame that the tiara gives one a headache). But you can see the pattern from early on - she was spoiled and naughty but knew how to get away with it, at least when she was young.
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Old 06-05-2008, 11:20 AM
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You just sent me of on a frantic search of my bookshelves (also not in very good order) and I have copied Miss Crawfordīs timetable for the Princessesīstudies, I have always found it a bit shocking.

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Old 06-05-2008, 11:39 AM
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"Out in the garden and park with Duke and Duchess" or "break for elevenses (orange juice)" ... . It sounds so calculated. How can a child respect such a strict agenda like an automaton ?
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Old 06-05-2008, 11:49 AM
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Well, I think it was a lot more relaxed than what Queen Victoria and Prince Albert put Bertie through, but it does seem a bit sad when visits with their parents had to be timetabled. Not that that's all that unusual for upper-class children of those days, however much Miss Crawford was trying to pretend that they were just another family.

Thanks for finding that, Menarue! I really must have another search for my copy.
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Old 06-05-2008, 12:05 PM
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I canīt quite agree with you TheTruth, they did seem to have a timetable for everything but their parents were the King and Queen and that was one of the problems that Miss Crawford had, the interruptions to her school timetable. My problem with the timetable is there was really not much study done. Queen Mary had Miss Crawford make alterations and that was to cut some of the arithmetic and give them more history and to study royal genealogy, which I suppose was more useful to them at least Queen Mary thought so.
They had swimming lessons too. All in all I think they had a limited education but a happy life and they saw far more of their parents than many upper class children did.
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Old 06-05-2008, 12:25 PM
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They weren't King and Queen at the time the timetable was drawn up, although it was probably around the time when that was looking to be on the cards.

I remember that Queen Mary had complained about the lack of history in the timetable and wanted to have something removed to make room for it - that would have been the mathematics? I suppose in Queen Mary's day, there wasn't much tradition of girls learning maths.
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Old 06-05-2008, 12:29 PM
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I was shocked to notice that seeing your parents needed to be written on a schedule but I guess it was a "normal" thing at that time. Contrarily to Menarue, I believe they actually had a lot of lessons and I wouldn't have forced them to spend Saturday mornings reviewing what had been done during the week. (And I would have died if I had had as much arithmetics as they had.).
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Old 06-05-2008, 01:19 PM
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I think that it was the math that was cut to make room for the other subjects as Queen Mary said they would never have to do household accounts. I am trying to think back to how long I had math for, I think we had about 3 hours a week so I suppose it isnīt that different. Half an hour a day for four days a week but things were very different back then.
Nowadays I donīt think that any lessons last only half an hour. I know that I had besides two hours a week math about 3 hours doing water colours....strange, and my knowledge of math reflects this. Yes when the timetable was drawn up it was before the abdication. I think afterwards the then Princess Elizabeth had lessons on the consitution to prepare her for the future. There was quite a gap between the ages of the two princesses too. We are inclined to forget this because they were dressed identically for years and years. I think there is about 5 years difference in age.
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Old 06-05-2008, 02:07 PM
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Princess Elizabeth was born in April 1926 and Princess Margaret was born in August 1930, so there's a little more than four years between them. It must have been a challenge to teach the two of them together, with that age gap.
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