A conjecture of what the future holds for the British monarchy, combining the scholarship of a dissertation with the dishyness of a tabloid.
Readers will feel like a palace insider as former People senior editor Andersen (The Good Son: JFK and the Mother He Loved, 2014, etc.) begins with a vivid report of what he imagines will occur the day Queen Elizabeth II dies. Given his knowledge of every major and minor character involved, most readers will find the account wholly believable. From there, the book goes back in time, building on the perspectives (and schemes) of the women of the royal family. We get portraits of the duty-bound Queen Elizabeth, tragic and shattered Diana, calculating Camilla, and a not-so-coincidental Kate. The main question is, what will become of the monarchy? Will the queen abdicate at a certain time, as is the custom for other European monarchs? Will the late Diana get her wish, with the crown skipping Prince Charles in favor of William? Will the Prince of Wales break his promise and crown his second wife queen rather than consort? The guessing game is intriguing but not nearly as fascinating as what Andersen tells us about these women’s pasts: Camilla’s involvement in selecting Diana to marry Charles, Diana’s paranoia, and Carole Middleton’s exhaustive efforts to put her daughter in the future king’s bed. (When William decided on a university, Carole “flew to Florence to persuade her in person that St. Andrews offered something no other university in the world offered: proximity to the future King of England.”) The future Queen Catherine’s story, alas, seems less a fairy tale and more a calculation, just like all the rest of the players on the royal stage.
With gaspworthy and laugh-out-loud moments revealing scandalous and sympathetic details of the royal family, Andersen humanizes this privileged yet embattled group.