The prince and the showgirl
Fiction: By Royal Appointment, A. O'Connor, Poolbeg €14.99
The marriage of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle shows just how inclusive and egalitarian Britain's royal family has become. Scroll back 150 years and it's a different story, and one richly illustrated in A. O'Connor's latest offering which relates the fate of another actress who had the temerity to fall for a royal prince.
Set in the latter half of the 19th Century, By Royal Appointment opens in London's Windsor Castle where Bertie, Prince of Wales lies gravely ill. As his mother, Queen Victoria, hovers anxiously, a delirious Bertie calls out for a woman whose involvement with the heir to the throne a decade previously had rocked the monarchy to its core - an Irish actress named Nellie Clifden. From here the narrative rewinds to 1861 where young Bertie has been dispatched for military training in County Kildare while his parents, worried by his waywardness, conspire to pair him off with suitable European royalty. Meanwhile, having been taken off the streets by army captain James Marton, famine orphan Nellie Clifden is making a name for herself as an actress, singer and occasional courtesan to Dublin's elite. In a bid to curry favour with the royal visitor, Marton orchestrates a rendezvous between the prince and the showgirl. But what was meant to be a brief diversion for HRH takes on a life of its own as Bertie and Nellie find themselves instantly smitten. And so begins a liaison that sweeps Nellie from Dublin to a love nest in London. But as rumours of their affair spread all the way to Buckingham Palace it soon becomes clear that love alone is not enough to hold the couple together...
History duly records that Bertie, Prince of Wales went on to marry an eminently suitable Danish princess. Meanwhile, having been hastily dispatched from royal circles, the hapless Nellie faded into obscurity.
So kudos to O'Connor for breathing life into a feisty showgirl who captivated a prince in this thoroughly entertaining tale.
Sunday Indo Living