The prince and the show­girl

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BOOKS - MAR­GARET CAR­RAGHER

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.

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