Sophie Page

Going down the other trouser leg of Time — for this is Britain, Jim, but not as we know it…

In 2011, when Prince William married Kate Middleton, an inspired and inspiring Editorial Director had the idea to celebrate it with a novel. She found me but I’d never written alternative reality before, so she re-christened me, wound me up and set me running…. 6 weeks later there was a 96,000 word novel and a stunned Sophie [Sophie Page, that is].

cover To Marry a Prince by Sophie PageTo Marry a Prince – What’s True? What’s NOT?

This was supposed to be the story of a twenty-first century Prince of Wales finding his one true love. He was Prince Charming – well, underneath the military dress uniform and the pompous speeches. She was Cinderella on a smart phone.

Only everyone in the world knew he wasn’t and she couldn’t be. Well, fairy tales are always sideways on to real life. Not a problem. Readers expect to suspend disbelief reading a story.

Authors? Ah. That’s different. We have to believe, you see.

Author’s Conscience

The world you will find in To Marry a Prince is very close to our twenty-first century. The phones, the hairdressers, the magazines obsessed with celebrities, the Home Counties Golf Clubs, the ladies who lunch – I knew them all. (Not that I golf. Observation only.)  

And London, too. Waterloo station. Battersea Park with its walks and its fantasy bandstand. The houseboats on the river. They were real

True Historical Women

As Richard tells Bella, Fanny Burney, author of Evelina, really was lady in waiting to Queen Charlotte. She didn’t enjoy it and it stopped her writing, which is probably why I remember it. Poor, mad George III chased her round the garden in Kew, until Fanny turned and stood her ground.

Everyone else, including the Queen, was terrified of him in these moods. But Fanny, though quaking, spoke gently to him and he calmed down.

Isabella Bird, inspiration for Sophie Page heroine BellaIsabella Bird, after whom my Bella was named, was an intrepid traveller in the nineteenth century. She went to many then remote places, including the Rocky Mountains, Tibet, Persia, Hokkaido and China, generally alone or with local guides. In Colorado she probably fell for mountain man Jim Nugent, who took her climbing. She refused to marry him because, as she told her sister, he was the sort of man any woman would love but no sane woman would marry.

Isabella tangled with spies. A mob even attacked her in Szechuan Province. She wrote several books about her travels and was the first woman fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Where I tampered with history…

This was pure wish fulfilment. I’ve long been a fan of Princess Charlotte, the only daughter of the Prince Regent and Heir Presumptive to George III. Sadly she died in childbirth in November 1817, aged just 21.

This left her unmarried uncles, all in their sixties and mostly living with tolerant and supportive mistresses, to gallop into marriage with German princesses in 1818. The trio were the Duke of Clarence, later William IV; Edward, Duke of Kent, who fathered  Queen Victoria before he died in 1820 and Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge.

For the purposes of my story, Princess Charlotte survives the (live) birth of her son and lives a long and happy life, thereby becoming the ancestor of my Bella’s Richard, Prince of Wales.

…but only a bit

Princess Charlotte's wedding, world-building George IV dies, in January 1820, my Charlotte succeeds to the throne in her own right, with her beloved Leopold as her Prince Consort. Their many children marry into the royal families of Europe. She abdicates in 1869 and her son comes to the throne as King Frederick.

In 1832 Charlotte and Leopold purchase Drummon (i.e. NOT Balmoral) which is a sporting estate in the Highlands. Charlotte insists on adding a Gothic dining hall to the eighteenth century house (because I needed it for my story) and it remains the private property of the Royal Family. (Well, OK, a bit like Balmoral.)

In 1864, as part of Queen Charlotte’s 70th Birthday Celebrations, the South Kensington Museum is renamed the Charlotte and Leopold Museum. Or the C&L as it is affectionately known to Londoners in To Marry a Prince World.