Review: In Royal Service to the Queen: A Novel of the Queen’s Governess by Tessa Arlen

Tessa Arlen is an author that I don’t think get’s enough credit or recognition. She’s a wonderful author who I always feel like is on the fringes of the historical fiction genre. She’s written a few mysteries series that I have enjoyed over the years and whenever I see that she has a new book coming out, I am always excited. Yet I don’t see her books getting the same hype as other historical and historical mystery writers.

Which means—-she is a diamond in the rough! She writes smart mysteries with wonderful historical details. I especially love her Poppy Redfern series for historical details. When I saw that she has a book coming out about the Queen’s governess, I simply knew she would pour all the same historical details into this historical fiction piece.

With the death of Prince Philip earlier this year as well the the success of The Crown, the time is ripe for novels about the Queen and her life with Philip. I have read a couple of books about the early life of Queen Elizabeth but when I saw that Arlen was going to be writing one, I knew I had to immediately get it on my TBR!


The revealing story of Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved governess, Marion Crawford, who spent more than sixteen years of her life in loyal service to the royal family and was later shunned by those she has loved and served.

Marion Crawford can remember each of the wonderful years when she was governess to the little Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose: included in their lives, confided in, needed, trusted, and loved. These memories will never dim, ever. In Marion’s mind, she will always be their Crawfie.

But things become increasingly complicated as the young royals navigate adulthood. It is May 1945 and Princess Elizabeth–the heiress presumptive to the British throne–has fallen in love, and the only member of her family who is happy for her is her governess. No one in the young princess’s life thinks that Prince Philip of Greece would be a suitable husband for the future Queen of England. No one that is, except for Marion Crawford.

Crawfie wholeheartedly supports Elizabeth in her determination to marry Philip. She too has fallen in love–and has convinced her fianc�, George, that they must wait for Elizabeth and Philip to receive the King’s blessing before she can leave her service to the Crown.

Over the next two years Crawfie is caught between loyalty to Princess Elizabeth; running the risk of alienating her royal employer, Queen Elizabeth; and losing the man she loves. But as Crawfie prevails to marry George and stands with him in Westminster Abbey on Elizabeth and Philip’s wedding day, she is unaware that her troubled relationship with Queen Elizabeth is far from over. And just around the corner is a betrayal that will sever her bond with the royal family forever. (summary from Goodreads)


As expected, the thing that stood out for me about this one was the historical details. I have come to expect that from Arlen and she delivered as hoped in this book. She captured the details and turbulence of Post War England so well while at the same time managing to keep the glamour of the royals alive in the story. In the fall I read another book featuring Marion Crawford which was also a wonderful read, but this one appealed to me more as it was Arlen who wrote it. I won’t spend time comparing the two books I have read, only that they are both well done in their own right and if you want to read more about the Queen’s early life, you will no doubt enjoy both books.

But I will say, this one stood out to me a bit above the other book because of the attention to detail and the experience. This book felt more polished and refined with a clear purpose. It was well written and researched and fans of historical fiction (not to mention The Crown) will fall in love with this book. I adored how complex and flushed out the relationship between the Queen and Crawford was in this one. Crawford clearly gave everything to her service to the Queen and it was portrayed so well in this book. I think readers will find the story interesting and the dynamic between the Queen and Crawford complex and intriguing. The betrayal that comes (no spoilers here!) which drastically changes their friendship is the climax in this book and I loved it!

I think this book had excellent pacing and loads of historical detail plus an interesting story that readers will devour. I loved how ‘Crawfie’ was portrayed in this one and I thought it did justice to her character as well as her position as governess with the Queen. I certainly hope this book draws Arlen the attention she deserves in the historical fiction genre. This was a well done novel and I loved it. I am so excited to read more books by her. If you love The Crown or maybe just want to learn more about the modern royals, this is the novel you want to read!

Book Info and Rating

368 pages, Paperback

Expected publicationJ une 29, 2021 by Berkley Books

ISBN9780593102480 (ISBN10: 0593102487)

Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Genre: historical fiction


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