Welbeck Fiction has scooped a “superb” novel about royal governess Marion Crawford by Wendy Holden in a two-book, six-figure deal.
Publisher Jon Elek acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Jonathan Lloyd and Lucy Morris at Curtis Brown. Audio rights were sold separately to Audible. The Governess will be published in hardback in Autumn 2020.
The novel tells the story of Crawford, a progressive young working-class woman who, as royal governess for 17 years, lived on the most intimate terms with the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret. “Crawfie” was eventually ostracised by the Palace after publishing her own story, The Little Princesses.
Elek said: “Wendy has written a superb and emotionally rich account of Crawfie’s life inside the royal family, with all its infighting, obliviousness, and reluctant leadership. Like ‘The Crown’, to which this is undoubtedly a prequel – covering the years leading up to the beginning of the first season – it spins history into a completely gripping work of fiction.”
Holden is best known for her comic novels like the Laura Lake series, including April’s A View to a Kilt (Head of Zeus) and has sold 1.5 million print books in the UK for £7.9m through the TCM. US rights to The Governess have sold to Berkley with deals also made for France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Spain.
She said: “I’ve been obsessed with this story for years. I have always seen the Windsors as huge, colourful, novel-worthy characters and the idea of a lively, lefty young woman slap-bang in their midst was irresistible.
“Crawfie wanted to introduce the small Princess Elizabeth, sequestered in George V’s stuffy court, to childish fun and normal life and her efforts to do so form the human heart of my story. But its background is that series of massive national dramas: the Abdication, 1937 Coronation and World War Two. Crawfie was with the family throughout and knew all the major players – Churchill, Edward and Mrs Simpson, the lot. She’s the woman who in essence made the Queen, and yet her incredible story has never been told, until now.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled that Welbeck are publishing The Governess and I’m excited to be working with their brilliant team on more fictional biographies of iconic historical characters.”