The Jubilee weekend was as good a time as ever to settle down with the 2nd Guy Harford mystery, ”Burying the Crown.”
I’d already been googling the Kents and the Gloucesters (as one does), while watching the extended Royal Family on parade, so this delicious whodunnit played perfectly to this narrative. We resume the story after the first book, with Guy still a courtier at the Palace during the Second World War, still trying to fathom the arcane and complicated rules for successfully navigating life serving the royal family.
Guy is a delightful hero – an artist rather than a devoted courtier, which makes him think and react unconventionally – and also get a lot of things wrong. He has some decidedly quirky friends, including burglars and spies. And he has, most importantly, another life in Tangiers, one to which he hankers to return. His quick visit back to Morocco on official business introduces us to his little home there, and to some of his friends, and it is clear that he loves and misses his artist’s life there. But it is in England, and principally in London, that Guy now works, and paints, and drinks with his friends, and tries to solve the mysteries he encounters and the problems he is given to unravel. Anything connected to the royals is inevitably complicated and secretive, both by the very nature of their status and also by the need to keep morale high during the war. Scandal is to be avoided at all cost.
A fun read, made even more fascinating by the clever mingling of history and real characters along with the fictional protagonists.
Given that I am reading this book in the midst of full Jubilee fervour, there were moments that made me smile. “Burying the Crown” takes place in 1942, just a few years after the abdication of King Edward VIII, when there is still doubt and speculation about the future and the stability of the monarchy. Our current Queen is but a teenager in the book, and given the ebb and flow of the war, there are even rumoured plots to find another successor to her father, who is considered weak, especially if the Nazis should be victorious.
Fast forward to 2022, dear reader, as we mark the Queen’s 96th birthday and 70 years on the throne.
Guy’s friend, the laconic Rupe, who claims he works for the Post Office but clearly doesn’t, has this to say about a potential royal scandal that Guy thinks will eventually come to light once the war is over:
“You really don’t know much about this wicked world, Guy, do you? One day our Princess Elizabeth will be Queen. She may well live to be a hundred, and I can tell you that even then, there’ll be no further word. This is a secret like the Princes in the Tower…”
How deliciously apt is this?
A fun, light-hearted read.
Quite a lot of reminding myself about recent British politics and history, plus the delight in discovering that some of the more eccentric moments in the story really did happen.