Margaret Rhodes, childhood friend of the present queen, relives growing up as an aristocrat, with princesses as playmates. There are plenty of references to Gosford-Park-like draughty stately homes, expansive estates, hapless servants, game shoots, and high society weddings. But probably the most interesting section of the book details Ms Rhodes adventures with her husband Denys, travelling inhospitable parts of Africa and Asia, witnessing the birth of fledgling states and democracies, whilst narrowly escaping violent tribesmen or state-sanctioned torture.
The book is well-written in quite a terse style, but does jump around chronologically somewhat (the around-the-world in 80 days type escapades seem inexplicably to be tacked on to the end of the book after the royal connections have been more or less exhausted).
I am not a royalist, but do find these books on fairly recent social history quite fascinating, with their striking `them and us' contrasts and latter-day reversal of fortunes. Overall, I probably preferred Fiona McCarthy's similarly titled `The Last Curtsey' detailing the end of the debutante era, which seemed slightly more aware of the anachronistic nature of aristocracy, and which had a bit more substance and detail both in terms of the past recollections of glittering balls and cocktail parties, and the eventual fates of the privileged set of women she grew up with.
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