Mrs. Queen Takes the Train
Added to her worries, the Prime Minister recently advised her that, along with the royal yacht Britannia, the royal train would have to be abolished. “Too costly. Austerity, Ma’am,” he’s said. Having managed to find a railway timetable on her computer, she hatched a small plan. Unfortunately, not everything worked out as she intended, and she soon found herself on a public train mistaken for Helen Mirren, and compelled to join a rather embarrassing conversation with her seatmates about Alan Bennett.
Loyal courtiers attend her, but she purposely gave them the slip in order to sample the railway as a citizen. One by one they discovered her missing: an equerry who served in the Middle East and there lost an American friend; a down-on-her-luck lady-in-waiting who comes from one of the country’s richest families, but whose husband lost her fortune in the City; a Scottish dresser named Shirley; a butler whose official title is Senior Page of the Chambers; a young woman from the Royal Mews who inadvertently loaned The Queen a useful disguise; and an Old Etonian named Rajiv who moonlights as a paparazzo. They have set out to find The Queen before MI5 steps in and creates a flap.
That is the beginning of a new novel Mrs Queen Takes the Train. It will be published by HarperCollins on October 16th, 2012. You can find an excerpt here www.williamkuhn.com, where there is also a link to some of the pictures in the book. Inspired by the story of two Victorian courtiers, Henry & Mary Ponsonby: Life at the Court of Queen Victoria (2002), I though I’d try to imagine the life of contemporary courtiers looking after Queen Victoria’s great great granddaughter.
I’ve always been interested by queens in history, and that led me to write my most recent book, Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books (2010). The hundred books Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis edited in her career at Viking and Doubleday say a lot about her that she wasn’t willing to reveal herself. Did you know, for example, that “America’s Queen” edited almost a dozen royal books and she was obsessed with the doomed wife of the king of France, Marie Antoinette?
If you like the idea of Jackie O. on a velvet sofa with her nose in a book on Marie Antoinette, if you were riveted by films like The King’s Speech, The Queen, and Mrs Brown, and if you thought The Queen and James Bond at the Olympics last summer was fun, I really do think you’re going to like Mrs Queen Takes the Train.
Bill Kuhn grew up as the son of an English professor in Columbus, Ohio. His father had a sabbatical and took the family to England for a year when Bill was eleven. What eleven year old wants to leave the sixth grade to go to a new school 3,000 miles away where all the kids have funny accents? It was a traumatic and wonderful experience that frightened him into being an Anglophile for life. He spent many subsequent seasons in London, often fascinated by crumbling papers at the British Library or the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle. As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, he wrote a BA paper on Queen Victoria’s jubilees. Later at Johns Hopkins, he completed a doctorate on the court of Queen Victoria. He taught history for fifteen years at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. He’s now writing full time and has published four previous works of non-fiction; Mrs Queen Takes the Train is his first novel. He’s grateful to Zella Watson for the invitation to write a guest post. He was pleased to discover that she is not only an Anglophile, but also an expert editor.