Friday, April 01, 2011
Royal Review: The Palace Diaries by Sarah Goodall and Nicholas Monson
From the back cover: The newly minted American version of The Palace Diaries is a hilarious, light-hearted look at the life behind the scenes of the Royal Establishment with extra spicy material, unseen as yet in Europe. Sarah Goodall spent twelve years working for Prince Charles as Lady Clerk from 1988 to 2000, the period during which his marriage to Princess of Wales broke down amid a frenzy of media attention. But this is not another examination of the failed Royal marriage, it is the story of a rather naive and accident prone young woman whose dreams all came true when she was given the opportunity to work for the heir to the throne. The Palace Diaries is an entertaining romp of a read which will delight and intrigue in equal measure.
I saw this book originally in the NAL catalog a few years ago and awaited its publication anxiously. For some reason, I could never find it in the US, so I bought it on a trip to the UK about 2 years ago. It sat on my bookshelf for 2 years, until I dusted it off this week to read. I wish I had read it sooner because it is an interesting look at the inner workings of the monarchy, in particular the Prince of Wales. Sarah Goodall had the good fortune to work for The Prince of Wales for 12 years, and she has a unique take on the Boss and Bossette as she calls them that is different from the memoirs of Patrick Jephson (Princess Diana's PR) and Ken Wharfe (her personal protection officer). Sarah's interaction with the Princess is limited since she spends most of her time working for Prince Charles who she openly adores.
At times, I found Sarah to be not only incredibly naive but a bit stupid. If you are going to work for the Prince of Wales, how hard is it to familiarize yourself with his friends and colleagues. The book is filled with instances of Sarah meeting people and not knowing who they are. Any good secretary would know that is one of the first things that you do. Granted, she started out just answering the Prince's fan mail but seriously. Sarah is good-hearted and completely lacking in any kind of ambition. Even getting married is not on the top of her agenda. She enjoys her job at the Palace, and quickly succumbs to the perks of the job which makes up for the low salaries.
Before long, she finds herself being invited to have dinner with the Prince and his friends at Highgrove, Balmoral and Sandringham. This is the part of the book that will be the most intersting to Royal Watchers out there. She also has quick flings with one of the chefs as well as a few other people she meets in the course of her job at the Palace. Finally Sarah finds herself with red carpet fever, believing that she has a more intimate relationship with her boss and his family then she actually does. She snubs one of the new employees who is promoted over her, takes advantage by not arriving at work on time, and taking personal calls which finally ends with her being fired. For some reason, she ends up blaming Camilla Parker Bowles for her demise, but it's clear from reading the book that her work is just adequate at best towards the end of her tenure.
The book is written in an easy, breezy style which makes it a fairly quick read. Goodall is quite honest that she wrote the book because she needed the money. Things hadn't worked out so well for her after leaving the Palace. Throughout most of the book, she lives way beyond her means, relying on handouts from her parents. The book was published 3 years ago to a most indifferent splash it seems here in the US which seems a shame because the book is quite a lot of fun.