Today’s special guest is Michaela MacColl, author of Prisoners in the Palace.
London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant’s world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?
Meticulously based on newly discovered information, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe.
Cheryl, thank you for inviting me to talk directly with your readers.
It’s always a risk to write about someone well-known. Everyone already has a version of the story in his/her mind. Especially when I’m writing about Queen Victoria. I have been amazed by the response I’ve gotten to Prisoners in the Palace – my readers seem to judge the book on how accurately I reflect their idea of Victoria’s character.
In my novel, Victoria is naïve and spoiled. She’s been sheltered for her entire life. In fact, her mother has schemed to keep her immature and unworldly – the better to usurp Victoria’s power later. So my character can be heedless of other people’s feelings and absolutely oblivious to the consequences of her actions. She’s the product of her upbringing.
For example, Victoria carelessly reads a very personal entry in her maid’s diary. The maid, Liza, calls her on it. At first Victoria is furious to be rebuked by an underling, but then realizes that Liza is right. The Princess says sadly, “I forgot that others are permitted the privacy of their thoughts.” Since Victoria’s journal entries are always read by her mother, it doesn’t even occur to her that other people’s journals might be confidential.
So Victoria isn’t entirely sympathetic in this scene, but a moment later she realizes her error. She has a good heart and has the capacity to grow and change.
When Victoria first discovers that she is likely to be Queen at age 12, she says quite solemnly, “I will be good.” And there is evidence through her life that she continued to try and improve herself for her whole life, despite her weighty obligations to the Crown. One of her ladies in waiting recounted this story of how she tried to reconcile her duties as Queen with her essential kindness:
Once the Duke of Wellington brought her a death warrant to sign, the soldier being an incorrigible deserter. The Queen evinced extreme reluctance to affix her signature, and pressed the Duke for some reason for clemency. At length the Duke admitted that the condemned man had always earned the affection of his fellow soldiers. The Queen, with tears in her eyes, cried, “Oh Your Grace, I am so pleased to hear that,” and hastily wrote “Pardoned Victoria R.” across the slip of paper.
In the end, I was satisfied that the portrait I painted of Victoria was realistic and sympathetic – just like she was!
If you would like to read more about Prisoners in the Palace, check out my blog at www.michaelamaccoll.com.
Thanks for listening!
Michaela MacColl studied multi-disciplinary history at Vassar College and Yale University, which turns out to be the perfect degree for writing historical fiction. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and three extremely large cats in Connecticut. This is her first book.
Prisoners in the Palace is available for purchase at:
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