If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be? As the title of my newest novel suggests, one of the themes of “If I Were You” is envy. The novel takes place in England during World War II and, at times, each of the heroines of the story wishes that she could trade places with the other. And if I could be someone else? Well, perhaps I would trade with a British princess.
I’ve had a lifelong fascination with the British royal family. Long before I could follow them on Facebook and Instagram, I have followed them in the news. My interest intensified during my teenage years when I fell in love with the Beatles, but for five generations, my family’s story has had some interesting parallels with the royals.
The Queen Mum (Queen Elizabeth’s mother) was the same age as my grandmother. They both lived to be over 100, they both died in the same year. Their daughters (my mom and the current Queen Elizabeth) are also the same age, and are both still going strong and leading their families well into their 90s. My mom remembers becoming fascinated with the King of England’s two daughters, Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret, as a young girl. At the time, the newspaper printed paper dolls of the two princesses in the Sunday comics, complete with royal costumes to dress them in.
During World War II, while my mom was studying to be a nurse in the U.S. Navy, Princess Elizabeth served her country in the A.T.S., a branch of the Women’s Royal Army Corp that drove and repaired trucks (or lorries, if you’re British).
After the war, it was time for love and marriage and children. Mom married my dad—who had served in the Navy in the Philippines—and they had my two sisters and me. Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philip—who served in the Royal British Navy—and had Prince Charles, Princess Anne, and Princes Andrew and Edward. Like many young girls, I dreamed of becoming a princess—and always hoped I would marry real-life Prince Charles.
I was able to follow the British royal family more closely during the years that my husband and I lived in Canada, a British Commonwealth nation. In fact, I waved to Queen Elizabeth when she and her motorcade drove down Portage Avenue near my home in Winnipeg. There were thousands of royal-followers like myself in Canada who watched the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana on television. I was happily married by then and had long given up hope of marrying Prince Charles. But it so happened that the new Princess Diana and I both learned that we were expecting a baby at the same time. It was a race to see who would have her baby first. Diana beat me by a mere nine days. Her son Prince William was born on June 21, and my son Ben on June 30. We raced once again when she was expecting Prince Harry and I was expecting my daughter Maya—this time I beat the princess by four months.
And now the tradition continues. My daughter has also become a fan of the British royals and eagerly followed the fairy-tale wedding of Prince William to Princess Kate. Children soon followed for this generation, too. Maya’s 4-year-old daughter Lyla is a perfect match for 5-year-old Prince George. And if that doesn’t work out, maybe her daughter Ayla, who is not quite 2 years-old, can marry Prince Louis, who recently turned 2.
We are all still avid royal-watchers, but do I still wish I could trade places with one of them? Their many lovely palaces and grand estates are very tempting. And the clothes! But as a fan of the TV series “The Crown,” I’ve seen another side of their royal lives that is less than enviable. I like my quiet life too much to ever enjoy being in the public eye the way they are. And I don’t think Prince Charles or Queen Elizabeth would approve of my writing career. Or my bike-riding hobby. Then again, maybe they would envy my life?
So, how about you? If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be?
Click the cover image to learn more about “If I Were You” release date June 2, 2020