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The Golden Prince by Rebecca Dean

Posted By Claire on March 8, 2011

UK Version

UK Version

Although I usually limit my historical fiction reading to Tudor or Medieval themed novels, my interest was piqued when I was sent an email regarding Rebecca Dean’s new novel, “The Golden Prince”, which was followed by the book arriving on my doorstep. Why was my interest piqued? I think it was because I have never studied that period of history, the reign of George V and the early life of Edward VIII. Obviously I know of the abdication crisis, the whole Mrs Simpson affair, but not of Edward’s earlier life, so I was interested to see how this book would portray the man who later caused such scandal.


This is where I have to put the historian side of me to one side and focus on the side of me that loves a good romance. That side of me absolutely loved this book. I finished it in a weekend and enjoyed every single minute of it. It had all the right ingredients of a good romantic novel: romance, sex, intrigue, tragedy, uncertainty, sacrifice, death, love, heartbreak… Each character was brought to life beautifully and the reader empathises with all of them, not an easy feat for the author when there are so many characters in this book and they are all very different in character.

So, what’s the book about?

Here is the summary I was given by the publishing agent:-

“As William and Kate prepare to marry, The Golden Prince is the thwarted love story of William’s great grand uncle Prince Edward (the future Edward VIII) and Lily Houghton: the woman he really wanted to marry years before he met Wallis Simpson.

He comes face to face with the iron will of his parents, the stern disciplinarians George V and Queen Mary who do not want him, as future Monarch, to choose his bride.

As we all know, Edward’s great grand nephew, Prince William, has just announced his engagement to Kate Middleton. Just under a hundred years ago, in the time of George V, this would have been unthinkable, as Kate is a commoner and would never be considered suitable as a Queen. The Golden Prince is a poignant contrast to the happiness and public acceptance of William and Kate’s betrothal.”

I think you can understand why my interest was piqued!

US Version

US Version

It really is a wonderful story. An accident leads to Prince Edward, the heir to the throne, meeting the Houghton sisters and falling in love with Lily Houghton, granddaughter of Lord May, owner of Snowberry Manor. The reader falls in love with the sisters – Rose the suffragette, Marigold the flirt and trouble-maker, Lily the artist, beauty and all-round nice person, and Iris the plain and sensible one – and also the young Edward who is prevented from leading a normal life by his circumstances. With the Houghton girls, Edward, or “David” as the girls call him, can be himself, he is not a prince or future king, he is a young man who can have fun, fall in love and live happily ever after – or is he? Edward is living in a time when marrying a commoner, albeit an aristocratic one, is unthinkable. His father, King George V, is busy planning out his future and that future involves marrying a foreign princess, not an English rose. Edward is torn between his love for Lily and his royal duty, his feelings as an ordinary man and his duty to his King and country. Will he sacrifice his love or his claim to the throne?

Well, we all know the real story. We know that Edward became King on the 20th January 1936, on the death of his father, George V, and that he abdicated in December of that same year so that he could marry Mrs Wallis Simpson, a twice-married American socialite who was still married to her second husband, Ernest Alrich Simpson, when she began a relationship with Edward. Edward had hoped that a morganatic marriage would allow him to remain King and marry Mrs Simpson, but Parliament gave him three choices: 1) Give up the idea of marriage to Mrs Simpson, 2)Marry and go against Parliament and the Prime Minister or 3) Abdicate. Edward chose to abdicate and the rest is history.

Nowhere in history is there mention of the romance with Lily Houghton which threatened Edward’s destiny and claim to the throne, although there is mention of Edward’s wish to marry Lady Rosemary Leveson-Gower shortly before the First World War, a wish which was denied by his parents. Lily Houghton just did not exist and “The Golden Prince” is simply a fictional “what if?” What if Edward had fallen head over heels in love with an unsuitable woman earlier in his life? What if Mrs Simpson was not the only woman who had left this man torn between his duty to his country and his own personal happiness? What if? And that is the premise of this wonderful novel, the beautiful what-if!

The danger of historical novels is that some people take them at face value. This novel does not claim to be the retelling of a true story, it is a work of fiction which just happens to have a few real people as main characters, but already I have seen mentions on other websites and blogs of how this novel tells the story of Edward’s less well-known romance with Lily Houghton. No! Please let’s enjoy this book for what it is, romantic fantasy, a wonderful weekend read and a story that grips you, let’s not make the mistake of taking it as fact, that is certainly not the author’s intention.

I also want to point out that the novel did not just follow the love story of Lily and Edward, it also followed the stories of Lily’s sisters and of Edward’s equerry, Captain Piers Cullen. Although I loved Lily and Edward’s story, I was also hooked on the stories of Rose and Marigold, two very different girls. I was desperate to find out what would happen to them. Would they get the life they wanted? Would they have a happy-ever-after? Well, I’m not telling, that would spoil the book. You many know what happens to Edward from knowing your history, but you don’t know what happens to the Houghton girls! Enjoy!

Details and Availability

Paperback: 448 pages (UK), 416 pages (US)
Publisher: Harper in the UK and Broadway in the US
Date Published: 11 Nov 2010 in the UK and 21 Dec 2010 in the US
ISBN-10: 0007315724 (0767930568 US version)
ISBN-13: 978-0007315727 (978-0767930567 US version)

You can order it at Amazon UK – click here – or Amazon US – click here – or from your favourite bookstore.


2 Responses to “The Golden Prince by Rebecca Dean”

  1. Jenny Hall says:

    Just finished reading this book and loved it too! As a history teacher, I was intrigued to find out how much truth there was in the story, and was a little disappointed to learn that the lovely Lily was simply fiction. Reflecting on the recent royal wedding, I did feel very sorry for Prince Edward, as a century later, things have (quite rightly!) moved on. I enjoyed your review – it echoed many of my feelings.

  2. A.J says:

    I’m reading this book right now and I agree with you when you say that the reader empathizes with all the characters and I’m really interested with what happens to Rose and Marigold, as well as Lily. >_<!

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