As a child, sharp-eyed and even sharper-tongued Nellie Welche is taken on as a companion to Princess Sophia, one of George III’s numerous daughters.
Her position is unpaid and intermittent but it continues throughout her life, placing her in intimate royal circles from George III to Queen Victoria. These are exciting times and Nellie lives through Trafalgar and Waterloo, the madness of King George, the trial of Queen Caroline, the rumblings of the French Revolution and the jockeying for power amongst George’s sons. Nellie wants to be a writer and it is through her diary and reminiscences that we learn the secrets of the House of Hanover, possibly one of the most disfunctional families you will ever meet.
This is a glorious romp through Regency England. Nellie is an engaging elf, a little spy in a house of madness and her gossipy style is a delight to read. Her early stories are told through the eyes of a child but as she grows she develops up an arch awareness of what is going on behind the royal façade. Nellie has a disfigurement, a port wine mark on her face, which makes her a bit of an outsider and helps her develop the detachment and inner strength she needs to survive in the mayhem of the court. Although this is a funny book there is also tragedy evident in the lives of the princes and princesses kept too close by a loving but increasingly mad father. Laurie Graham’s knowledge of the period is spot on, and as a sharp commentary on the times A Humble Companion cannot be bettered.