Cover stories: Royalty, Aldeburgh and Oxford literary festivals, World Book Day

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

When the Queen Mother took a tumble last week, publishers across the capital doubtless added another couple of pages to their celebrations of a life well lived. There's not a single major house without a book ready to roll the second the bell tolls, and each has an action plan akin to a military campaign. Naturally, it will be a sad occasion for them as for all of us – but her passing will represent a considerable marketing opportunity. Princess Margaret's less so, though next week two new books will be in the shops. In Margaret: the last real Princess, due from Blake, Noel Botham will tell the "controversial story of her private life, featuring sex and drugs and rock'n'roll". Carlton has the authorised account by Christopher Warwick, on "a life of contrasts". In April, Orion will republish The Little Princesses, the first "below stairs" account of royal life by Margaret and Elizabeth's nanny, Marion Crawford. It is terribly mild when judged by today's standards but caused a controversy in the early Fifties. Crawfie lost her job; in an earlier age, she'd have lost her head.

¿ Still with royalty, what are we to read into the offer by the Prince of Wales to write a foreword to Carl Safina's book Eyes of the Albatross: visions of hope and survival, a homage to the beast that so inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Fleetwood Mac? Irony? Symbolism?

¿ Aldeburgh, famed for its stony North Sea beach and excellent fish and chips, is hosting its first Literary Weekend next month. Speakers include Alan Bennett, Miranda Seymour, P D James, Clare Francis and Ronald Blythe, and John Humphrys of Radio 4's Today will be in conversation with Paul Heiney over an organic supper at the White Lion Hotel. The Aldeburgh Literary Weekend runs 1-3 March; tickets from £8. Details: 01728 454889.

¿ Meanwhile, Oxford is mustering a truly impressive line-up for its sixth Literary Festival, which runs 13-17 March. P D James and Ruth Rendell star in a double crime bill, while A C Grayling talks about applying philosophy to life, and Georgina Ferry and Colin Tudge examine the implications of the Human Genome Project. For light relief there's Sue MacGregor, John Mortimer and Ian McEwan and, for children, Jacqueline Wilson, Geraldine McCaughrean and Philip Ridley. Details:

¿ World Book Day, 14 March, approaches (as indeed does the second Bedtime Reading Week), and children all over the country will shortly be in possession of their free book tokens. This year, the Wildlife Trust is joining in the celebration, suggesting we visit some of the UK's truly inspirational settings. Among them are Moor Copse on the River Pang, where Ratty, Mole and Badger went about their business in The Wind in the Willows; the C S Lewis Reserve, the mixture of woodland and gardens that inspires the fantastical worlds of Narnia; and Teversal Pastures, where Lady Chatterley so busied herself with Mellors. More information at