Latest pretenders in an endless succession of royalties

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The Independent Online
BAFFLED by the Royal Family publishing industry? Unable to keep up with the flood of royal-watching books? Here to help are some of the best of the new books on the Royal Family being published this week . . .

Bel Mooney: Her True Story Andrew Morton Airport Press, pounds 4.99 While Jonathan Dimbleby was off on his official duties as biographer royal, accompanying Prince Charles on his travels and listening to his every word, what effect did it have on his own private life? It is well-known that Bel Mooney, wife of the biographer royal, threw herself into the Batheaston Bypass Protest Campaign. But was this a desire to do good works in the royal tradition? Was this a disguised attempt to embarrass Jonathan, this contrast between the kaftan-clad Bel and the sober-suited husband? Was it a plea to Jonathan: leave Charles and come back to me? Or was it simply, and rather incredibly, a wish to protest againt the Batheaston Bypass? Now Bel Mooney has poured her heart out to the sympathetic Andrew Morton.

Selected Letters (Volume 27) HM Queen Mother Oxford University Press, pounds 19.99 Another volume in the scholarly series of letters by the Queen Mother so ably edited by Norman St John Fawlty. None of the letters is more than five lines long, and some are as short as 'Dear Jim, A fiver on My Prince in the 3.30. Ta, Queen Mum', but all have their own identity. Many are concerned with domestic details ('Dear All, I shall be arriving at about 5.30, please have a bottle of the usual in my bedroom') and some, though not many, are reflective in nature ('Dear Jim, Thanks for the winnings on Bard of Avon in the 4.15 yesterday. Bard of Avon. What a funny name for a horse. Wonder what it means? Yours, Queen Mum'), but the cumulative effect is curiously, somehow, cumulative.

How Helicopters Have Babies Fergie, Duchess of York Tantrum Press, pounds 4.55 Another in the best-selling line of children's books about helicopters by one of our best-loved duchesses, or at least someone writing under the name of one of our best-loved duchesses, or at least under the name of one of our most-often-loved duchesses.

The Royal Fool Anna Pasternak Obsequious Press, pounds 13.99 It was a tradition in the Middle Ages for a jester to attend the king night and day, to keep him cheered up; today this role has fallen to Sir Norman St John Fawlty. Alas, Sir Norman has not been allowed into the royal presence in the way that jesters of old were, and he has tragically been forced to make his appearances on TV and radio, where his mere appearance and his catchphrase, 'Well, you know, although this is another sad chapter in the history of the Royal Family, the monarchy has withstood ruder buffets in the past, witness the words of Walter Bagehot, who said, and I think wisely . .

.', have sufficed to have millions switch off. Now Anna Pasternak has been privileged to hear the inside story of Norman St John Fawlty's unrequited love story with the Royal Family, and it makes for sobering reading.

Forgotten but not Gone Princess Michael of Kent Deutsch, pounds 29.99 The first novel by Princess Michael tells the story of a lonely princess who finds herself in the headlines one day and ignored the next, and writes a novel to get back in the public eye. Some passages remind one irresistibly of other books one has read.

Andrew Morton: His True Story Anna Pasternak Turncoat Press, pounds 16.00 It can never have been much fun to be the shadow biographer royal. Always on duty, always prepared to take a nuisance phone call, whether from Princess Di or someone else, always prepared to lend a sympathetic ear, always on tour, always doing paperwork. As Pasternak points out, Morton may have loads of money willingly paid over by the public to maintain him in his status, but it doesn't always lead to happiness, and - to make it worse - Morton can never answer his critics but has to suffer in silence. Now we learn the heartache behind the ceremony.

Also recommended: Boy, You Should Wait And See What I've Dug Up on The Duke of Edinburgh] by Kitty Kelley; How Late it was, How Late by the Duke of Edinburgh; The Lady in the Limo by Alan Bennett, etc etc.

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