Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Marion Crawford (1900-1988) was a servant with the British Royal Family, and governess of the children of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret who gave her the nickname "Crawfie". Marion was the named author of the book "The Little Princesses" which told the story of her time with the Royals. After publishing the book, she was banished from court and never spoke to the Queen or any other royal family member again.
Marion Crawford was raised in Dunfermline, Fife and taught at the Edinburgh Moray House Institute. Whilst studying to become an education psychologist, she took a summer job as the governess for Lord Elgin's children. This led her to take a role in the household of HRH Prince Albert, Duke of York, whose wife, the Duchess of York was a distant relative of Lord Elgin. After one year the arrangement was made permanent.
Crawford became the governess of TRH Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret of York. After the abdication of their uncle, King Edward VIII, in 1936, the Princesses' father was King, and Elizabeth was now the heiress presumptive. Crawford remained in service to the King and Queen, and did not retire until 1948 when the Princess Elizabeth, now aged 21, married HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Crawford herself having married two months earlier.
After the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, they conducted an overseas tour, visiting Canada and the United States of America. Shortly afterwards, the publishing house, ran by Bruce and Beatrice Gould, contacted Buckingham Palace and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to seek stories for publishment across the Atlantic. Although refused by the Palace, the British government proved keen on the idea and suggested Marion Crawford, as the recently retired governess of the Princesses.
When the Goulds approached Marion, she first sought permission from Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), who refused. However the Goulds persisted and offered Crawford $85,000 for her story. Although Crawford accepted she asked the contract state that Palace approval would be sought for any stories published, however the contract allowed the Goulds to publish even if the Palace refused.
The Little Princesses
Crawford's unauthorised work was published in the Ladies' Home Journal in the United States, and Woman's Own in the UK. A book, "The Little Princesses" sold exceptionally well. Later she would write stories about George V's widow Queen Mary, the new Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. She also put her name to Woman's Own's 'Crawfie's Column', a social diary written by journalists several weeks in advance.
Queen Elizabeth was predictably furious and was quoted as saying: "We can only think that our late and completely trusted governess has gone off her head, because she promised in writing that she would not publish". The first note of displeasure for Crawford came when she failed to receive a Christmas Card from the Royal Family in the year of publication.
As the first servant to cash in on the private lifes of the Royals, Crawford was treated severely by the Royal Family, and they never spoke to her again. Despite this, the King and Queen received the Goulds, who published the stories, at Buckingham Palace, and the book was thought to have boosted the popularity of the Royal Family in America.
Crawford's writing career came to a crashing halt, when the column to which her name was attached was exposed as a fraud when it published details of the Trooping of the Colour ceremony and the Ascot races, when in fact they had been cancelled due to a strike. As the stories were written in advance, it was too late to stop their publication.
Crawford retired back to Scotland, living in a small village in Aberdeenshire. Ironically, the Royal Family regularly drove past her front door, on way to nearby Balmoral Castle. However, they never once stopped off to see the Queen's former governess. When she died in 1988, neither the Queen, the Queen Mother or Princess Margaret sent a wreath.
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