I had the pleasure of speaking with William Kuhn, author of Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, and Prince Harry: Boy to Man. The Boston-based author has delighted readers with these novels that capture the “what if” in the lives of Queen Elizabeth II and her grandson, Prince Harry.
Kuhn imagines the cunning of escape of Queen Elizabeth II into ordinary life, and Prince Harry has Tintin-esque adventures while serving abroad in his grandmother’s Armed Forces.
Kuhn’s other works include a look into the lives of historical figures such as Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli; Henry Ponsonby, private secretary to Queen Victoria, and even American “royalty”, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
One lucky reader will receive a copy of William’s novel, “Mrs. Queen Takes the Train”. Email me with your name, email address, and the name of your favorite royal for a chance to be entered in the giveaway!
I take my turn on the witness stand: View my Q&A with William here.
Mandy: What inspired you to start writing?
William Kuhn: I was praised by my English teachers in school. I had an English teacher for a father. I found I could make a cousin laugh when I wrote her letters in the 7th grade.
M: What is it about Queen Victoria and her courtiers that fascinated you?
WK: I was interested in the survival of a medieval institution into the post-industrial era. I wanted to know why.
M: Your scholarly work “Democratic Royalism: The Transformation of the British Monarchy, 1861-1914” looks at five crucial people who shaped the modern monarchy. Do you think today’s royal family are getting the same sort of guidance?
WK: I don’t know who’s providing the advice now. There are about 4 separate households with different private secretaries in each. There seems to be a bit of a revolving door. The staff don’t stay for long. That’s not the way it used to be, but that’s the way history works, no? What has remained the same is that the private secretaries are behind a veil, and you seldom know exactly what kind of advice they’re giving.
M: Where do you see the British royal family in ten years?
WK: I’m frequently wrong when I try to predict the future. I thought William and Kate should’ve been married in a quiet country church. Having a big cathedral wedding in London seemed to replicate what William’s parents did. And look how that turned out. However, everyone seemed to like that Abbey wedding.
M: Your first novel was “Mrs. Queen Takes The Train”. What started you thinking about Her Majesty going incognito and the subsequent panic of her staff? Do you think she ever truly has “escaped”?
WK: I think she’s very rarely escaped. Her early married life in Malta was an escape, but I don’t think she longs for that now. I’ve sometimes seen the Queen incognito in unmarked Rovers or visiting the Windsor horse show without much fanfare. That’s I think what made me think of her getting on the train by herself.
M: Your second novel, “Prince Harry: Boy to Man” was a superb adventure. Do you have any plans for a novel of similar royal escapades?
WK: Haha. No. Not right now.
M: Speaking of royalty, you wrote about “American royalty” Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the books she published in her time as an editor. Which of her book choices are the most revealing about her personality?
WK: The most revealing book was one she did with Bill Moyers. He interviewed a man who was expert on myth. This man talked openly about Jackie’s being transformed overnight from a woman into a goddess at the time of the 1963 assassination. I was amazed that she owned up to that by agreeing to edit it. It’s called The Power of Myth. It’s the Moyers interviews with Joseph Campbell.