Fact and fiction, royal or not — where do you decide where to draw the line?


Two sisters Thelma Morgan Furness left as well as Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt feature in a novel released recently that concentrates on Furness who played part on one of the more infamous royal tales in the 20th century and another scandal of a high-profile nature in the 1930s. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


One book by the royal family has attracted much interest recently, triggering controversy over whether it divulges — or does not reveal -about the truth of the life that of the prince Harry and Meghan duchess of Sussex.

However, just as the unlicensed book Finding Freedom has been a hit with bookshops, other books that have their origins in the realm of royal history are now being published and reminding readers who are interested in such books that there is an extensive tradition in using royal realm to inspire stories.


With regard to Toronto the author Bryn Turnbull, the beginnings of her novel are rooted in her fascination with her life as a lady who was not well-known, yet who played a part as a protagonist in the one of the famous royal tales in the 20th century as well as another scandal that was highly publicized that was a hot topic of the time.

The Woman Before Wallis,published last month, concentrates on the life of Thelma Furness. The mother of an American diplomat She was involved with the Prince of Wales before his reign as the King Edward VIII and King Edward VIIIand also before an American female, Wallis Simpson, came into the spotlight.


At some point, Thelma asked Wallis to take care of her Prince of Wales when she was away and we now are aware of how it turned out due to Edward VIII’s resignation to “the person I love” at the time of 1936. The important request Thelma made to Wallis was noticed by Turnbull.

“That seems like such an odd request to somebody as well … itled me down some sort of Wikipedia search. I began to research the person Thelma is,” Turnbull said in an interview.


The things she discovered fascinated her. Thelma Morgan was identical twin of Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt who’s granddaughter, Gloria, was at the center of a dramatic custody trial that took place in the New York courtroom in 1934.

“So this woman is at the center of two significant events in 1930, both of them the Vanderbilt custody trial as well as the abdication. She … isn’t discussed by herself and that’s the point at which it all began,” said Turnbull.

Once you’ve started creating, how do you create the story around famous characters? Where does the fact come to an end and the imagination take over?


“The benefit in working alongside these characters is that … many of them created memoirs,” said Turnbull. “From there, in essence for a writer, what they write about is an intelligent use of creative license.”

Turnbull is not the only one making use of royal or royal-related — facts as the basis for his fiction. The novel that was published this summer is novel that is based on history of Marion Crawford, governess to the Queen of England as well as her sister when they were princesses in their youth.


The practice dates back quite a ways back.

“People have been writing fantastic theatre, great fiction, and drama with the help of the British Royal Family for a long time,” said Robert Morrison the English instructor in Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. The professor immediately cited a prominent person who has been a practitioner: William Shakespeare.

However, how close did the Bard actually get to the truth for his famous fiction in his dramas of comedy, tragedy and the past?

Let us look at the story of Richard III, noted stage villain.


“The Richard the Third of popular culture represents Shakespeare’s Richard the Third, and the character doesn’t appear to have any similarity to the real historical Richard the Third,” said Morrison.

Does it really matter?

“That does not diminish, I believe Shakespeare’s genius,” said Morrison, who said he tells the students of his “fiction is more effective by many means than facts.”


What is more compelling, Morrison suggests, is an excellent story.

“I consider that a novelist, or the playwright or dramatist … can be quite free to move about in the way he or she thinks the need to develop the drama and craft a captivating story.”

Rohan Maitzen who is an Associate Professor of English of English at Dalhousie University in Halifax, is also a fan of authors who employ historical figures in stories.

“The most compelling examples I’ve seen recently of books that are focused on real-life characters have employed everything [the author] knows absolutely, but haven’t being afraid to fill in the gaps in what they do not have.”

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