- For the American author, F. Marion Crawford, see Francis Marion Crawford and for the fictional character, Marion Crawford
|Born||5 June 1909|
|Died||11 February 1988(aged 78)|
Marion Crawford, CVO (5 June 1909 – 11 February 1988) was a Scottish governess. She was an employee of the British Royal Family, and taught the children of King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret, who gave her the nickname "Crawfie". Crawford was the named author of the book The Little Princesses, which told the story of her time with the royal family. After the book was published in 1950, she was banished from court (forced to leave her "grace and favour" house) and neither the queen nor any other member of the royal family ever spoke to her again.
Early life and royal governess
Crawford was born into a working-class Scottish family on 5 June 1909. She was raised in Dunfermline, Fife and taught at Edinburgh's Moray House Institute. While studying to become a child 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 Prince Albert, Duke of York, later George VI, whose wife, the Duchess of York, was a distant relative of Lord Elgin. After one year the arrangement was made permanent.
Crawford became one of the governesses of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose of York. Following the abdication of their uncle, King Edward VIII, in 1936, the Princesses' father became 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 the Duke of Edinburgh, Crawford herself having married two months earlier. Crawford had already delayed her own marriage for 16 years so as not to, as she saw it, abandon the king and queen.
After their wedding Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh conducted an overseas tour, visiting Canada and the United States of America. Shortly afterwards, the publishing house of Bruce and Beatrice Gould contacted Buckingham Palace and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to seek stories for publication across the Atlantic. Although the approach was 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 Crawford 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 that 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 Woman's Own in the UK and in the Ladies' Home Journal in the United States. A book, The Little Princesses, sold exceptionally well. Later she wrote stories about George V's widow, Mary of Teck, 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 lives of the Royals, Crawford was completely ostracised 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.
Later life and death
Crawford's writing career came to a crashing halt when the column to which her name was attached was exposed as a fraud. It carried details of a Trooping the Colour ceremony and the Ascot races, when in fact they had been cancelled that year because of a strike. As the stories were written in advance, it was too late to stop their publication.
Crawford retired to Aberdeen. Though the Royal Family regularly drove past her front door on their way to nearby Balmoral Castle, they never stopped to see the Queen's former governess. When she died at the age of 78 at Hawkhill House (a nursing home in Aberdeen) on 11 February 1988, neither the Queen, the Queen Mother nor Princess Margaret sent a funeral wreath.
- Originally published in the UK by Cassell & Co Ltd and in the US by Harcourt, Brace and Company. Current US edition: The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen's Childhood by her Nanny [sic], Marion Crawford. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2003. ISBN 0-312-31215-6. The current US title is erroneous; Crawford is quite clear that she was never the "nanny" for the princesses (a position held by a woman named Clara Knight, called "Alla"), but was instead their governess, responsible for their education outside the nursery.
- Bond, Jennie. "The Little Princesses". MacMillan Publishers. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Spavin, Vicky (24 June 2000). "Was Crawfie victim of royal conspiracy?". Daily Record. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Lacey, Martha de (22 January 2013). "Royal nannies know best!". Daily Mail. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Loyd, Ian. "The forgotten royal nanny". Daily Express. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Vanessa Thorpe (25 June 2000). "Queen Mother was 'ruthless' to royal nanny". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2013.