AN Wilson, pic: Magali DelporteControversial author and columnist AN Wilson will not doubt enjoy his visit to the Marlborough Literary Festival at the end of the month -- because he is a true monarchist and admirer of the Duchess of Cambridge, who was educated at Marlborough College.
And so too was the late Poet Laureate John Betjeman, the subject of one of Wilson’s admired biographies.
Wilson will be revealing his own surprising antecedents, exposed in his first novel for five years, called The Potter’s Hand, in which he explains that his father was managing director of the famed Wedgwood factory, and that his grandfather too was a master potter.
But very much the historian, his interest in the royal dynasty is linked to the birth of Prince George since, at 62, Wilson has had his own “awe-inspiring experience” and the thrill of becoming a grandfather – he has six grandchildren of his own.
“How much more must this be the case with the birth of a great-grandchild,” he writes. “And with a royal great-grandchild, the feelings are shared by everyone who has an interest in the future of the monarchy and of our country.
“The great-grandmother in this story has not been a passive observer. Now the Duchess of Cambridge has had her son, the Queen will know that she has secured her dynasty, and the monarchy, up to three generations into the future — perhaps into the 22nd century.
“The Queen will know that she has secured her dynasty. This is not something purely accidental. It is something in which, discreetly, she has been more involved than many people would think.”
Writing in the Daily Mail, Wilson praises Her Majesty or steering the monarchy out of trouble waters, something she has been able to do because she gets on so well with Prince William with whom – since the death of his mother Princess Diana – she has enjoyed a warm relationship.
And she realises too that the best hope for the future of the Crown was for Prince William to marry for love.
“Republicans like Tony Benn have always reiterated that the monarchy is just the apex of a pyramid of privilege from which ‘ordinary people’ are shut out,” adds Wilson.
“The Queen’s extraordinary triumph — and the single most valuable gift she bequeaths to her new great-grandchild — is to have made those arguments seem oddly quaint and irrelevant…
“In spite of her diffidence and her innately small-c conservative nature, this is the woman who has transformed the British monarchy.”
AN Wilson will be appearing at the Marlborough Literary Festival, sponsored by Brewin Dolphin, on Saturday, September 28.
For tickets phone 01249 701628.
Jackie KaySome of the biggest names in literature will be descending on Marlborough in September... and we'll find out who when the programme is confirmed and tickets go on general sale this week.
The Marlborough Lit Fest will be opening its box office on Thursday (July 4) to sell tickets for the 22 events that will be held over a three-day period between September 27 and 29.
Some big names have already been confirmed. This year’s Golding Speaker – performing at an event named in honour of local author William Golding – will be acclaimed author and playwright, Fay Weldon, who is known for her trademark joie de vivre style and feminist slant as well as discussing the war between the sexes.
Awarded a CBE in 2001 for services to literature, she has been writing fiction for 50 years, spanning 34 novels, numerous TV dramas, including the pilot episode of Upstairs Downstairs, several radio plays, five stage plays, five collections of short stories and currently teaches creative writing at the University of Brunel.
Fay will be discussing her latest novel, Long Live The King – the second in her Love And Inheritance trilogy. Set in 1901 London as the coronation of Edward VII approaches, it continues the lives and loves, morals, manners and misbehaviour of the aristocratic Dilberne family and their servants below stairs.
Fay will be opening the LitFest at 7.30pm on Friday, September 27at the Town Hall.
Headlining Saturday's lineup, Claire Tomalin is one of the UK’s most respected literary biographers and her work includes books on Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys and Thomas Hardy.
Her most recent book, Charles Dickens - A Life, vividly portrays the energy, complexity and contradictions of the 19th century novelist, as well as historical detail of the time he was writing.
Claire was Literary Editor of The New Statesman and The Sunday Times and is married to novelist and playwright Michael Frayn, who appeared at the LitFest last year. Claire will be appearing at 7.30pm on Saturday 28 September at the Town Hall.
And a big LitFest welcome will be reserved for Carol Ann Duffy, who will be closing the festival on Sunday, September 29.
The UK’s current poet laureate and the first woman to be awarded the position, her poetry has won many awards, including the Whitbread Prize.
She has written for both children and adults, addressing issues such as oppression, gender and violence in an accessible language which has made her writing popular in schools.
Carol Ann’s poetry is now part of the National Curriculum for both GCSE and A Level English. Carol Ann will be performing from 7.30pm at Marlborough College.
Other festival attractions include The LitFest Café, which will be open all weekend in the Town Hall, providing a welcome refreshment stop for visitors between author talks.
And in The Marlborough Big Town Read – a new initiative for 2013 – organisers are encouraging fiction fans to pick up a copy of Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay. The author will be at the Assembly Rooms from 4pm on Sunday, September 29 to give a talk and answer questions about her work, and White Horse Bookshop is offering the title at a discount.
Red Dust Road was the selected read for World Book Night earlier this year, and non-regular readers were offered free copies of the book through Wiltshire Libraries.
Mavis Cheek, founder patron of the festival, said: “The LitFest puts the very best of writing first, we don't invite celebrities, and two of our previous guests are on the Granta list for the 20 top young writers.
“We are thrilled with this year’s attendees and look forward to another successful year.”
Tickets will be available from the LitFest website at www.marlboroughlitfest.org or directly from the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough from Thursday.
Fay WeldonOld age has its advantages, according to Fay Weldon, at 81 the author of more than 30 novels, who has been given the honour of being Golding Author at the forthcoming Marlborough LitFest in September.
The title celebrates Marlborough’s link with William Golding, the Nobel Laureate and Booker Prize winner, who grew up in Marlborough and taught at its original grammar school.
Fay’s 34 provocative novels include The Fat Woman's Joke, Growing Rich and What Makes Women Happy, and her work for film and TV includes the original Upstairs, Downstairs series, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and Pride and Prejudice.
And interviewed in the June edition of The Oldie magazine, Fay, now living with her third husband in Dorset, is asked whether wisdom comes with age?
“Yes, if only because you know what’s going to happen next inasmuch as something like it has happened before,” she replies. “Some people think it makes you cynical, but you’re not.”
Before you reach 80, you pretend you’re younger, but when you’re 80 you realise there are advantages to age, she insists.
“You can babble on at parties. Once upon a time you’d go away thinking, ‘Oh my God, did I make any sense?’
“Nowadays you know it doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t feel any different but the world looks at you differently.
“The natural thing is for the young to wish the old to be dead. But more and more we just won’t die. So many of us.”
Indeed, Fay, whose latest historical novel, Long Live the King, was published last month, worries about attitudes today compared with the world in which she grew up.
“One only knows one’s own little pocket of the world,” she says. “Mine seems in a worse state then when I arrived (from New Zealand) in 1946.
“There was a feeling, then, of building things, of hope and change, and people working together to survive, far more than there is now.
“The world looks very gloomy to younger generations. We had the best of it.”
Once an icon for feminists whom she has also outraged, Fay is asked where she stands now.
“I didn’t set out to preach,” she explains. “I was writing novels in which there was a view of the world around me dictated by the society we were living in.
“Life was grossly unfair and insulting to women in the 1970s. You think everybody must think the same as you but they don’t. Later on I realised I was a middle-class woman trying to impose my opinions on women who really just wanted to get on and have babies.
“I think the vast majority would rather stay at home and be kept by a man and chatter to the neighbours than go to work. If I didn’t have a particular sort of work that’s probably what I’d do.”
Fay will be interviewed by Valerie Grove when she takes part in the Martlborough LitFest.