A Humble Companion

Written by Laurie Graham
Review by Mary Seeley

Nellie Welche is twelve when, in 1788, she is selected to be a “humble companion” to the young Princess Sofia so that the princess may come to understand more of the world through association with someone from the “ordinary ranks” of life. So begins Nellie’s connection to “The Royalties”, which lasts over sixty years.

Nellie is a wry, witty observer of the foibles of those around her who quickly befriends the naïve and lonely Sofy. Her memoirs carry the reader on the tide of history through war, revolution and social change, and the various incumbents of the throne from gentle, mad King George to the imperious Alexandrina (better known as Victoria). Her own life, married to a society confectioner, is full of small pleasures and some tragedy. But Sofy has secrets too, and it is only after the death of the princess in 1848 that Nellie feels the time is right to tell the truth.

In Nellie, Laurie Graham has given us a determined heroine whose vividly rendered voice can make the reader laugh, and then on the next sentence, catch a breath with emotion. Through her we get a true sense of the momentous changes taking place in society, and the strange world of the Royal Family, bound by protocol and convention, but living life by a different set of rules. I only have one cavil – the phonetic rendering of some of the characters’ German accents tended to slow the pace from time to time. Otherwise, thoroughly recommended.