Marion Crawford was the governess of the Queen and Princess Margaret when they were children. But she is more famous for being one of the first insiders to write an intimate account of royal life by publishing The Little Princesses.
She was born on June 5, 1909 in Woodside Cottage near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire. The daughter of a mechanical engineer's clerk, her father died when she was a year old. Her mother remarried when she was six and the family then moved to Dundermline in Scotland.
She trained as a teacher at Moray House Training College in Edinburgh, (now part of Edinburgh University) and she had originally intended to become a child psychologist. While on leave from her studies, she worked as a temporary governess to the children of Lord Elgin and tutored the daughter of Lady Rose Leveson Gower; the sister of Elizabeth, Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother). Two weeks after meeting the Duke and Duchess, she was asked to take on the education of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, who were five and two at the time. She joined the royal household in 1933 and stayed for sixteen years. Affectionately named 'Crawfie' by her royal charges, she taught Bible, History Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography, Literature, Poetry, Music, Drawing, Writing and Composition.
She became engaged to George Buthlay, a divorced Major from Aberdeen. Fifteen years her senior, he had served in the Middle East during the war. They were married on September 16, 1947 in Dunfermline Abbey. She retired in 1949 to a grace and favour residence, Nottingham Cottage, at Kensington Palace and was made a Commander of the Victorian Order in January 1949 by King George VI.
At the time royal servants were paid very little and it was thought that serving royalty was its own reward. Convinced by her husband that she was being taken advantage of, she went against Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother's) wishes by writing The Little Princesses. As a result, she was shunned by the royal family and their circle. She went on to publish a life of Queen Mary (The Queen Mother) in 1951. In 1952 and 1953, she sold her name to a series of articles: Queen Elizabeth II, Happy and Glorious and Princess Margaret. She also had her own weekly column 'Crawfie's Column' but her career as a royal columnist ended when, on June 16, 1955, Woman's Own published her personal accounts of the Trooping the Colour and Royal Ascot; events which had been cancelled due to the National Rail Strike.
Her husband died in 1977 and she spent her remaining years in seclusion in Aberdeen, making one suicide attempt in old age. She died at Hawkhill House, an Aberdeen nursing home on February 11, 1988. No member of the royal family attended or sent condolences.
© Marilyn Braun 2006
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