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About Amanda






history behind the book

Playing the Duke's Fiancee


When I started writing Violet’s story, I was so excited to combine two of my old passionate interests into one book—the history of the British royal family, and nineteenth century Russia!  I also got to bring in another interest of mine, which might not really seem to fit into the 1870s—1930s screwball comedies!  I love it when strait-laced Cary Grant begins to enjoy life thanks to Katherine Hepburn or Irene Dunn, learning to have fun at last.  I also got to learn something quite new to me, Victorian photography.


Much like Prince Charles and Lady Diana in the 1980s, Prince Alfred (second son of Queen Victoria, a career naval officer) and Grand Duchess Marie, only daughter of Tsar Alexander II (who had many, many sons!) was the wedding of the year.  They met in 1868, but neither family approved of the match, and they didn’t marry until January1874.  It was a very lavish wedding at the Winter Palace, an Orthodox ceremony followed by an Anglican blessing, then a banquet for 700 and ball for 3000 until the early hours of the morning.  It was the sensation of the newspapers, with a Whose Who guest list of people like the Prince and Princess of Wales, Princess Royal Vicky and her husband, Prince Arthur, and the elderly Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Coburg (who had no legitimate children so Alfred eventually was his heir).  (For more wedding details, I love the sadly now defunct blog, Order of Sartorial Splendor, whose archives are a gold mine!). 

The couple had five children, one son and four daughters (including the famous Marie of Romania), but it was not a happy union in the end.  They had little in common, and the prince was often gone on his naval assignments.  They moved often, including to Malta and Coburg, and came to be titled Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.  Marie did not like English life, and was a Russian Orthodox grand duchess all her life.  She died in 1920 in Switzerland, long after her husband, in reduced circumstances.  I am sure Violet and William are MUCH happier in their life together!

(One quick note on the photographic exhibit Violet visits—it’s based on a famous display in 1864, a “Bazaaar for the benefit of female artists” at the Horticultural Gardens at Chiswick.  The photographers Julia Cameron, Clementina Hawarden, Lewis Carroll, and Oscar Rejlander are of course real figures, as are the royal family.

If you’re curious about the time period, I loved these sources for further study!  And visit me at ammandamccabe.com for more info!



  • Todd Gustavson, Camera: A History of Photography (2009)

  • Alma Davenport, The History of Photography: An Overview (1991)

  • Bruce Bernard, Photo Discovery: Masterworks of Photography 1840-1940 (1980)

  • Victoria Olson, From Life: Julia Margaret Cameron (2003)

  • Victorian Giants: The Birth of Photography (exhibition catalog)

  • BEC Howarth-Loomes, Victorian Photography (1974)



  • Daphne Bennett, Queen Victoria’s Children (1980)

  • John Van Der Kiste, Alfred: Queen Victoria’s Second Son (2013)

  • Julia Baird, Victoria the Queen (2016)

  • Adrian Tinniswood, Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household (2018)

  • Daphne Bernard, Vicky: Princess Royal of England and German Empress (1971)

  • Jane Ridley, The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII (2013)

  • Marie, Queen of Romania, The Story of My Life (reprint 2019)

  • Richard Hough, Edward and Alexandra



  • Stefano Papi, Jewels of the Romanovs (2010)

  • Mathilde Kschenssinskaya, Dancing in Petersburg (1961)

  • The Last Grand Duchess: Memoirs of Grand Duchess Olga (1964)

  • Russia: Art, Royalty, and the Romanovs

  • Susan McCaffray, The Winter Palace (2018)






Playing the Duke's Fiancee


 Last Updated:  September 2020                                                                                                                                                                              Site Designed and Maintained by Kelli McBride

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