“Diana, put that torch out. You’re not reading Barbara Cartland again are you?”
“Yes, I am afraid I am, Matron, it is such an exciting love story. I must find out how it ends.”
“Well, you will have to find out tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, must I!”
“Yes, Diana, it’s well past lights out and you should be asleep by now. Which one are reading?”
“The Cruel Count!”
“That is certainly a wonderful story, but it will still have to wait until tomorrow!”
So the fifteen year old Lady Diana Spencer was forced to turn off her torch and abandon reading her favourite author by torchlight under the bedclothes at her boarding school at Sevenoaks in Kent.
“It’s really very unfair,” she told the other girls in her dormitory after Matron had departed, “you were all reading your Barbara Cartlands under the bedclothes too, and I was the one who was caught!”
So the future Princess of Wales was unable to finish The Cruel Count and instead drifted off into sleep dreaming of romantic castles, handsome and dashing aristocrats, wicked villains and, of course, she herself was always the beautiful innocent heroine who was madly in love with the hero, as he was with her.
And at the end of the dream having battled through endless dangers and conquered all obstacles, she was walking up the aisle with her own Prince Charming who was whispering wonderful words of everlasting love and endless passion to her.
Her father, Lord Spencer, took a delightful photograph of a wistful Diana lying on a sofa and deep in a Barbara Cartland book and surrounded by many more.
Diana, like so many of her contemporaries was immersed in Barbara Cartland from the age of nine and she could never get enough.
So it was indeed fortunate that Barbara Cartland was the most prolific romantic author in the world, writing books at the amazing rate of one new story every fortnight.
Her most incredible feat was writing no less than 400 books in the last 20 years of her writing life during which she averaged 20 novels a year and actually completing 24 books in 3 of those years, a fact that was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. In fact she wrote her last book at the age of 97!
No author in history has ever produced so many books at such an age and it is most unlikely that it will ever happen again.
Even more astonishing is that Barbara Cartland left as many as 160 unpublished books at her death in 2000 – her publishers just could not keep up with her incredible output.
These 160 books are currently being published by her son, Ian, in the Barbara Cartland Pink Collection at the rate of one a month exclusively on the internet and by mail order.
Barbara’s many fans all over the world have always relished so many of her romances and a large number of them collect her books, like Princess Diana, and read them over and over again.
One fan told Barbara that she had collected more than 200 of her books and when she felt unhappy or her children were being tiresome or her husband disagreeable, she would pick up one of her favourite Barbara Cartlands and read the last chapter again when everything works out right and they fall into each other’s arms and then she could go to bed happy and dream of the hero sweeping her off her feet in a passionate embrace.
In fact Princess Diana must have felt exactly like the Barbara Cartland heroine of her dreams on her wedding day, when she joined the man she adored at the altar in St. Paul’s Cathedral and who just happened to be the Prince of Wales in full uniform.
She must have re-read in her mind the marvellous words of eternal love and never-ending devotion that only Barbara Cartland could write and to know that it was all happening to her.
As we all know it did not work out well for Diana, but she will have known that every Barbara Cartland story always ends with a wedding and joyous words of love.
The story never goes beyond the bedroom door. The hero carries her upstairs in her wedding dress and as the happy couple step across the threshold, there are stars in the sky and they live happily ever after. End of story.
Of course it is never quite like that in real life, although some people get very close to it.
Barbara Cartland has always given her readers an idealised view of life, love and men and all her books contain a very moral message.
She received so many messages from mothers who were so glad that they had started their thirteen year old daughters reading Barbara Cartland instead of some of the over-sexed and over-violent material available to young people nowadays.
But she always hoped that her many fans were not too disappointed if their romances and marriages did not work out for them as in a Barbara Cartland novel, but she felt strongly that all girls should always start off in life with the highest ideals and expectations for their future
Today romance is still the most popular fiction bought at bookshops, but sadly modern romantic authors feel they should add so much sex and spice to their books, which has nothing to do with the plot and which makes their books more akin to soft porn than traditional romance.
As Barbara herself said, “publishers now tell their authors to write like Barbara Cartland and put lots of sex into it!”
The reader always has a choice and the fact that Barbara Cartland wrote 657 romantic bestsellers in her extraordinary life starting with her first book in 1923, shows that despite everything romance never dies and love still makes the world go round.
Her stories are still thrilling her readers all over the world through the Barbara Cartland Pink Collection which will continue to bring out a new unpublished Barbara Cartland every month until 2018.
If only Diana was still here to enjoy them.
© Ian McCorquodale 2007
11 Oct 2023