Over 150 years after her birth, 109 years after mounting the British throne alongside her husband, George V, sixty-six years after her death, Mary of Teck has gone viral. Until the publication last year by the tiny Zuleika press of The Quest for Queen Mary, the grandmother of Elizabeth II was a dim, distant figure, remembered, if at all, for her fabled habit – and fabled it seems to have been, for it does not surface in either of these books – when staying as a house guest of showering such compliments on whatever object or bauble fell within her gaze that its owners would feel compelled instantly to gift it to her.
But now Queen Mary is all the rage. That avid reader (or, more to the point, listener, for she preferred her ladies-in-waiting to do the reading while she reclined on a sofa with cocked ear) has come back to life as a publishing phenomenon. Within a few months of its appearance last year, the royal scrapbook of James Pope-Hennessy, himself dead these forty-five years, had become the talk of country house literary festivals and a bulwark of bookshop counters (an upgrade to The Wicked Wit of Prince Philip).