Book Review: James the Third

Maggie Ballinger ~ James the Third


What if King George VI and his Queen consort had a third child, a son later on in life? This son would become heir apparent instead of Princess Elizabeth at their father’s death in 1952. This novel reimagines their life through the decades.


Whether you’re for or against the monarchy, the current Queen Elizabeth II is a truly marvellous woman. Now 95 she’s pretty much still working pretty full-time. Because you never get a day off from being the monarch.

James the Third may present us with an alternate reality, but the true message is that the royals still have to deal with human issues. It’s easy to forget that divorce, miscarriage and scandal touch and devastate everyone, no matter how privileged we believe them to be.

This book was fascinating. It presents a timeline of life as we know it, with one exception. We have a king. Author Maggie Ballinger looks at the ‘what if’ scenario had a younger son been born.

Interspersed with historical events, this tale of fiction shows us how things could’ve panned out instead. The characters are very much as we know them from real life and from The Crown.

Although well-observed and written, I did feel that there was a lack of humour at times, especially knowing that many Royals enjoy a joke.

I also feel that the ‘real’ timeline was adhered to much too strictly. It would’ve been nice to see a few deviations to make the story more believable – had she not become queen, perhaps Elizabeth and Phillip would have taken a different path and had fewer children? Perhaps a prime minister would have made different decisions following an audience with a King? I also think James would’ve been a more suitable best man for Charles’ wedding, given their friendship, but perhaps royal protocol forbids this.

The parallels drawn with the working class family add depth to the story and are particularly enjoyable. We participate in their lives as well, comparing their situations with those of the Royal family and sharing their successes and tragedies. The twist is a little predictable perhaps, but still a good one and its reveal leaves us with many questions and possible outcomes.

Overall this is a great story and provides a unique perspective of British history.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to Random Things Tours for the copy. Opinions my own.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: James the Third

  1. What very interesting issues you’ve raised, Mia. Of the three concluding ‘events’, one needed a bit of foreshadowing, the second couldn’t be totally ‘clueless’ but, by guessing the third, you are totally unique! Let’s see whether anyone else manages to figure it out… Maggie x


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