In the years I’ve been researching Hodgson’s story people have often asked, ‘Why the interest – are you related?’ I’m not.
I don’t have a personal stake in this story at all, except that once, as a child of 7 or 8 years old, I came across Before Action in the poetry section of the Children’s Encyclopaedia. The poem was alive. I felt Noel Hodgson’s fear. I sensed how very young he was (even though 23 would have seemed very old to me then). I knew that deep sigh of resignation that echoes through the words – ‘I don’t want to go through with this, but if I have to I will – somehow’.
The book told me that he died on the Somme, as he expected, and his story lived on in the recesses of my mind, tied by a fine thread of memory to November poppies and to every other mention I found of the Somme and the Great War. As time passed I began to see how many other writers I enjoyed – Tolkien and C.S. Lewis especially – also had a thread of story linking back to that war. I started to collect old books of war poetry, always hoping to find Hodgson’s book. And one day, in my final year at university, there it was, for £3 in a second-hand bookshop in Bath. That discovery started me on this research.
As for the rest, I’ve had five books published so far:
Prince Leopold: The Untold Story of Queen Victoria’s Youngest Son
[Sutton Publishing 1998; two later paperback editions]
Romanov Autumn: Stories from the Last Century of Imperial Russia
[Sutton Publishing 2000; two later paperback editions and two foreign translations]
Queen Victoria’s Family: A Century of Photographs 1840 – 1940
[Sutton Publishing 2001; later reissued in paperback]
The Camera and the Tsars: The Romanov Family in Photographs
[Sutton Publishing 2004; later reissued in paperback; two foreign translations]
From Cradle to Crown: British Nannies and Governesses at the World’s Royal Courts
[Sutton Publishing 2006]
Contributions to the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and to T & V Holt, Violets from Oversea, [Leo Cooper 1996; later reissued as Poets of the First World War]
I have an M.A. in history and my first published article was on Noel Hodgson for This England in 1988, reprinted in the book Salute to the Soldier Poets in 1990.
I’ve also written several hundred articles on 19th and early 20th century royalty, write regularly for Royalty Digest Quarterly, have helped plan and have spoken of tours related to war poetry and to royalty, and have contributed research, photographic research and interviews to a growing list of TV programmes.