When the Real-Life Royal Drama Runs Out, Turn to The Heir Affair

When Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan —sometimes better known, on the internet at least, as the Fug Girls—first considered writing a sequel to their 2015 hit The Royal We, they thought they had one challenge: “I mean, the British royal family is really boring right now,” Morgan remembers thinking.

As it turns out, the British royals are very temporarily back to being a little bit boring, with many of them remaining in coronavirus lockdown. But coming after what’s been one of the more dramatic years in modern royal history, including the usual babies and weddings but also lawsuits and defections and massive scandals, Cocks and Morgan’s The Heir Affair arrives as a different kind of escapism—albeit with plenty of drama of its own. Whereas The Royal We hewed pretty closely to Kate Middleton and Prince William’s origin story, albeit with Kate swapped for baseball-obsessed American Bex, The Heir Affair spins further off into its own parallel universe, as Bex and her Prince Nicholas attempt to settle into life at the palace, the imperious and aging Queen Eleanor attempts to embrace the American in the family, and Nicholas’s charming but rudderless younger brother Freddie joins the military and sparks an intercontinental romance. (OK, that part might still bear a lot of resemblance to reality.)

Though Cocks and Morgan have joked that they predicted the future by writing about an American royal family with The Royal We, they deliberately chose not to include a Meghan Markle figure in the follow-up. But anyone who followed Meghan’s arrival into the royal family might recognize some familiar moments, from brutal tabloid coverage to the queen taking her under her wing. Fans of older royal-family drama, or at least The Crown, will also find some recognition in Princess Georgina, the long-dead sister of the queen who left behind an apartment full of mysterious relics, and at least one massive secret that Bex uncovers by accident. Cocks and Morgan don’t call the royal family “the world’s longest-running soap opera” for nothing.

In our Zoom call, as is probably natural when any three royal obsessives gather, the conversation quickly turned to the real-life royals, from their general refusal to engage in political issues—something Prince Harry and Meghan seem to be working to undo—to the future of the monarchy after the queen’s death. They also explained how they wrote Queen Eleanor as an imaginary, and maybe more relaxed, version of the real-life queen, and why it’s so difficult to truly understand the real one.

The Heir Affair is out July 7, from Grand Central Publishing.

Vanity Fair: Once you knew you weren’t going to have a Meghan character in this book, was it easy to just say, Nope, this is our universe? Or did you consciously have to pull yourselves back?

Heather Cocks: I think once we sort of plotted it out and got the outline down, it was a lot easier this time to just be like, No, this is our universe. We did so much work dissociating in our own minds. When we wrote The Royal We, we had to really stop ourselves at the beginning from being like, Would Harry do that? Would Kate do that? And then we were like, Well, does it matter? Because they’re not Harry and Kate. And if we treat them like they’re Harry and Kate, then nothing’s going to happen to them, because we’re going to be too nervous to deviate. So we had to kind of get over that mental hump with the first book. And so for this one, you know, they’re different people and their experiences are so different that those streams didn’t cross for me when we were writing the book.

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