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‘Female’ Royal Biographer Was a Man

November 4, 1997

LONDON (AP) _ Helen Cathcart, a hugely popular biographer of the royal family, was long considered an obsessive recluse whose only contact with her publishers and the outside world was through her assistant, Harold Albert.

The truth came out Tuesday in Albert’s obituary in The Times of London: Helen Cathcart didn’t exist. ``She″ was actually Harold Albert.

Despite suspicions that Albert wrote the score of Cathcart books published between 1962 and 1988 _ beginning with ``Her Majesty, the Queen Herself″ and ending with ``Charles: Man of Destiny″ _ the matter was settled publicly only by the death notice.

During research for the obituary, the Times said it found that Albert, who died Oct. 20 at age 88, had a life as intriguing as any of his subjects.

Born Harold Kemp, he had a humble start, but made up for it with a rich imagination and the love of a good joke _ the longer running, the better.

Albert created the Cathcart character in the 1950s, choosing a good Scottish name ``that had just the right ring to it,″ the newspaper said. He conducted his research by writing to his sources as Mrs. Cathcart and using the library assiduously.

The Cathcart books were widely read in their day, especially by women. They were serialized, reprinted, well-reviewed and completely respectful of the royals.

The obituary described how Albert protected his identity fiercely, posing as Helen Cathcart’s go-between to the outside world.

From time to time, invitations would come to Mrs. Cathcart, asking her for an interview or to give a lecture. But Albert politely replied that Mrs. Cathcart was only interested in promoting her subjects, not herself.

In a particularly nice touch, many of the Cathcart books carried an acknowledgment ``to the help given by Harold Albert.″

Royal historian Hugo Vickers said he had guessed the truth, but could never confirm it.

``If you had rung Harold Albert, he would have denied it,″ Vickers said, ``and sent you one of the books signed by Mrs. Cathcart.″

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