Lupo and the Secret of Windsor Castle
by Aby King
This is the first in a series of books featuring Lupo – the cocker spaniel owned by Will and Kate – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Lupo is especially fond of young Prince George. George and Lupo can speak with each other in their own special language that the adults can’t understand. Research has confirmed that the royal dog is indeed named Lupo, although it remains unconfirmed whether he and George can communicate.
If you’re fond of or curious about the royal family – or if your kids are intrigued by the thought of real kings, queens and princesses – then this is a great pick for kids who are about 6-10 years old.
This book starts with a legend, told by the Duke of Cambridge (Prince William) to George (and Lupo) as a bedtime story. The legend is about another boy named George, who slayed a dragon that was terrorizing England after many others had died trying. George was able to defeat the dragon with the help of a magical sword and ring – as you might expect, since magical swords and/or rings seem to be the only reliable way to defeat dragons. As thanks, the King made George a saint., and (St George is now recognized as the patron saint of England). It’s amusing to picture the royal family in the first scene, sitting together and reading bedtime stories just as any other family would. Will finishes the story and he and Kate leave the room, but both George and Lupo can’t stop thinking about the legend.
Meanwhile, we get some backstory about Lupo, and his puppy days in the Royal cottage in the small Wales village of Anglesey. This secluded village is in fact where Will and Kate lived for awhile before George was born. And there are a few photos of the couple walking on the beach with Lupo – looking suitably British in their wellies (boots) and Barbour jackets.
After happy days as a puppy in Wales, the royal family moves back to London shortly before George is born. Their new home is the modestly named “Apartment 1A” in Kensington Palace. Lupo joins the family on a trip to nearby Buckingham Palace, where he meets the Queen’s dogs. And here the story takes a turn as we met several new canine characters. Some of which (Holly) take a liking to Lupo – and others (Vulcan) do not. What follows is a sinister plot by Vulcan (one of the Queen’s dorgis – a cross between a corgi and a dachshund) to frame Lupo for a crime which will potentially get him banished from the royal family, and which will elevate Vulcan to a position of power, above even the Queen herself!
During the ensuing adventure, our heroes encounter dragons, talking animals, and the lost sword of St. George as they discover secret caves, climb over piles of treasure, and explore Windsor Castle.. It’s a new spin on a classic tale that kids will love! The book covers many of the most popular tourist attractions in London and beyond – and will be a great way to introduce or familiarize you and your kids with the city and the royal family!
Kensington Palace is located in the northwest corner of Hyde Park. It is open for visitors, and offers much in the way of history about Queen Victoria (Elizabeth’s great-great-grandmother) and preceding royalty. As with many of the London landmarks, the tour includes kid-friendly activities, including scavenger hunts and audio guides.
In the book, Lupo describes the short journey from Kensington Palace to Buckingham Palace – and mentions the many notable landmarks that one passes along the way, including Hyde Park corner, Green Park, Big Ben, the London Eye and Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square – before the final approach to Buckingham Palace where the Victoria Monument stands in front of the royal gates. If you’re visiting Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard, the steps to the Victoria Monument are a good place to stand since they offer an elevated view over the crowds at the gate. (But arrive early to beat the crowds!)
Hyde Park and especially the Serpentine are at the center of the story. Just north of Buckingham Palace, Hyde park is the largest green space in London. Much like Central Park in New York, Hyde Park has a wide variety of spaces used for different activities, including casual sports (soccer mostly, with the occasional cricket match), walking, biking (on London’s ubiquitous rental bikes), as well as boating and swimming in the lakes and pond. Special events are also often held here: summer music festivals or the Winter Wonderland village around Christmastime.
Hyde Park is one of the few relatively safe (car-free) places for a tourist to try out cycling in London. You may hear the rental bikes referred to by the locals as “Boris Bikes”. This is a reference to the colorful mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who advocated for London to become one of the first major cities to offer rental bikes. These have since become common in most European cities, and recently many American cities as well. However tourists are notoriously careless on these bikes – so if you try them out be careful! Though the seats are adjustable, the bikes are too big for kids.
The Serpentine, a long and winding lake in the center of Hyde Park is the scene of one of the crucial events in the story, and is a great place for parents and kids alike. Paddle boats are available for rental, and hungry ducks are eager to accept breadcrumbs from children walking along the shore. In the summer, many people also swim in the Serpentine, although our experience, the weather in London rarely lends itself to outdoor swimming. Your kids will recognize the Imperial swans referenced in the book. In the story, the swans guard an ancient treasure that lies below the surface of the Serpentine.
Another great spot for kids that is referenced in the book is the Princess Diana Playground. In a nation with fantastic playgrounds, this one is perhaps the best (and often has the long lines to prove it). The line does move fairly quickly (one in, one out), but a tourist, it’s best to visit on a weekday if possible. This playground features a large pirate ship, teepees, a musical section, and more. Our kids loved e playing in the sand under the ship, jumping from the decks, and climbing up to the crow’s nest.
As Lupo’s troubles escalate, there is a discussion of the possibility that he’ll be sent to the Tower of London as punishment if he’s found guilty! The Tower is, in the opinion of many, the best tourist attraction in London – offering a colorful but somewhat gruesome history of Englands medieval times. . The Tower served as a prison during the reign of Henry VIII, as well as many other royals – and currently houses the Crown Jewels. The highlight of a visit though, is the guided tour (free, with purchase of entry ticket) given by the yeoman warders, who provide a spirited and oftentimes humorous commentary on the Tower then and now.
The last section of the book takes place in Windsor Castle. This is the primary residence of the Queen. You can tell whether she is in residence at the time by looking for her personal crest on the flag that will be flying from the main turret. If she’s away, you’ll see the Union Jack in its place (the same is true at Buckingham Palace). Windsor Castle is about 45 minutes west of Central London – but it’s worth the trip if you have the time, and are interested in learning more about the history of Britain. Notable for families is the outstanding kids’ audio guide. Unlike most kids’ guides which simply offer a child’s perspective on the site, this one delivers an exciting story of knights and dragons that your kids will love (especially if they’ve read Lupo!). It’s highly recommended.