SWINDON LITERARY FESTIVAL REVIEW: JENNIE Bond had the audience at the Arts Centre eating out of the palm of her hand, rather as the Queen's horses accept sugar lumps from the Royal fingers.

There are those who regard the Royal Family as the backbone of England, the rock upon which the history of our country is based.

Then there are those who regard the Royal Family as playing a role in 21st century British life similar to that played by the appendix a slightly interesting throwback to an earlier era when such things really mattered, but we wouldn't miss much if it were whipped out and thrown away.

I fall into the latter camp, but that did not stop me from sitting up and taking notice with the rest of the audience.

Jennie Bond is a natural raconteur with a somewhat schoolmarmish and regal air perhaps it's catching.

She didn't offer any particularly shocking insights into life behind the scenes at the Royal palaces, but that is hardly surprising as the Royal Family has had nearly a millennium to practice the art of ensuring that even the "unauthorised" stories are nothing of the sort.

She did, however, open a parcel of the sort of anecdotes most people would never have a chance of gathering.

There was the story of how the late Diana, Princess of Wales sent her seven pairs of tights for Christmas, and of Diana telling Jennie that she knew Camilla Parker Bowles was the love of her estranged husband's life and that she had doubts about the future of her marriage to the Prince almost before the ceremony.

There was also the story of how Jennie wanted to hug Princes William and Harry and say "I knew your mum".

There was the story of the Queen and the late Queen Mother stopping for small talk with Jennie and another reporter after courtiers had warned the two journalists to stay away.

In its low-key way, this was one of the best events so far in what is still looking like being the best festival yet.

By Barrie Hudson