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Ridiculed as a matter of course by the British press for their routine gaffes, Prince of Wales Freddy and his wife, the frivolous Fredericka, are sent on a quest to colonize the barbaric land of America, an endeavor during which they engage in such misadventures as a freight train ride, an art theft, and a wayward presidential election. 125,000 first printing. Mark Helprin's picaresque romp, Freddy and Fredericka, begins with a secret rite on a Scottish hillside: the Prince of Wales, poised in his crisp field uniform, urges a falcon named Craig-Vyvyan to fly from his arm. The latest in a line of royal falcons with the ability to discern true kings and queens, Craig-Vyvyan sniffs the air, sizes up the bewildered heir to the throne, and refuses to budge. The falcon knows he isn't king-material, and so does the falconer, and so, in his heart of heart's, does the Prince of Wales. From this promising opening, Helprin spins a tale that ricochets in tone between the silliness of The Naked Gun movies and the gravity of a Wesleyan sermon. To prove their worth and prepare them to rule, the Prince and Princess of Wales--loose caricatures of Charles and Diana--are parachuted naked into New Jersey by night and ordered to reconquer America for Britain.
Helprin's theme is nobility--acquired, as well as innate. He puts the spoiled but well-meaning Prince and Princess through a series of farcical trials before they reach the startling conclusion that clean living, hard work, and humility will bring out the best in them. The "funny" parts of Freddy and Fredericka would have benefited from vigorous pruning--the book itself is too long--but there are stirring passages on love and duty sprinkled among the gags and loopy names, and some spectacular landscape descriptions--covert portraits of the force that drives the green fuse through the flower and gives the House of Windsor its curious destiny. --Regina Marler