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Harold Albert, used pen name Helen Cathcart

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 Mr. Albert's obituary in the Times of London: Helen Cathcart didn't exist. "She" was Harold Albert.

Despite suspicions that Mr. Albert wrote the score of Cathcart books published from 1962 to 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 found that Mr. 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.

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

The Cathcart books were widely read. They were serialized, reprinted, well-reviewed and completely respectful of the royals.

The obituary described how Mr. Albert protected his identity, 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 Mr. Albert politely replied that Mrs. Cathcart was only interested in promoting her subjects, not herself.

Many of the Cathcart books carried an acknowledgment "to the help given by Harold Albert."

_ Area obituaries and the Suncoast Deaths list appear in local sections.