NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • This “excellent, all-embracing” (The New York Times) biography of Queen Elizabeth II is a magisterial study of the woman known only from a distance—and a captivating window into her decades-long reign.
From the moment of her ascension to the throne in 1952 at the age of twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II was the object of unparalleled scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how well did we really know the world’s most famous monarch? Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, acclaimed biographer Sally Bedell Smith pulls back the curtain to show in intimate detail the public and private lives of Queen Elizabeth II, who led her country and Commonwealth through the wars and upheavals of the last twentieth and twenty-first centuries with unparalleled composure, intelligence, and grace.
In Elizabeth the Queen, we meet the young girl who suddenly becomes “heiress presumptive” when her uncle abdicates the throne. We meet the thirteen-year-old Lilibet as she falls in love with a young navy cadet named Philip and becomes determined to marry him, even though her parents prefer wealthier English aristocrats. We see the teenage Lilibet repairing army trucks during World War II and standing with Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on V-E Day. We see the young Queen struggling to balance the demands of her job with her role as the mother of two young children.
Sally Bedell Smith brings us inside the palace doors and into the Queen’s daily routines—the “red boxes” of documents she reviewed each day, the weekly meetings she had with twelve prime ministers, her physically demanding tours abroad, and the constant scrutiny of the press—as well as her personal relationships: with her husband, Prince Philip, the love of her life; her children and their often-disastrous marriages; her grandchildren and friends.
In her 60-year-reign, Elizabeth II has evolved "from beautiful ing nue to businesslike working mother to wise grandmother," whose grave public persona conceals her spirit, intelligence, humor, and joie de vivre. In a respectful, engrossing, and perceptive portrayal, Smith (Diana in Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess) relates that Elizabeth defied her mother in marrying her cheeky third-cousin Prince Philip of Greece, but she bowed to Churchill in not adopting Philip's surname, which strained their marriage; while her laissez-faire attitude toward child-rearing allowed a flinty, critical Philip to dominate the sensitive Charles. Her compassion in shaking hands with cured Nigerian lepers in 1956 prefigured Diana's handshake with an AIDS patient in 1987. But while some of the inner workings of the monarchy are exposed, Smith often pulls her punches; the queen's passion for her dogs and horses gets more ink than daughters-in-law Camilla and Sophie, and the monarch remains distant, her thoughts and feelings ultimately unknowable. Photos.
Overall a good book
While this is a good book, it is obvious that the author has a bias towards the queen. There is no doubt that the queen has devoted her life to her position, and has done so extremely well. But this book presents Elizabeth II as nearly perfect. It shows few, if any faults, although everyone has them. The author stresses over and over the queen's down to earth-ness. Her humility and forthrightness. Almost to the point where one wonders who is the author trying to convince. The book fairly well bashes Diana, and gives her very little credit for anything; supplying many quotes from palace insiders as to how "everyone" knew what a problem Diana was going to be.
Yet, the book is interesting. If you want a book that idealizes the queen, then this is the one for you.
Cheers to this book!
This book is not for people looking for dirty laundry and scandal. The book is exactly what it says its about: The Queen. This book captures HRH at her brightest and darkest times while giving the common person a look at the person she is in her private life. We learn why she is the way she is when it comes to handling scandal later in life and a lot has to do with her upbringing. While the book does favor HRH what's not to love? You learn a lot more about The Queen and realize she is more than meets the eye.
What a beautiful and well written book, that keeps you wanting to turn the page. The British Monarchy should be proud of such a vivid and accurate book on the Queen.