Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

by Sally Bedell Smith

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Perfect for fans of The Crown, this magisterial biography of Queen Elizabeth II is a close-up view of the woman we’ve known only from a distance—and a captivating window into the last great monarchy.

From the moment of her ascension to the throne in 1952 at the age of twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II has been the object of unparalleled scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how well do 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 has led her country and Commonwealth through the wars and upheavals of the last sixty years 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 reviews each day, the weekly meetings she has had with twelve prime ministers, her physically demanding tours abroad, and the constant scrutiny of the press—as well as her personal relationships: with Prince Philip, her husband of sixty-four years and the love of her life; her children and their often-disastrous marriages; her grandchildren and friends.

Praise for Elizabeth the Queen

“An excellent, all-embracing new biography.”The New York Times

“[An] imposing, yet nimbly written, biography [that] dwarfs the field . . . a most satisfying and enjoyable read, one to be savored at length.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Fascinating . . . After sixty years on the throne, the monarch of Britain is better known for her poker face than for sly wit or easy charm. Yet in biographer Sally Bedell Smith’s Elizabeth the Queen, Her Majesty sparkles with both.”More

“[A] smart and satisfying book.”Los Angeles Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679643937
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/10/2012
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 720
Sales rank: 48,633
File size: 18 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Sally Bedell Smith is the author of  bestselling biographies of William S. Paley; Pamela Harriman; Diana, Princess of Wales; John and Jacqueline Kennedy; and Bill and Hillary Clinton. A contributing editor at Vanity Fair since 1996, she previously worked at Time and The New York Times, where she was a cultural news reporter. She is the mother of three children and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Stephen G. Smith.

Read an Excerpt



It was a footman who brought the news to ten-year-old Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor on December 10, 1936. Her father had become an accidental king just four days before his forty-first birthday when his older brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, a twice-divorced American. Edward VIII had been sovereign only nine months after taking the throne following the death of his father, King George V, making him, according to one mordant joke, "the only monarch in history to abandon the ship of state to sign on as third mate on a Baltimore tramp."

"Does that mean that you will have to be the next queen?" asked Elizabeth's younger sister, Margaret Rose (as she was called in her childhood). "Yes, someday," Elizabeth replied. "Poor you," said Margaret Rose.

Although the two princesses had been the focus of fascination by the press and the public, they had led a carefree and insulated life surrounded by governesses, nannies, maids, dogs, and ponies. They spent idyllic months in the English and Scottish countryside playing games like "catching the days"-running around plucking autumn leaves from the air as they were falling. Their spirited Scottish nanny, Marion "Crawfie" Crawford, had managed to give them a taste of ordinary life by occasionally taking them around London by tube and bus, but mostly they remained inside the royal bubble.

Before the arrival of Margaret, Elizabeth spent four years as an only- and somewhat precocious-child, born on the rainy night of April 21, 1926. Winston Churchill, on first meeting the two-year-old princess, extravagantly detected "an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant." Crawfie noted that she was "neat and methodical . . . like her father," obliging, eager to do her best, and happiest when she was busy. She also showed an early ability to compartmentalize-a trait that would later help her cope with the demands of her position. Recalled Lady Mary Clayton, a cousin eight years her senior: "She liked to imagine herself as a pony or a horse. When she was doing that and someone called her and she didn't answer right away, she would then say, 'I couldn't answer you as a pony.' "

The abdication crisis threw the family into turmoil, not only because it was a scandal but because it was antithetical to all the rules of succession. While Elizabeth's father had been known as "Bertie" (for Albert), he chose to be called George VI to send a message of stability and continuity with his father. (His wife, who was crowned by his side, would be known as Queen Elizabeth.) But Bertie had not been groomed for the role. He was in tears when he talked to his mother about his new responsibilities. "I never wanted this to happen," he told his cousin Lord Louis "Dickie" Mountbatten. "I've never even seen a State Paper. I'm only a Naval Officer, it's the only thing I know about." The new King was reserved by nature, somewhat frail physically, and plagued by anxiety. He suffered from a severe stammer that led to frequent frustration, culminating in explosions of temper known as "gnashes."

Yet he was profoundly dutiful, and he doggedly set about his kingly tasks while ensuring that his little Lilibet-her name within the family-would be ready to succeed him in ways he had not been. On his accession she became "heiress presumptive," rather than "heiress apparent," on the off chance that her parents could produce a son. But Elizabeth and Margaret Rose had been born by cesarean section, and in those days a third operation would have been considered too risky for their mother. According to custom, Lilibet would publicly refer to her mother and father as "the King and Queen," but privately they were still Mummy and Papa.

When Helen Mirren was studying for her role in 2006's The Queen, she watched a twenty-second piece of film repeatedly because she found it so revealing. "It was when the Queen was eleven or twelve," Mirren recalled, "and she got out of one of those huge black cars. There were big men waiting for her, and she extended her hand with a look of gravity and duty. She was doing what she thought she had to do, and she was doing it beautifully."

"I have a feeling that in the end probably that training is the answer to a great many things," the Queen said on the eve of her fortieth year as monarch. "You can do a lot if you are properly trained, and I hope I have been." Her formal education was spotty by today's standards. Women of her class and generation were typically schooled at home, with greater emphasis on the practical than the academic. "It was unheard of for girls to go to university unless they were very intellectual," said Lilibet's cousin Patricia Mountbatten. While Crawfie capably taught history, geography, grammar, literature, poetry, and composition, she was "hopeless at math," said Mary Clayton, who had also been taught by Crawfie. Additional governesses were brought in for instruction in music, dancing, and French.

Elizabeth was not expected to excel, much less to be intellectual. She had no classmates against whom to measure her progress, nor batteries of challenging examinations. Her father's only injunction to Crawfie when she joined the household in 1932 had been to teach his daughters, then six and two, "to write a decent hand." Elizabeth developed flowing and clear handwriting similar to that of her mother and sister, although with a bolder flourish. But Crawfie felt a larger need to fill her charge with knowledge "as fast as I can pour it in." She introduced Lilibet to the Children's Newspaper, a current events chronicle that laid the groundwork for following political news in The Times and on BBC radio, prompting one Palace adviser to observe that at seventeen the princess had "a first-rate knowledge of state and current affairs."

Throughout her girlhood, Elizabeth had time blocked out each day for "silent reading" of books by Stevenson, Austen, Kipling, the Brontës, Tennyson, Scott, Dickens, Trollope, and others in the standard canon. Her preference, then and as an adult, was for historical fiction, particularly about "the corners of the Commonwealth and the people who live there," said Mark Collins, director of the Commonwealth Foundation. Decades later, when she conferred an honor on J. K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series, the Queen told the author that her extensive reading in childhood "stood me in good stead because I read quite quickly now. I have to read a lot."

Once she became first in line to the throne, Elizabeth's curriculum intensified and broadened. Her most significant tutor was Sir Henry Marten, the vice provost of Eton College, the venerable boys' boarding school down the hill from Windsor Castle whose graduates were known as Old Etonians. Marten had coauthored The Groundwork of British History, a standard school textbook, but he was hardly a dry academic. A sixty- six-year-old bachelor with a moon face and gleaming pate, he habitually chewed a corner of his handkerchief and kept a pet raven in a study so heaped with books that Crawfie likened them to stalagmites. Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who would serve as Queen Elizabeth II's fourth prime minister, remembered Marten as "a dramatic, racy, enthusiastic teacher" who humanized figures of history.

Beginning in 1939, when Elizabeth was thirteen, she and Crawfie went by carriage to Marten's study twice a week so she could be instructed in history and the intricacies of the British constitution. The princess was exceedingly shy at first, often glancing imploringly at Crawfie for reassurance. Marten could scarcely look Elizabeth in the eye, and he lapsed into calling her "Gentlemen," thinking he was with his Eton boys. But before long she felt "entirely at home with him," recalled Crawfie, and they developed "a rather charming friendship."

Marten imposed a rigorous curriculum built around the daunting three- volume The Law and Custom of the Constitution by Sir William Anson. Also on her reading list were English Social History by G. M. Trevelyan, Imperial Commonwealth by Lord Elton, and The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot, the gold standard for constitutional interpretation that both her father and grandfather had studied. Marten even included a course on American history. "Hide nothing," Sir Alan "Tommy" Lascelles, private secretary to King George VI, had told Marten when asked about instructing the princess on the crown's role in the constitution.

Unlike the written American Constitution, which spells everything out, the British version is an accumulation of laws and unwritten traditions and precedents. It is inherently malleable and dependent on people making judgments, and even revising the rules, as events occur. Anson called it a "somewhat rambling structure . . . like a house which many successive owners have altered." The constitutional monarch's duties and prerogatives are vague. Authority rests more in what the king doesn't do than what he does. The sovereign is compelled by the constitution to sign all laws passed by Parliament; the concept of a veto is unthinkable, but the possibility remains.

Elizabeth studied Anson for six years, painstakingly underlining and annotating the dense text in pencil. According to biographer Robert Lacey, who examined the faded volumes in the Eton library, she took note of Anson's assertion that a more complex constitution offers greater guarantees of liberty. In the description of Anglo-Saxon monarchy as "a consultative and tentative absolutism" she underlined "consultative" and "tentative." Marten schooled her in the process of legislation, and the sweeping nature of Parliament's power. Elizabeth's immersion in the "procedural minutiae" was such that, in Lacey's view, "it was as if she were studying to be Speaker [of the House of Commons], not queen." Prime ministers would later be impressed by the mastery of constitutional fine points in her unexpectedly probing questions.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 A Royal Education 3

2 Love Match 25

3 Destiny Calls 47

4 "Ready, Girls?" 65

5 Affairs of State 91

6 Made for Television 119

7 New Beginnings 149

8 Refuge in Routines 177

9 Daylight on the Magic 207

10 Ring of Silence 225

11 "Not Bloody Likely!" 241

12 Feeling the Love 263

13 Iron Lady and English Rose 287

14 A Very Special Relationship 309

15 Family Fractures 333

16 Annus Horribilis 355

17 Tragedy and Tradition 377

18 Love and Grief 411

19 Moving Pictures 443

20 A Soldier at Heart 469

21 Long Live the Queen 499

Afterword 539

Acknowledgments 557

Source Notes 563

Bibliography 649

Index 659


A Letter from Sally Bedell Smith

As a five-year-old, I first glimpsed Queen Elizabeth II on the black and white screen in my parents' mahogany television cabinet in 1953: a glamorous ingenue draped in gleaming robes and wearing a glittering crown during her coronation in Westminster Abbey. Two generations later, children watched her as a proud and bespectacled grandmother in the same majestic setting during the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton .

For sixty years, the Queen has been a constant presence as the longest serving head of state—iconic, distant, mysterious, dutiful— the only person about whom it can truly be said that all the world is a stage

I first met her in 2007 at a garden party at the British ambassador's residence in Washington, D.C. In a spirited conversation with my husband about the Kentucky Derby, she showed the animated gestures, sparkling blue eyes and flashing smile familiar to her friends but rare in public. I remembered what British artist Howard Morgan had told me after painting her portrait: "Her private side took me totally by surprise. She talks like an Italian! She waves her hands about."

Nine months later I began my three year exploration of the Queen's epic life. I was determined to make her accessible, to bring readers into her world and show that private side in an intimate and humanizing way. I also wanted to explain how she has been so successful in her unique role, and how she became "the sheet anchor in the middle for people to hang on to in times of turbulence," in the words of David Airlie, her lifelong friend and former senior adviser.

As a woman I was intrigued by how she thrived in a man's world, juggling her roles as dedicated professional as well as wife and mother. I also wanted to describe for the first time her close relationship with the United States—her eleven visits, five of them private, and her friendships with an array of fascinating Americans including all the presidents since Harry Truman—except Lyndon Johnson, who desperately tried to meet her.

There seemed to be a surprise around every corner: her physical courage when she was attacked by a wounded pheasant and charged by "dive bombing colts," her compassion while mothering a teenaged cousin who had been nearly killed in a terrorist attack, her earthiness while crawling on her belly stalking deer, her joie de vivre while blowing bubbles at a friend's birthday party, her fierce reaction to one of her top advisers in the days after the death of Diana, her tenderness toward Margaret Thatcher during the former prime minister's 80th birthday party.

After two years of research and interviewing, it took another year to write the Queen's story—to weave together the threads of a life of richness and variety with a great cast of characters both famous and little-known. I hope the result will enable readers to immerse themselves in her life—from the grouse moors of Scotland and kitchen tables of her friends to the state banquets and time-honored pageantry, where even in the middle of the solemn ritual of her coronation, the Archbishop of Canterbury could sneak the 27-year-old Queen sips from a hidden flask of brandy for a pick-me-up.

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Elizabeth the Queen 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 131 reviews.
MeanOldLibraryTeacher More than 1 year ago
Let me preface all of my remarks with this...I love the Royal Family. I'll read just about anything that comes my way about them, except for the tabloids. That being said, I've read many books that were intellectually satisfying. I've read some terribly dry things. I've read tomes that were pedantic. And I've read books that were fluffy in their treatment. And then there's Elizabeth the Queen. This is, by far, the most approachable and interesting biography of the Queen I've read. Sally Bedell Smith has written a very REAL and honest story of the Queen and her family. It is interesting and warm, not cold and plodding. I found myself hurrying home and through work and chores to settle in with this book. (I don't say that often at all.) It is, in fact, reflective of her changed public image--from a stodgy and stand-offish monarch, to the warm and loving "grandmother" image she has grown into in the last 15 years. Definitely one I will recommend and purchase for my library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful quick read for those who are interested by the British Royal Family. A wonderful look through the eyes of outsiders and insiders into the life of Elizabeth and the daily workings of the Palace for more than 60 years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read most of the major, modern biographies of Her Majesty and this is one of the best, if only because it does not become a biography-by-proxy of Diana, Princess of Wales 3/4s of the way through. Smith deals with this troubling time in the period of the monarchy, and Her Majesty's life, without having to bow and scrape at the altar of the woman who nearly singlehandedly destroyed the monarchy as British modern biographers seem want to do. Nor does Smith's portrayal gloss over Charles' infidelities. But it, rather importantly, deals with Her Majesty's reactions to the crises. The book neither supports nor attacks either of the Waleses, and it similarly does not take sides in some of the other controversies of Elizabeth II's reign: the Margaret/Townsend tragedy, the Margaret/Snowdon/Roddy business, the Andrew/Sarah problems, etc. It discusses them, lays out the facts, explains the Queen's reactions and feelings on the matter according to Smith's sources, and moves on. Particularly fascinating was the book's discussion of Her Majesty's relationships to her Prime Ministers. It dispels much of the rumors about her dislike for certain ones and reveals what most of us probably already suspected: Her Majesty is an incredibly smart woman, empathetic but reserved, who can get along with almost anyone. Moreover, Smith pays particular attention to the seriousness with which Her Majesty view's her role in the Commonwealth, which is quite fascinating. All-in-all, this is a must-read for those seeking insights into Elizabeth the Queen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Took this on vacation and it helped with the long hours in the airport. Both the beginning and the end felt rushed. The middle was well written but only a few nuggets of reflection on decades old events. If you are a fan of "The Firm", you should enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a beautifully done portrait of the Queen, one that offers rare insight into a famously private woman--something of who she is as daughter, wife, mother, grandmother. For me, it was wonderful to find even more to admire about her!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is good, but not personal enough. However it is very respectful of the Queen and I liked that, although it has too much history that I already knew and not enough human interest stories..
Cecita More than 1 year ago
I have debated whether to give it two or three stars. I enjoyed it for the most part but I have a few issues: 1. I felt the beginning and middle was much more interesting than the last part. This one dragged but felt rushed at the same time. 2. Enough with the horses! I had to skip page after page of raising and racing horses descriptions. I understand it is an essential part of the Queen's life but I don't need to know how a stallion mounts a mare. 3. This is my biggest one. The portrayal felt extremely sympathetic. Obviously the writing is slanted. Now I am an avid biography reader and I believe authors have to respect their research subject but this was too much. Basically any bad that ever happened during her reign was not her fault. This is evident, for example, when describing her mothering skills with Prince Charles. And it is painfully overwhelming in the chapters concerning Princess Diana who is dismissed as unbalanced and trying to bring down the monarchy. And guess what? The Queen had nothing to do with anything that befell Diana or the couple.Prince Charles was appartently seduced by this troubled girl who acted one way before the wedding and another after. Everyone tried to help but Diana set out to destroy everyone. Then Prince Charles finally married the love of his life. Oh, and he didn't cheat first. So in the end, I would have appreciated more objective criticism but in the whole it was informative. The first half of the book is definitely better.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
From before she took the throne through the craziness of her children and to the present day, this book takes you behind the scenes of both the political and personal life of HRH Queen Elizabeth II. There are many reasons why I picked up this book, but with the royal wedding this past spring I, among others, has a renewed sense of curiosity towards the royal family and its inner workings. Queen Elizabeth II is destined for the throne as an heir to the throne and no male sibling, little did she know that she would be taking her place in history at the young age of 25. Newly married and still trying to find her place in the family, she takes the central role to a very large empire. She has endured many years as the centerpiece and has had to endure a lot of scrutiny and tragedy. The one piece of history that I was unaware of was the horrible year she had in 1992 with three of her children separating and divorcing, she had a year full of turmoil. A great book for anyone who has any interest in the life of a royal. But beware this book is a chunkster and is definitely detailed, so for those faint of heart, this one may not be the read for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. Big fan of the royal family anyway.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found it boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read for those of us long entranced by the royal family. The Queen is portrayed in a very human light. You really get s feel for just how complex her job is!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written , good info,loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wonder how the book would read if the Queen were not alive when it was written? The book was very slanted to a perfect Queen Elizabeth II. It was a tribute that is well deserved, but, as a book to inform the reader, it has no substance. Just one sided praise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have just began reading this book for my honors english class. I am in ninth grade and i am only on page 16 and i love it to bits already! Great nonfiction novel. Read it! You will love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written book
etxgardener on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sally Bedell Smith takes a break from her usual gossipy biographies, to right a mostly laudatory book about Queen Elizabeth II, just in time for her Diamond Jubilee. If you are a dedicated royalty watcher (or even a semi-dedicated one) there is not much new ground explored here except for some arcane details about protocol for tours and visitors to Buck House. Seldom is hear a discouraging word about any of the Queen, her mother or Prince Phillip, and her children escape with mostly positive portraits. The barbs seem to be saved for Princess Margaret and the spouses of the Queen, especially those who are no longer around.This is a pleasant enough read for the beach, but unless you're totally new to "Royaltyland" there aren't going to be any new revelations for the reader.
PensiveCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I avoided biographies about the modern-day royals for a long time. They seemed to me to be either gossipy tell-alls or dry school-aged accounts. Plus it's pretty rare for me to read any biographies about the living. It's inevitably an unfinished story. In this case, I decided to give it a go, mainly because it was offered as an Early Reviewer book. I was tired of Elizabeth I, anyway.The timing of the release of this book coincides with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year (60 years on the throne) so Elizabeth II is on the minds of most potential readers. The jubilees are usually a positive celebration, and Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch reflects that. It's well-researched, and favorable without being gushy. The title says it all. What does a modern monarch do? Well here's the story, and it's a story of duty, and the balance between duty and family. It's actually not an easy job, and personal preferences must always be put to the side. It's also the story of Britain as a whole, since in the Queen's lifetime it went from an empire to a kingdom with a Commonwealth. The relationship between the Queen and the Commonwealth is just as complicated as the one between her and her family. So I enjoyed all 500+ pages. My only complaint is that, once she becomes Queen she is only referred to as the Queen or Elizabeth II. The Roman numerals got on my nerves, but that's just me. Otherwise, it ran well: even the account of all of her racing horses didn't bore me, which is no mean feat.
kaulsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At nearly 550 pages, this book covers the Monarchy as well as the reign of Elizabeth II in depth. Like many (and acknowledged by Smith), I first began to like (instead of laugh at) the Queen when I watched the Helen Mirren's portrayal in the movie "The Queen" a few years back. Mirren made her human. I began to have warm feelings of appreciation for the Monarchy as an entity after watching "The King's Speech" last year.We don't have continuity of government here in the United States. While certainly any bid to create a monarchy here would die an instantaneous death by laughter, Queen Elizabeth II has done her job. She figured out how to walk the narrow line given her to walk and yet as an elder statesman, she learned to move with the times and has allowed herself to change. This is not a nothing!The wealth of historical data gleaned from reading this book was wonderful. Of course I knew so much of it in a bare bones manner--but Smith fleshed it out wonderfully. All-in-all, I heartily recommend this book.Thank you, LibraryThing Early Reviewers, for bringing this title to my attention!
dpappas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For someone who didn't know much about Queen Elizabeth II before reading this book, this was a fascinating look into the life of Elizabeth II. To me the whole Royal Family has always had a certain majestic and mysterious quality to them.I found the most interesting parts of this book to be the things that I did not know about Elizabeth II. I enjoyed reading about her childhood and the early days of her reign of Queen. I also loved reading about the other side to Elizabeth II, the side that her family knows the best.This book covers Elizabeth II's reign quite thoroughly. It was a great look into Elizabeth II's life and her family and I would recommend this book to those interested in the Royal Family.
bwightman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.Published to coincide with Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, this book provides insight into the life of the monarch and her family. I found it to be an easy and entertaining read, and full of interesting information. The royal family and associated traditions and protocols can be very confusing, but I found that this book presents everything in a way that is easy to follow and understand. What I found most enjoyable about this book is the way the author presents the two sides of Elizabeth: the monarch and the person.
tloeffler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fabulous biography-to-date of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. Although the author says in her acknowledgements "This is not an authorized account of her reign; the royal family will not choose an official biographer until after she dies," they would be well-advised to keep Sally Bedell Smith in the running. This is a comprehensive and thoroughly-researched story of Queen Elizabeth, from the notification of her uncle's abdication to the wedding of her grandson Prince William. It's obvious that the author has great respect for the queen, but that doesn't keep her from presenting an even-handed approach. The detail is amazing, the pictures are great fun, and the writing is comfortable and easy to read. At over 500 pages, that is important!Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the life of this fascinating woman!
kateashenden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While this book was a bit more hagiographic than I was expecting, I learned a lot from it and really enjoyed it. I do feel that I almost know the Queen after reading this.
Fjumonvi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936 abruptly thrust his younger brother, George VI, onto the throne of England and made the elder of George's two daughters, Elizabeth, heiress presumptive. Her sister, Margaret Rose, asked her, "Does that mean that you will have to be the next queen?" She replied, "Yes, someday." Margaret Rose responded, "Poor you" (quotations from page 3). As Elizabeth II, she acceded to the throne upon her father's death on February 6, 1952, and, as her secretary, Martin Charteris, put it, "seized her destiny with both hands" (page 62). Only her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, has ruled England longer.Drawing upon numerous secondary sources as well as recent interviews, Elizabeth the Queen chronicles the sovereign's extraordinary life. From its pages, Her Majesty emerges as a person one would want to know even if she were not royal. She is a loyal friend, a lover of animals (especially horses and corgis), kind, maternal, clever, incisive, intelligent, possessed of a lively sense of humor, realistic, traditional, progressive, and dedicated. Dedicated, always dedicated, to the people of her realm. She is their sovereign until her death. There shall be no abdication.The book offers enough gossipy details to keep the reader amused, but this is no scandal sheet. Rather, it is a serious and dignified portrait-in-words, sympathetic to the Queen's perspective in, for example, matters such as Princess Diana's shenanigans, but not overlooking the occasional gaffe. Very enjoyable and informative, Elizabeth the Queen is highly recommended to royal-watchers and, more generally, to those who relish a thorough, well-written biography of an exemplary person.
philae_02 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First off, this biography is exceedingly thorough. Not only does Smith paint an exquisite picture of the reigning monarch, but she divulges the personal and private life of the Queen. From this biography, readers can glimpse at the elegant lady behind the diamond tiaras and fancy gatherings. We can get to ¿know¿ her as a person, and more than just a figurehead. I thought that it was funny to learn about the Queen¿s love for not only her Welsh Corgis, but for horses as well.One particular part that most intrigued me was involving the late-Princess Diana. I had never read the biography by Andrew Morton, about the late-Princess, and can only judge her from what her public life had been. From this biography, I found that the picture Diana had painted was unjust. From Smith¿s work, the Queen had been nothing but accommodating to the young princess, despite her frequent fallouts emotionally.
NovelChatter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
**This book was provided to me by the publisher through a LibraryThing.com giveaway and that in no way affected my honest review. Let me start by telling you what Sally Bedell Smith's Elizabeth The Queen is not. It's not a trashy and it's not a tell-all. If that's what you're looking for, then this is not the book for you. However...if you're looking for a look at the life of a modern monarch, then give Elizabeth The Queen a try. I really enjoyed this book, Smith goes to great lengths to really give the reader a background into the life of the young princess who suddenly goes from being a "background" Royal to being front and center when her uncle, the Duke of Windsor abdicates. As her book unfolds, it's easy to see that great attention was paid to getting things right and telling a fair account of the Queen's life "in service to her country" when you realize that Smith was allowed to travel with the Queen on many trips, to visit her Royal residences and had access to reportedly two hundred people within the world of Her Majesty. Smith shares the strength and courage of a young wife and mother, who overnight, becomes Queen with the early death of her father. You learn background bits about her teen years as a Girl Guide and someone who watched her parents go out into the streets of London during the bombings of WWII, she's head strong and frugal. She's steady, she's adapted and she's endured.Want to know more? Read this book!I enjoyed Smith's writing style and her attention to details. This could bother some, but not me. I want to know, I love biographies and I admire the courage and strength of this woman. Elizabeth The Queen is not a short or "easy" read. But it is a a good read. A very good read.I give it 5 out of 5 stars.