Sally Bedell Smith’s “Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of A Modern Monarch” is a dauntingly large tome that turns out to be a highly enjoyable, approachable read. Never dry, always entertaining, the author takes readers through the life of Queen Elizabeth II in a page-turning fashion that incorporates an incredible amount of detail.
The way detail and readability are combined is the real charm of this book. For those who want to know the nitty-gritty of the Queen’s involvement in horse-racing, or to look at what each individual overseas trip meant, this is a fine resource.
Holding “Elizabeth the Queen” is like holding the definitive guide to the Queen. The monarch is presented both factually—what she did, what she didn’t do—and through the filter of her family, friends and staff. Where interviews with her associates are included, they are warm, thoughtful and insightful. (Story continues below.)
Unusual aspects include a portrayal of Queen Elizabeth set against the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, both of whom could afford to be flamboyant. Different as they may have been, they were always close and the three women made the Queen stronger. When both died within months of one another, the Queen emerged different, somehow, stronger and a little able to show the twinkle in her eye.
Readers learn of a woman absolutely defined by her family, and who in turn defines her own. None of the Royals would have it any different.
“Elizabeth the Queen” also gives each prime minister his or her own section, including the pivotal relationship Queen Elizabeth had with Winston Churchill, protector, teacher and long-time mentor—he first met her when she was a mere toddler. In turn, he was the only prime minster the Queen called by his first name.
Sally Bedell Smith does not hold back from the story of the Princess of Wales, pointing out that Diana was the first to be unfaithful. Despite all her accusations of “three in a marriage,” Prince Charles was not carrying on with his Camilla until after the marriage had irretrievably broken down. It becomes clear that both were at fault, not just Prince Charles.
This writer was very young when Charles and Diana married, and all knowledge that the marriage was on the rocks passed over her head. It was an eye-opener to see how early in the marriage the couple had troubles, how troubled the Princess of Wales truly was. This story is told from the point of view of how it affected the Queen, but it isn’t glossed over; it was a major, difficult chapter for the monarch.
Sally Bedell Smith’s book is a must-read for any royal fan. Entertaining and full of historical information, it is a warm, enjoyable and fascinating peek into the royal world and can only serve to increase understanding and respect for arguably the world’s most famous woman, Elizabeth the Queen.
- Katie Couric’s choppy documentary, “The Jubilee Queen”
- Sims 3 Diamond Jubilee spoof
Get British Royal Family news by subscribing to this column or using the RSS feed. Linda Gentile is the British Royal Family Examiner and you can also follow on Twitter and Facebook. And, for yet more British life and culture, check out Linda’s British Life column.