Sally A

Review From User :

This is a fascinating book about an extraordinary woman.

Princess Elizabeth has a fairly normal upbringing for a member of the Royal family, given that she was not raised to become Queen. But when her uncle, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne for Wallis Simpson, her father became King George VI and she became next in line for the throne. Upon her father's untimely death in 1852, Elizabeth, at age 25 became Queen Elizabeth II. She took her duties very seriously, stating:
"I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."
She has embodied this pledge throughout her entire reign.

The book delves deeply into her family, her causes, her interests and especially her life as Queen. The portrait is mostly positive, though the author does get into some of the controversies she has endured. Although she was not a "hands on" type of mother, and her duties as Queen seemed to override her duties as a mother, she still comes across as a caring, sympathetic woman. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and " She sort of expands when she laughs. She laughs with her whole face." She readily admits that her resting face makes her look glum.

She has experienced many tragedies in her life: the loss of her beloved father; the death of her mother and sister just weeks apart; the murder of Phillip's uncle Louis Mountbatten; and the death of Diana.
"Grief is the price all pay for love."

There are so many people in this book that is sometimes hard to keep track of them all. The many family members, all the courtiers, the revolving door of Prime Ministers, etc.
Some are sympathetically portrayed, some are not. Diana, especially, is not treated kindly in this book, although it may be warranted. Princess Margaret is also not viewed in a very positive light, although the Queen remained close to her until the end.

I'm not sure if this book changed my mind about everyone, but I came away with a huge admiration and respect for Queen Elizabeth, and her devotion to her country. The woman is indefatigable, standing for hours at a time, making small talk with strangers, poring over briefing books so that she always prepared for each event. She had an encyclopedic mind for government details, horse breeding and for all the jewels and artwork she owns. She is always very careful to be neutral about political issues, never expressing her opinion to her PMs but asking pertinent questions to help guide them and allowing herself to be a sounding board for them.

The book itself is very well written, and although long, with a lot of detail and minutiae, it feels very personal and intimate and never dragged. I would just get lost in it.

Whether or not you are an Anglophile, I definitely recommend this book. Queen Elizabeth is truly a magnificent woman, and I enjoyed getting to know her.


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