Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

If you are hoping for a super gossipy, anti-Queen, pro-Diana book, this is not the book for you. Not that it doesn't have some juicy tidbits, such as this quote from Prince Philip about the Queen when they were first married, "During a visit to the Brabourns in Kent, John said to Philip, 'I never realized what lovely skin she [the Queen] has.' 'Yes,' Philip replied, 'she's like that all over.'" But this book is very sympathetic in tone to the Queen. Instead of overly gossipy stuff, the book is an intermingling of the history of modern England (from primarily the 1930's onward) to the present with the life of Queen Elizabeth. It does succeed in this quite well and is very easy to read.

It opens with the Queen falling in love at first sight with Prince Philip of Greece and the book ends with the true love marriage of her grandson, Prince Prince William to Catherine(Kate) Middleton. Now, I've always envied the Queen her jewelry. After reading this book, she's welcome to them. I wouldn't trade my life for hers for any amount of money or jewels. As hers is a life that was bound by duty and self-sacrifice. Contrary to her public image during the Diana years as being cold, it seems as if the Queen long ago decided to put on a public face. She feels it's her duty to never have a strong opinion stated as her job is to represent all her subjects. The most heartbreaking thing of all in this book is the revelation that she has no close friends- that she has always felt the need to put up an impenetrable wall. Why? To avoid anyone being close enough to have tabloid type revelations about her like Princess Diana. So, except for her husband, her mother, and her sister. She has lived a life largely alone and isolated. Towards the end of the book, when sister and mother have passed away, you cannot help but feel how alone she truly is. Little wonder her sister Margaret, upon Elizabeth's coronation as Queen, was quoted as pitying her and not envying her. A wonderful book.

Rating: 4 stars 

Sally Bedell Smith's website 

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