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Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by William…

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

by William Shawcross

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Showing 5 of 5
Elizabeth Bowes Lyon lived a long life, but most importantly, she lived during fascinating historical times and knew all the people who shaped those times, including her own. She did not seek notariety, but when it was thrust upon her she rose to the occasion with such class and warmth that she was universally loved. She was the "people's Queen" long before Princess Diana ever considered being the "people's Princess." She saw her place as helping her husband be the best that he could be in all things and did just that until his death. His death left her bereft not only because she lost her best friend and guide, but because for awhile she lost herself because she didn't know what she was going to do after he was gone. She had not realized how much the British people had used her grace and strength as a guide to their own behavior all during the War years and the reconstruction after. She was a remarkable woman at an even more remarkable time. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Mar 7, 2015 |
The Queen Mother On being pregnant with the future Queen Elizabeth II:
"'The sight of wine simply turns me up! Isn’t it extraordinary?’ she wrote to her husband in September. ‘It will be a tragedy if I never recover my drinking powers.’ She need not have worried."
Very tame, but then again it's an official biography. Still, The Queen Mother did write very entertaining letters. ( )
  Isa_Lavinia | Sep 10, 2013 |
Extensive biography of the Queen Mum. It's well-written and thorough. My only concerns with the book are that foreign phrases are not translated for those who don't speak the language AND that the descriptions of her last years seem to be more impartial than the first 3/4 of the book. Still these items do not dull the depth and fullness of the book. It is an intimate look into the life of a respected and loved woman. ( )
  BAP1012 | Jan 30, 2011 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, for the most part. Towards the end, it got a bit boring because there were just lists and lists of all the places the Queen Mother visited, represented, supported, etc. The first part of the book was by far the more interesting part. The author's epilogue sums up this remarkable woman nicely. I'm left with a good impression of someone who did a good job of representing the monarchy in a style that no longer exists, a time before the endless media pursuit and a time when the royal family was perhaps more respected. My amateur observation is that her daughter, the current Queen, has followed in her mother's footsteps, which I would think would be good for England. ( )
  hobbitprincess | Nov 28, 2010 |
950 pages of text! You might ask yourself, is such length really necessary for a person who, however charming, was not really "a world historical figure"? 400 pages - maybe. 600 pages for an exceptionally full account that includes "longeuers". But 950 pages? You have to be a masochistic royalty-watcher (like me) to survive the complete book.

Alas, this book is well-padded with endless passages about royal tours - eleven to Canada alone. If I had to read about one more wreath-laying in Toronto I think I was going to scream!

A good test for any modern "royalty" book for me is whether or not it mentions the rumors surrounding George, the Duke of Kent (1900-1942). Of all the sons of King George V, he was Queen Mary's favorite, as well as the most intelligent, artistic, and "fun". He also made the most glamorous marriage - to the beautiful Princess Marina of Greece. He was the Duchess of York's brother-in-law, and apparently they were very close in 1920s. There are numerous rumors that the Duke of Kent was addicted to cocaine - and that he engaged in homosexual affairs - including a possible love affair with Noel Coward. What did the sweet Duchess of York make of all this? You won't find out in this book. Shawcross doesn't mention the rumors at all.

(The treatment of Prince Charles' long relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles is exactly the same. He doesn't mention it AT ALL. He even manages to make it seem as if the Princess of Wales was herself entirely to blame for the breakdown of her marriage. Again, it is well-known that the Queen Mother was particularly close to both the Prince and Princess - Charles doted on his grandmother, and Diana was the granddaughter of one of the Queen Mother's favorite ladies-in-waiting. So it is appropriate to wonder how she felt about her dear grandson's long-term adultery - especially in light of her earlier condemnation of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.)

Maybe this wouldn't have seemed quite so tedious if there had been more gossip, more scandal, or at least more slightly embarrassing stories about the British royals. But NO! Shawcross is discreet to a fault, and comes across as fawning as the most devoted courtier. This is hagiography, not biography; and though it was certainly official - written with the assistance of Bucky Palace - it is by no means definitive.

Oddly enough, Shawcross is perhaps best known for his hard-hitting journalistic exposes of American foreign policy in the Vietnam era, and for his path-breaking work on the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s. But here he writes as if he works for "Hello!". I really wish Alan Bennett had written this book instead! Actually, I think I would have enjoyed the Queen Mother's company. I certainly would have enjoyed her hospitality, and her conviviality! I just think that it's a pity that although this book is almost the size of "War and Peace," it really doesn't convey much of the Queen Mother's spiky personality.

I did give this book two and a half stars - "I liked it" - barely enough, because I liked the subject matter, the Queen Mother herself. Occasionally you do get a glimmer of the sense of this woman - who was born in 1900, who nursed soldiers coming back from the trenches of World War I, and who was very much a product of the gaily despairing 1920s. She believed in living life fully, in experiencing as much of the joy of the earth as possible, fulfilling duty but also preserving your own individual sense of pleasure in the good things of life. Here is a quote to that effect from the tenth decade of her life - sometime in the 1990s.

"Wouldn't it be terrible if you'd spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't eat things, took lots of exercise, all the things you didn't want to do, and suddenly one day you were run over by a big red bus, and as the wheels were crunching into you you'd say, 'Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night!' That's the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you'll be run over by a big red bus." ( )
1 vote yooperprof | Jul 12, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
“The Queen Mother” is more a document replete with data than a book designed to entertain. It’s like one of those official portraits by court-appointed painters: literal but artless. For the most part, Shawcross stays in the background, lurking behind the arras, dropping the pretense of objectivity only when anyone on the left clamors for attention.
The QM was a remarkable woman, but what is most remarkable about this official biography is that the QM had invited author William Shawcross to make her private material public.
In the end, [Shawcross] evokes his royal subject so effectively that to pry further would seem almost improper. The book’s other flaws -- its unwieldy length, a determination to chronicle even the most banal public engagements -- are equally of a piece with her ethos.
This seems far more the stuff of a quick 200-page book than the 1000-page behemoth Shawcross has produced. It can be wondered if the Queen Mother herself might have balked at the length... Make no mistake: this is a splendid, unexpectedly readable book, one of the most engaging official royal lives ever commissioned, and it owes these qualities in equal parts to is author, whose prose style is sharply and aptly magisterial, and its subject, who never fails to come off as fundamentally good company .
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The official and definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: consort of King George VI, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of Prince Charles, and the most beloved British monarch of the twentieth century. A revelatory royal biography that is, as well, a singular history of Britain in the twentieth century.… (more)

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