As we all know, Queen Elizabeth II recently celebrated her Platinum Jubilee – an amazing seventy years on the British throne! I am a big fan of the Royal Family and when I heard this book by Andrew Morton was coming out, I knew I’d want to read it. However, Andrew’s book on Princess Diana was seen as rather controversial and I was a bit wary, hoping he wouldn’t find a way to discredit the Royal Family in this biography. The Mirror newspaper had already run an article in May, saying his book included “Seven Bombshells” about the Queen’s relationship with Diana. Luckily, I didn’t find any major issues with it in this respect.
A quick note about the cover – it’s absolutely beautiful! A stunning photo of the Queen surrounded by a kind of lacy pattern with crowns and tiny gold flecks like little jewels. Suitably impressive for a biography of Her Majesty in this special year.
There are also two sections of photographs inside – one section in black and white, one in colour. Again these are lovely, especially the childhood ones. Some from last year are also included, so we see all of the Queen’s decades in photographs.
The book is written chronologically so we start with a bit of family background about her parents, then a chapter on her childhood, one on her experience of World War II, meeting Prince Philip and their enduring relationship. We follow them as they have their children, through changes of Prime Minister and national tragedies like Aberfan. Into the 1980s, we have the Falklands War and two Royal Weddings. In 1992, there is the infamous Annus Horribilis, and we see how Royal marriages break up and the new generation of Royal children grow up, Prince William marrying Catherine in 2011and Prince Harry marrying Meghan in 2018.
Having lived through the last fifty-odd years of the Queen’s reign, I was most interested by the earlier chapters. For example, I didn’t realise Buckingham Palace had been hit by a bomb in World War II or that there were suggestions of sending the Royal Family to Canada to keep them safe, which the King rejected very strongly.
I also found it fascinating to see how the young Princess Elizabeth was brought into public life in preparation for her future role. She attended her father’s coronation in 1937 aged eleven and then in 1940, aged fourteen, she made her first radio broadcast addressing the children of the Commonwealth. I always think it is interesting to watch the young Royals these days, like we saw during the Platinum Jubilee events, as they start to attend more official events as they grow older, especially Prince George, third in line to the throne.
The chapters in The Queen are long (often twenty to thirty pages), but they contain just the right amount of detail. The book is full of information, and I usually only read one chapter at a time, to give me chance to absorb all I had learnt. I found it all fascinating and a really good read. I also felt it was a fair portrayal of events, as far as I could tell and I was reassured to read the long list of references at the back of the book, showing the sources that Andrew Morton has used. It has been well-researched, and I enjoyed the biography very much.
9 out of 10
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