Drawing on her private correspondence and other unpublished material from the Royal Archives, William Shawcross vividly reveals the witty girl who endeared herself to soldiers convalescing at Glamis in the First World War; the assured young Duchess of York; the Queen, at last feeling able to look the East End in the face at the height of the Blitz; the Queen Mother, representing the nation at home and abroad throughout her widowhood. It is the definitive portrait of a remarkable woman.
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By Kl Love on 13-04-13
A charming period piece
This is a pleasant book that is easy to listen to. William Shawcross both writes and reads well, and obviously holds his subject in high regard. It tells the story of Queen Elizabeth's life from her Scottish childhood, through the abdication crisis, the war, and her widowhood, using letters, anecdotes and personal memories to enliven the narrative. Much of the material is known, of course, but some (like the closeness between Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary which emerges clearly from their letters) surprised me.
This book is itself as much a reflection of a vanished age as was the Queen Mother herself: Shawcross writes from the vantage point of a devoted courtier in an age when royalty was always treated with deference and allowed to keep its distance; so the Queen Mum is always 'sparkling', 'gracious', 'serene' or 'charming', and any thoughts or emotions she might have are always moderate and appropriate. No unflattering episodes are included, no awkward questions asked, and no attempt is made to explore her personal role in or reaction to events such as the abdication crisis or the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales; so although the beautiful and gracious icon is preserved throughout, the book gives one little sense of what sort of person she really was apart from her public persona.
Nonetheless this is a very enjoyable survey of the life of an extraordinary woman who was greatly loved and whose quiet influence permeated public life in Britain for a century.
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