Andrew Marr was born in Glasgow in 1959. He studied English at the University of Cambridge and has since enjoyed a long career in political journalism, working for the Scotsman, the Independent, the Daily Express and the Observer. From 2000 to 2005 he was the BBC's Political Editor. He has written and presented TV documentaries on history, science and politics, and presents the weekly Andrew Marr Show on Sunday mornings on BBC1 and Start the Week on Radio 4. Andrew lives in London with his family.
The Real Elizabeth A surprising and very personal biography of a woman who may be the world's last great queen, published to coincide with the 60th anniversary of her reign--Elizabeth II, one of England's longest-reigning monarchs. Full description
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Marr is no sycophant and writes an absorbing biog of the Queen set within the context of the changing social, political and economic landscape of Britain. Something new to me on practically every page and in sum it only underlines a sense of the importance of our magnificent monarch.
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This was the book that I wanted for my ex pat friend who has lived the the USA for many years. However, the edition that was sent to me was, in fact, an American edition and she could have bought it herself in Barnes & Noble!
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`The Real Elizabeth' is a comprehensive and interesting book. However, if you are a compulsive reader of books on Queen Elizabeth and her family; there really is not much new here or even the very personal statements that the Queen has made to those surrounding her. What is in this book is a compilation of information from many sources that describe in detail her official life and duties with inclusions of the family dramas that have occurred.
The main subject focus is the monarchy that Elizabeth has been the head of for so long. A good history of that monarchy is included; in fact Elizabeth does not appear in the book until page 62. There are excellent explanations of what the ramifications of an Edward VIII's reign would have been. There are outstanding sections on the coronation, Charles and Diana's wedding and her funeral and the effect on the population. The change of lifestyle in the 60's and 70's is also explained and how it influenced the behavior of the Windsors.
This is a look at the history and the times that the Queen and her family have lived in. We really do not get past the public façade very often. This is an excellent introduction to the present day monarchy of England. It does give a reader a glimpse into the personal side. On the other hand, the recently published `Elizabeth the Queen' goes into the more private life and mindset of the Queen with many more personal quotes from those who surround Her Majesty.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Surprised that I couldn't put it down!28 Dec. 2011
I'll just be completely honest here, I rarely read biographies and non-fiction. But this book did interest me slightly with it's claims to be an "Intimate Portrait" of the ever so fascinating Queen Elizabeth II. I opened this book with some uncertainty as to whether or not I'd finish it, yet now I'm pleased to tell you that by the end of the prologue I decided this book was a page-turner for me. I sincerely had trouble putting it down!
Andrew Marr proves his writing skills early on, his style is direct and easily absorbed while at the same time intelligent and thoughtful. Early on in this book he takes us back a few generations, explaining the brief history of Elizabeth's family and what made them who they were. A good look at how the Queen has managed to stay on the throne even until today. I do enjoy history but I'll admit it really takes some serious meat to get me chowing down on it. This book provided that experience. Marr does an excellent job of making his point without drawling on. He captures the irony and fascination of the Queen's existence perfectly, and even though I started out reading this book already thinking she was an interesting character, I ended up much more fascinated than before.
Marr also provides a brief but complete explanation of the Queen's "job", everything she oversees and is responsible for. As an American who is thankful that we do not have a monarchy but also intrigued by the close country that does, it was very eye-opening to read about this aspect of the Queen's life. I believe most Americans are probably unsure of how Elizabeth fits into British society and what she really does with her life apart from making public appearances and looking pretty at weddings. Marr's book explains all that and then some. He even goes into her relationship with the Obamas, as well as how she has managed the majority of the time to remain passive and diplomatic among political characters despite having a very strong personality hidden inside her.
The book not only describes how the Queen behaves and endures all of her political obligations, but it also delves into her personal relationships with her husband, Prince Phillip, and her children (and then some). We are offered a good long look at the relationships that have been displayed as formally as possible for the public eye, for once offering us a side of the very human Elizabeth, albeit from Marr's eyes and voice. I found these sections of the book to be the most engaging. I was especially fascinated by the chapters that discussed Elizabeth's relationship with the prime minister Margaret Thatcher and also her relationship with the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
The chapter that covered her relationship with Diana was the most captivating of the entire book, in fact. Americans have always been presented with a vision of the "Saint Diana". Diana who was pure and humble and could do no wrong, who was abused and jerked around by the royal family. While I'm still not sure which side to believe, it was completely interesting to me when Marr provided a very different portrait of Diana than the saint we all think of her as. The author is completely loyal and praising of the Queen, though he does admit she is human and makes mistakes like the rest of us, of course. When it comes to Diana, Marr does not beat around the bush with his opinions (and evidence) that she was manipulative and deceitful. Whether true or not, it certainly provides the reader with a very fresh and unprecedented look at a possible alternate side of the late Princess of Wales. To be honest, I'm still working over these new prespectives in my mind, unsure of what to make of them...
So this was definitely a thought-provoking and informative biography that Andrew Marr has constructed. I wasn't expecting such a page-turner in this book, but once I got started I found that I was captive to Marr's words and the "Intimate Portrait" he painted of Queen Elizabeth II. He does prove his point, to be sure, that Elizabeth is a fascinating personality for our times--if not THE most fascinating personality there is. While I have always known she has reigned for many generations, Marr really drove home the fact that she has seen SO much go down during her time on the throne. I now look at the Queen in a decidedly different way. While I'm not sure if I like her, still, I am increasingly impressed by her.
I would absolutely recommend this book to those who have any interest in history and the British empire. I even think those who are mildly interested in the royal family, such as myself, will be greatly entertained by this read. While I knew a decent amount about the royal family (for an American) prior to reading this book, really I have been mostly interested in the dashing Prince William and his new wife, Catherine--much like the rest of America. I think those who enjoy biographies and history will be pleased with Marr's book, but even those who would not normally pick up a biography but have mild interest in the British royal family will also find great entertainment with this book. As I said, I was pleasantly pleased to find myself unable to put it down.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II3 Jan. 2012
The subtitle of this book is somewhat misleading, as I didn't find very many intimate revelations about Queen Elizabeth. Instead, "The Real Elizabeth" is more a biography of the House of Windsor, which was created in 1917 by Elizabeth's grandfather, King George V, and a quick overview of Elizabeth's reign.
That said, I did enjoy this book, and think it would be a good introduction to British history for those who are new to the subject. For those that have more than a passing knowledge, I'm not sure how interesting it would be, as the length of the book (~360 pages) and the length of the subject's reign (60 years) doesn't allow for a lot of detail. Depending on your interest, and what you are looking for, I would recommend "The Real Elizabeth" if you are new to the Royal Family. But if you're looking for something in-depth and historical, I would wait. As 2012 is the year of her Diamond Jubilee, there will probably be a lot of new books published about her.
I didn't put the book down much after starting, and finished in about two days. Marr writes in a very readable style, more like fiction than a dry history book. The explanation of how and why the House of Windsor was created (something I didn't know, but now am quite interested in) is a good way to kick off the book, as it helps to explain how and why Elizabeth is who she is.
However, I did have a few complaints. Marr is careful with his word choices and tone when he writes about Elizabeth, verging almost on worshipful. When someone like Diana is mentioned, she comes across as a villain who was incapable of understanding Elizabeth.
Also, I wanted to read more about Elizabeth herself. That was my big disappointment with this book. For something that claims to be an "Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II," there simply wasn't enough of her in it. Marr attempts to show her personal side, by talking about her smile, and her role as a wife and mother, but there wasn't a lot that was personal. I didn't read this book with the intent of getting juicy gossip on the Royal Family, but I would have liked more about Elizabeth.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the Amazon Vine program.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A "popular" history of Queen Elizabeth and the British monarchy29 Dec. 2011
Queen Elizabeth will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee - 60 years - as queen of England in 2012. A lot of books and television programs will mark the occasion and most, if not all, will be marketed as "intimate". Andrew Marr is a journalist who also hosts a show on the BBC. His book, "The Real Elizabeth", is more a popular than scholarly look at the Queen and her role. I think Sally Bedell Smith's up-coming biography might be a touch more scholarly in its approach to her subject.
There's nothing wrong with "popular" history books. And Andrew Marr's book is a prime example of an interesting, easy-to-read book without a lot of depth, but with a good grasp of the subject. He begins by reviewing the House of Windsor, from its beginning with King George V - son of Edward VII - through the reigns of George, his son Edward VIII, and finally, his other son, George VI, who took over the throne after Edward's abdication in 1936. George VI was, of course, Elizabeth's father, and when he died in 1952, she became queen at the age of 25. Marr then continues with her reign, highlighting her family, her relations with her people, and with the various prime ministers she's worked with. He also writes about Diana's influence on the royal family.
I've read many books on British Royalty. Most are more scholarly than Marr's. For a Royal-groupie who already knows a lot about the Royal family, I wouldn't advise wasting your time on Marr's book. However, for the casual reader it is a good choice to start with during this long Jubilee year.
This book is a real attention getter. I happened to have it with me when I went with a friend to a crowded fish restaurant, and we had to wait at the bar for a table. During the course of a half-hour, three people--two men (one of them British) and a woman--wanted to know about it, and we all got into great discussions about Britain and the monarchy today. My friend instantly wanted to borrow the book, and, I suspect, take it with her to a restaurant the next evening.
Much of the interest about this book arises from Her Majesty Herself, a remarkable woman, who, as a child, inspired us with the courage to get on with it; who, as a young queen served as a paragon of both radiant beauty and propriety; who, as she grew more lovely with age, weathered the scandals of her progeny with dignity; and who, after the death of Princess Diana, actually listened to the concerns of her people and adapted, breaking with the cobwebbed customs of royal decorum. Particularly interesting is Mr Marr's chapter, "Into the Maelstrom" in which he describes her relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times attempted to portray as more 'turbulent' than it actually may have been.
Those who think that the subtitle 'An Intimate Portrait' signals a festival of gossipy tittle-tattle will be disappointed, as they should be. Actually, Andrew Marr's journalistic account of the Queen's life, both past, and present, is a good read, especially for younger readers, who have not been following her doings since she was Princess Lilibet (with her little sister Margaret Rose), before World War II. To those growing up in the last several decades, Marr's account will be new material. Even though much of what he writes is familiar to those of more mature years, his portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, as constitutional head of state, as wife, as mother, is a fascinating account, which will keep you reading until the end.