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Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography [Kindle Edition]

William Shawcross
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Written with complete access to the Queen Mother’s personal letters and diaries, William Shawcross's riveting biography is the truly definitive account of this remarkable woman, whose life spanned the twentieth century. Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes Lyon,the youngest daughter of the Earl of Strathmore, was born on 4 August 1900. Drawing on her private correspondence and other unpublished material from the Royal Archives, William Shawcross vividly reveals the witty girl who endeared herself to soldiers convalescing at Glamis in the First World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 long widowhood.

'This splendid biograpy captures something of the warm glow that she brought to every event and encounter. It also reveals a deeper and more interesting character, forged by good sense, love of country, duty, humour and an instinct for what is right. This is a wonderful book, authoritative, frank and entertaining' Daily Telegraph

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'This official biography shows why she was so well loved . . . this book is a fitting tribute.' --Sarah Bradford, Daily Telegraph

`Exclusive access to the royal archives reveals the woman behind the pearls' --Times

'This is a magisterial work ... the constitutional and emotional tension which surrounded those days is well and compellingly crafted.' --Press & Journal (Highlands & Islands and Aberdeen)


'Long-awaited...the book will be the most comprehensive account of her life.'

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More About the Author

William Shawcross became a writer after leaving University College, Oxford in 1968. He was in Czechoslovakia during the Soviet occupation; this inspired his first book, a biography of Alexander Dubček, the Czechoslovak leader, which was published in 1970. Since then he has written and travelled widely. In 1995 he wrote the BBC Television series Monarchy. In 2002 his BBC Television series and book, Queen and Country celebrated the Queen's Golden Jubilee and examined the changing face of Britain during her reign. Seven years in the writing, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: the Official Biography was published in 2009. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars valueless 10 Dec. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in how many regiments Queen Elizabeth inspected, snippets from letters to her (own) family, rather creepy correspondence between her and her mother in law, Queen Mary and other such trivia, then this book is for you.

However, if you want to know what motivated Queen Elizabeth in an extraordinary period of the British Royal Family, forget it. We learn nothing of her relations with her royal contemporaries; nothing of the family's views, actions or attitudes to their European cousins as their world closed; nothing not already known about the family's reaction as their world imploded with the abdication of Edward Vlll (and what we do get is sketchy in the exteme). We get a detailed account of the self indulgent and selfish life of the widowed Queen, but nothing of the period when she and the Royal Family were at the centre of a monumental gathering, and happening storm.

The book is far too long.

Don't bother : bad history; bad book.
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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
By Amelrode VINE VOICE
Queen Elisabeth, The Queen Mother or just Queen Mum was a household name all over the world. I suppose all of us who read this official biography have followed her life and have personal recollections of her. She war a fixture of royal life and events in her trademark clothes and pearls, always gracious and smiling, a real character and a real lady. Most of us will have formed an opinion about her.

Writing a biography on such a personality is not an easy task. Her first biographer Hugo Vickers had spent too much energy and pages on the Queen Mother's outfits and colour schemes of her dresses. He was all a bit to "loyal" and keeping with the myth, a bit to close to her and bit too admiring. Does William Shawcross fare better?

In my view yes indeed he does, very much so. He managed to get to the bottom of her personality, her basic functioning, and her basic personality: her great zest for life, her liking of people, her sense of duty and great loyalty and her positive approach to life in general, and her great sense of humour. But he is blind to her faults. There is a balance of this book - unless the official biography on Queen Mary he does not focus at length on her childhood and rushes through the "Queen Years". Of course, this is not my first biography of the Queen Mother and therefore not much came as a surprise to me, but there are new elements to discover. First, this is the first biography were one learns about the events and her views through herself - by her fantastic letters. Oh gosh how will future biographies been written? Based on text messages and emails...?? Secondly, the relationship with The King becomes clearer and more balanced. Popular view has it that she was the strong one and that he relied on her. Yes, that is true, but she relied very much on him too.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 5 Jun. 2010
This was very well-written, but offered no original insight into its subject. The author is clearly an Establishment figure (I laughed aloud at his sniffy, purse-lipped description of the new millennium party at the Millennium Dome) who had no desire to discuss the Queen Mother in any depth for fear of upsetting her relatives, who had cooperated with him in the writing of this hagiography.

For example, we learn that she took many months to consider Bertie's proposal, but there was no mention of the common belief that, encouraged by her social-climber of a mother, she was actually holding out for the bigger and more handsome prize; his older brother, the Prince of Wales. This was certainly Wallis Simpson's opinion, and it was shared by several 1920s/1930s Society figures - why was it not explored?

The deaths of Princesses Margaret and Diana merit a page or two apiece, yet the QM's safari, and her trip to Canada, are dealt with in excrutiating detail. I skim-read several sections of this book.

In short, if you want to know exactly what the QM was up to on 1st June 1936 (or any other date), this is the book for you. If you want an analysis of her motivations, character and beliefs, then look elsewhere.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stifling hagiography 28 Dec. 2011
This reeks of that wierd sycophantic atmosphere that surround those biographers lucky enough to be granted official access to the papers of the rich and famous. And somehow in all the very uneven meticulous detail the author fails to find the spark that makes this woman's life likeable. Instead she comes across as spoilt, sheltered and very much of her era, but with a grain of common sense that stood her in good stead.

Particularly pointless are the lengthy chunks devoted to her first foreign tours, including the genial slaughter of various animals as she levelled her Purdey guns at one and all. We get a hint of a Duchess who seemed to be universally popular before she became Queen, and she certainly had an idyllic childhood. But can we trust this image? Any hint of melancholy undercurrents are firmly hustled out of sight. About the one fact that did surprise me was that the young princess Elizabeth was left at home at a very early age while her mum and husband toured Australia for 7 months. Think that one through...
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dry and unappetising 31 Oct. 2010
This is a dry and unappetising account of a 100 years in the life of a woman whose life surely must have amounted to much more than these boring lists of what clothes she wore, which toff nonentities were present at which uneventful house party, how every monotonous hour was spent on a tour of Canada.

Anyone with access to the Royal Archives could have come up with the same humdrum catalogue. The book feels less like biography and more like copying out passages from sources.

I am still waiting for a BIOGRAPHY of the late Queen Mother.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very Good
Published 14 days ago by p j northen
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book if interested in subject
Bought as a gift, recipient said a very good book and recommended if interested in the Queen Mother
Published 3 months ago by MR MJ GRAVES
I was thrilled when I received my copy of The Queen Mother through the post a few weeks ago. It is a beautifully laid out book with pictures I hadn't seen before (one of the three... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Lou
2.0 out of 5 stars Too long with no depth.
William Shawcross's biography tells us everything and nothing. Why did Elizabeth Lyon take to her bed so often? Read more
Published 9 months ago by Historian
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
Heavy postage
Published 10 months ago by mr p j rees
3.0 out of 5 stars The Queen Mum through rose tinted glasses.
I did enjoy this book although having read other biographies of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother this gave quite a one sided impression of her. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mrs. Jane Helden
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful. Thanks Amazon for giving me the opportunity to ...
Wonderful. Thanks Amazon for giving me the opportunity to shop around for the best price.
Published 12 months ago by anne walding
5.0 out of 5 stars Character Will Always Out
It is a long book (over 1000 pages) so I have not read it all yet but it is a fascinating account of how life changed from the 1900s to 2001. Read more
Published 12 months ago by mendelsco
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Informative and readable
Published 12 months ago by N. Connaughton
5.0 out of 5 stars Gone but not Forgotten
Fitting Tribute to a wonderful Lady
Published 12 months ago by Daniel Rampton
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