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Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography [Unabridged] [Paperback]

William Shawcross
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
RRP: £20.00
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Book Description

2 July 2010

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 Drawing on her private correspondence and other unpublished material from the Royal Archives, William Shawcross vividly reveals the witty girl who endeared herself to soldiers convalescing at Glamis in the First World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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Frequently Bought Together

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography + Counting One's Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother + The Final Curtsey A Royal Memoir by the Queen's Cousin
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Product details

  • Paperback: 1120 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Unabridged edition (2 July 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0330434306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330434300
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 239,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description


'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.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 64 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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2.0 out of 5 stars Too long with no depth. 7 Oct 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
William Shawcross's biography tells us everything and nothing. Why did Elizabeth Lyon take to her bed so often? As a young woman she retires to bed for days , even weeks on end, was this the secret to her long life ? As Duchess of York the pattern continues, if anything unpleasant happened she retired to bed, even on honeymoon but not for the obvious reason.

This is such a long and detailed biography that I was tempted to give up, but I soldiered on with this long life of little consequence. Self obsessed and thinking everyone thought as highly of her as she herself did, it was a long self indulgent life and having met her socially, I can attest to her needing to be the centre of attention at all times. Desperately sad that she didn't manage to marry the Prince of Wales she led his younger brother on for years before agreeing to his third proposal. The oddest thing is her adoption of his parents the King and Queen as her own referring to them as one would to natural parents. Elizabeth was extremely determined and the choice of her own name for her first daughter almost gives the idea that she would be Queen at any cost and ensure her title of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Her behaviour towards the Prince of Wales on falling in love with Wallis Simpson was again to retire to her bed and complain bitterly about his lack of responsibility. Did she conspire against him during the Abdication crisis, and relish the thought of her husband becoming the King and she ,his Queen. Her behaviour towards the Duke and Duchess of Windsor was cruel and spiteful, I cannot believe that George VI would deny his beloved brother's wife her rightful title of HRH and banish them from his country.
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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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
Heavy book.fast postage
Published 1 month 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 1 month 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 2 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 3 months ago by mendelsco
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Informative and readable
Published 3 months ago by N. Connaughton
5.0 out of 5 stars Gone but not Forgotten
Fitting Tribute to a wonderful Lady
Published 3 months ago by Daniel Rampton
5.0 out of 5 stars book
don't remember ordering this book as I disliked the queen mother intensely. Certainly wouldn't read it wouldn't even give it as a gift
Published 10 months ago by patc
5.0 out of 5 stars Long book for a long life
Most interesting book. Did not think my respect for the Queen Mother could have been increased - but it was.
Published 10 months ago by elizabeth brummell
5.0 out of 5 stars William Shawcross
Had this as a download on the I pad for my wife, fair swap I thought!! Ha Ha, no packaging or postage! Easy life.
Published 19 months ago by K.M.Walate
5.0 out of 5 stars The Queen Mother - what a lady!
I ordered this from Amazon as soon as I could and I wasn't disappointed. 1000 pages but then the Queen Mother died at 101 years of age. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Diane Burke
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