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Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography Hardcover – Unabridged, 18 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1120 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1st Edition edition (18 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140504859X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405048590
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 6.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,967 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


'It is certain to be one of the publishing events of the year.' -- Daily Telegraph

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

'One of the most enticing books to be published in 2009... Good books, we hope, come to those who wait.' -- The Sunday Telegraph

'The publicity drums are now beating for Old Etonian Shawcross's official life of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.' -- Daily Mail


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

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Amelrode VINE VOICE on 23 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
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 By R. Davies on 5 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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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 By N. Black on 28 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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