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The Queen Mother [Hardcover]

The Queen Mother: The Official Biography Edition: First
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)

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Deckle edge paper
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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st Ed. (U.S.) edition (2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400043042
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400043040
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 16.4 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,542,841 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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
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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18 of 23 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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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Missed opportunity 12 Jan 2010
William Shawcross has written a biography in two halves - almost as though he lost interest in his subject half way through the book. The Queen Mother's early years are written about with real insight, and trace her development with sensitivity and clarity. Similarly, the war years are covered with equal care, and provide an excellent view of a very difficult time. The problems arise with her roles as, first of all mother, and then as Queen Dowager, when Shawcross skirts over the upbringing of the two Princesses, and then limits some chapters to being little more than lists of the Queen Mother's patronages or of her foreign tours. Hagiography takes the place of analysis, and one suspects he has been unwilling to risk offending the Royal Family. Access to the Royal records obviously brings responsibility, but an author of Shawcross' class must not be afraid to pull punches, and should use his unique opportunity to throw a comprehensive light on the character and actions of his subject.
The book is an easy read, despite its size, but ultimately a disappointment.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 23 days 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 1 month ago by mendelsco
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Informative and readable
Published 1 month ago by N. Connaughton
5.0 out of 5 stars Gone but not Forgotten
Fitting Tribute to a wonderful Lady
Published 1 month 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 8 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 8 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 17 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 17 months ago by Diane Burke
5.0 out of 5 stars Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Have only read first three chapters but it has me hooked. I love this book and would recommend it. I bought Counting one's Blessings first. This book adds a lot of background.
Published 18 months ago by George's Mum
4.0 out of 5 stars Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
I enjoyed this book very much. She was such a lovely lady and was a wonderful wife for King George VI.
Published 18 months ago by Rosemary Bolton. My bedspread
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