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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2001
I am so glad to see James Pope-Hennessy's Queen Mary in print again after so many years. This is the official biography of the present Queen's grandmother, originally published in 1959 or 1960. Most official biographies are dull. Queen Mary is not. It accomplishes that which all biographies should desire: not just a bare record of the subject's life, but an evocation of the subject's world. Every home of Queen Mary is elegantly described. Her travels in Italy and elsewhere and her visits to the homes of relations in England and in Germany are exhaustively but not boringly documented. Pope-Hennessy's prose is stately, almost eighteenth century, but always lucid and often witty. My favorite sections of the book are those dealing with Queen Mary's life before her marriage, when she was a morganatic princess with few prospects. Her often difficult and embarrassing early life made her a suitable prospect for a bride for the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, second in line to the British throne. The Duke, or Eddy as he was known in the family, was a difficult young man with embarrassing habits (since this is an official biography written under the auspices of Buckingham Palace, Pope-Hennessy was necessarily circumspect about these habits. You will not find a discussion of the Cleveland Street scandal here, for instance). When Eddy died a few weeks after his engagement was announced, his fiancee (and the British Empire) was transferred to his more suitable younger brother George, Duke of York. Although the circumstances of her marriage and ascent into the highest levels of British royalty were a little unusual, Queen Mary was the epitome of royal dignity for the rest of her life as Duchess of York, Princess of Wales, Queen Consort, and finally Queen Dowager. Pope-Hennessy's coverage of the Queen's personal life is a bit limited,once again due to the limits placed on an official historian. Her relationships with her husband and children, especially the Duke of Windsor, are not dealt with in much detail, and her personal peccadillos, such as her penchant for dropping broad hints about presents she would like, are not covered at all. But there are plenty of unofficial sources if you are looking for that sort of thing about Queen Mary and her family. Pope-Hennessy is the best choice for those looking for a beautifully written description of life in a vanished world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a fascinating book, in effect both an inside history of the first half of the 20th century (Edwardian era, Great War, Abdication, 2nd World War) and a terrific debunking of the long-perceived image of Queen Mary as a stiff-necked kleptomaniac, revealing instead a wonderfully focused and fun-loving devotee of the British crown, while incidentally performing the same rehabilitation for another victim of misplaced perception, Queen Victoria. (In parenthesis, one might add that this public tendency to mistaken characterisation is perhaps a Royal syndrome, in that the three most adulated members of recent Royalty have all been subsequently revealed as monsters of humourless self-importance!)
Not a page too long. Buy a copy where you can.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2004
Princess May of Teck engaged to the Duke of Clarence and Avondale, second in line to the British throne, and after his death engaged and married to his younger brother George; Princess, Queen Consort to George V, Queen Dowager during George VI and Elizabeth II. John Pope-Hennessy back in 1956-59 wrote a lovely book on Princess May. This being an official biography, he had full access to the royal archives and it shows. The account of Princess May's early life is well documented and explained in great detail. So is her later life as Princess and Queen Consort. The engagement to the Duke of Clarence and Avondale is dealt with at some length, but the details on the Duke itself are more official than detailed. Then again, this is to be expected in an official biography.
Generally, I love the story as it is told by John Pope-Hennessy right up to the death of George V. The only complaint I would have is that her life as Queen Dowager is dealt with very briefly. Just 40 pages to cover the final 17 years of her life appears to me hardly enough to cover the subject properly. But apart from that, it is a captivating tale.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2000
The best part of this book is its insight into Queen Mary's early life. Her mother was perhaps one of the most colorful people in royal history, and this book does a wonderful job of researching Queen Mary's parents. Thankfully the author doesn't waste much time re-hashing the events of 1936, but he does detail the success and tragedy in Mary's life that strengthened and shaped her. Queen Mary's mother and brother Frank apparently were riddled with bad habits, but they comes across in this book as nothing less than charming and endearing. If you don't know much about this remarkable woman "Queen Mary" could make you an instant fan.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2002
This is a quintessential source for the activities of European and English royalty from Victoria to the accession of Elizabeth II. Colorful portraits of lesser known royal and "semi-royal" families and individuals emerge as well as of more prominent figures--this is one of the joys of this book--especially the larger-than-life figure of Queen Mary's mother, Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck--who never forgot she was a granddaughter of George III. And, of course, Queen Mary herself, whose devotion to the monarchy was virtually unparalleled, comes across as a real human being--faults, virtues, all clearly explored. Resemblances to her granddaughter Elizabeth II may at times seem uncanny.
A must for any royal collection!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2010
Queen Mary was the stateliest of Consorts, utterly regal, and from whom our current Queen gets many of her mannerisms. This book is well written and gives a loving insight into Queen Mary. One thing the biography lacks though, perhaps because of the time it was written or because Pope- Hennessy didn't want to offend anyone, is humour. In my opinion it's Queen Mary's flaws that make her endearing. Her borderline kleptomania, her tearing down ivy from Badminton, or collecting vast amounts of jewellery are all, if mentioned, humourless. That said it is an interesting book to read for a slightly biased account of her life and does have some of the grandeur required for a fitting biography of a great Queen, but for me it couldn't have five stars since it read slightly more like a long form eulogy than a biography.
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on 25 March 2013
Had only read a condensed version so this gave more information. I agree with a review I saw before purchasing this book that the last part of Queen Mary's life was not dealt with in depth
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2002
An excellent biography, though the author seemed to speed up after WW1 and doesn't give nearly as much detail about the Queen's life from then until her death. In the first three quarters of the book the reader is inundated with minute details about people, places and the like. After that it's a rush to the end. For those of us not fluent in French, it would have been most helpful to have translations at the bottom of the pages. All in all, a fascinating book that moves quickly and holds the reader's attention.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 7 April 2008
James Pope-Hennessy wrote this official biography of Quee Mary, for which he was rewarded by being created a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1960.

Having been written at the end of the 1950thies one has to take this inot account when assessing his work. Royalty is treated still with much respect and the revealing biographies of our times were not written. But still he revealed much about the Queen, especially the scares she got from being teh daughter of a morganatic marriage and having a rather flamboyant mother. Here it is the reason why she was not at all emotional and properly more royal than the royals, why she became the personification of royal dignity. Since then much have come to light with regards to her relationshiop with her husband, her children and the abdication. Yes we do know more than in 1960. So there are indeed gaps in this biography. But all work with regards to this formidable Queen is based on this excellent biography. The writing style has changed as well, but still this is the one biograhpy to read. It is simply the classic on Queen Mary and a must have for every royal library.
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on 11 July 2010
Great book thank you and it came to me in two days !!! I have looked for this book for some time thank you
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