Most helpful positive review
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Wonderful Biography
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.