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4.3 out of 5 stars75
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 2 November 2011
I'm not often compelled to review, but this book deserves high praise. At first I wasn't sure about Marr straying into royal territory - I've always enjoyed his previous books about the history of Britain, but thought a book about the Queen and the monarchy might not be up my street, or his! Quite the opposite in fact - Marr lends his characteristic lightness of touch and pithy turn of phrase to the queen's sixty-year reign, revealing a fascinating portrait of the monarchy, but also of the nation. More than anything you come away with a wonderful sense of the Queen herself; the incredible itinerary she keeps up is much talked about, but Marr makes you realise quite how much she has contributed to the nation during her reign. It's a balanced account, full of insights and food for thought and you don't have to be a royalist to enjoy it.
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on 26 November 2011
Andrew Marr gives a very clear and interesting account of the Queen's life and reign, with particular emphasis on the immense amount of work she does. it is an excellent book to recommend as reading to any of those tiresome people who say 'the Queen doesn't do anything' or 'what use is the Queen?'. Actually, she is a lot of use, as this book clearly shows. Read this and decide if you could keep up with her for even a day, let alone for 60 years.
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I thoroughly enjoyed Andrew Marr's book, written as the Queen marks the 60 anniversary of her accession to the throne. It is not a straight-forward biography. Indeed to write such a book would be difficult on one level because most of the time, we can only guess what its subject thinks or feels about particular issues. We can only guess for instance, how the queen felt about the behaviour of her government during the Suez crisis. Marr gathers the evidence to help us to make up our minds, but we can't know for sure. What this book does is to put the Queen's life against the backdrop of the social and political changes she has seen during her lifetime, not just within the United Kingdom but across the Commonwealth. In doing so Andrew Marr shows how the monarchy has subtly changed and adapted, since the reinvention of the modern monarchy as a "model family" under the Queen's grandfather George V, and also gives his view about why the British monarchy has survived and what it's purpose is, in a modern, multi-cultural and democratic society.
It's a fascinating read about an extraordinary life but it's also the story of how Britain has evolved as a constitutional democracy since the mid-20th century.
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on 28 June 2012
Although the facts recounted in this book are pretty much common knowledge, the author uses them interestingly to reflect on the developing nature of monarchy through the Queen's reign, exploring her complex relationships with her government and particular politicians, the news media and the people she reigns over in this country and the Commonwealth. Any attempt to understand the Queen's character and philosophy inevitably looks at her family too and the author tries to assess how they will carry on her heritage into the future. It rambled a bit towards the end, I felt, but was still an engaging read.
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on 25 March 2012
The Diamond Jubilee (60 year anniversary) of Elizabeth II this year seemed an appropriate time to read a biography and as there are hundreds to choose from I chose Andrew Marr's (which was written especially for the occasion) as I've wanted to read his A History of Modern Britain for quite a while now.

This is not a gossipy biography of the Queen, as Marr makes clear in the preface. Rather, it's an explanation of what monarchy means, how the British constitutional monarchy works and operates, the way the Windsor dynasty changed during the 20th century and what exactly the Queen does and how it's all paid for. There's also quite a bit of history and politics thrown in as it would be impossible to talk about the Queen's role throughout her reign without mentioning the various governments and ministers who have been in power.

As you might expect, this is a pro-monarchy biography rather than a republican one. It's unlikely to convince any republicans to change their minds but as someone who's always been a bit of a fan of our current Queen it made me admire her more for what she does on a day to day basis (and bear in mind that most people her age would have retired and been enjoying Saga holidays for the last twenty years). Marr is a very smooth writer and I found this to be a very engaging read and a good introduction to the British monarchy of the 20th century.
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on 18 December 2011
This is not a comprehensive biography, instead Marr cleverly interweaves elements of the Queen's personal life alongside the workings of the monarchy to show how they both shape each other and consolodate the position of the monarchy. This is a truly fitting analysis and tribute of a dutiful woman.
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on 17 July 2013
Andrew Marr, The Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and Her People

Andrew Marr, a lapsed republican, gives a very respectful, not to say hagiographic account of the life and work of the Queen. As the title indicates the book is a celebration of fifty years in her reign, from her birth by Caesarian section on April 26, 1926, to her accession to the throne in 1952 and her continued occupancy of the royal seat through many changes of government until the present. The work penetrates deeply into both domestic discord and Britain's changing place in the world, the Queen's relation with her court, parliament and her encounters with a host of international heads of state. We pass through the war years, austerity, the lively Sixties and the present period of economic downturn, the wise queen adapting with equanimity to every crisis. In a first chapter outlining `What the Queen Does,' Marr concludes with the resounding cliché that after her death `there will be a gaping, Queen-sized hole in the middle of British life.'

If ever there was a book capable of shoring up the dying institution of monarchy this is the book. Marr the fair-minded liberal leans over backwards to support the heroic little woman whose devotion to `family values' has persisted through the ages. Thus he quotes her message to the Mothers Union rally in 1949: `We can have no doubt that divorce and separation are responsible for some of the darkest evils in our society today.' Thus speaks the royal `we' who goes on to attack a materialism and selfishness later to be epitomised in the wild capers of her younger sister. But the spectre of divorce was to haunt the royals in the coming decades, when the queen was obliged, publically at least, to hold her tongue. But the waving and the smiles returned with the new generation; the public forgave and forgot. The gush of sentimentality over royal romances and royal babies it seemed would never die. Once the monarchy began paying taxes the royal image was revamped. The heroic ages of Victoria and Elizabeth I were invoked, for Murdoch knew what the public wanted was a mixture of scandal, sentiment and ceremonial.

The Diamond Queen is an absorbing troll through the archives, throwing up many fascinating royal encounters that show the queen as a tough-minded but discreet antagonist. Her meetings with Tony Benn are especially revealing. The vexed questions of the House of Lords and birthday honours lists lie behind the duel over the queen's head appearing on postage stamps. The chapter entitled `Off with her Head' amusingly records the seemingly polite but bitter struggle between republicanism and monarchy. Marr, as ever, is fully supportive of the Queen, who is such an obvious target for levellers such as Benn, who after taking the oath of loyalty to be admitted to the Privy Council `left the Palace boiling with indignation and feeling that this was an attempt to impose tribal magic and personal loyalty on people whose real duty was only to their electors.' The debate continues. But for how long?
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VINE VOICEon 6 February 2013
Andrew Marr has an excellent written style that gives the impression of someone chatting to you informatively. It is so easy to relax into this book about Elizabeth II and it has plenty of "I didn't know that" moments.

It is not over reverent, but respectful of a hard-working woman who has one of the most difficult jobs in the country. Also it presents a strong impression of her as a person.

There is a neat lead-in via portraits of her grandfather, father and mother and their place in the history of Britain as well as their own social milieu. Alongside comes an understanding of the function of the Court prior to 1952.

From here the book is pretty much a chronological look at the Queen's life and reign with some interesting diversions now and again to stop things getting tedious. Altogether Marr takes a multi-viewpoint approach.

I really enjoyed reading it - the style is relaxed and so was I as I found out and thought about all the interesting stuff about Elizabeth II; even the boring bits weren't.

Certainly I think this should be a set book in Secondary schools - required reading for every child so they can understand what out Monarchy is all about. And I recommend it to anyone else.
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on 19 September 2014
I like Andrew Marr's style of writing. I previously read 'The Making of Modern Britain' and for a person who is interested in history, but who likes it presented in a less than academic form, this was just right. 'The Diamond Queen' follows in like vein and is a pleasant, less than demanding, volume. It is no hagiography - but it is certainly a warm tribute.

Marr is clearly an admirer of the system of monarchy in Britain and of the Queen - and it is unlikely that those who would wish our country to be governed in another way, will like either content or style of this book. Agree with it or not, he makes a strong case for the merits of our own form of monarchical democracy and invites us to consider the alternatives we might have endured, had our own monarchy gone the way of so many others in Europe and beyond.

It is possible that Marr has benefitted from the research of others - indeed, whilst he has interviewed members of the royal family - he claims no royal endorsement for the book, nor did he have privileged access to archives. But for the millions in this country who like our form of government and are personal admirers of the Queen, this book is an excellent read. I am one of them, and I loved it.
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on 11 January 2012
This is an excellent read for anyone who has lived for even a fraction of the Queen's 60 year reign: the presentation of the historical influences shows terrific mastery of detail balanced with the broad sweep of events; the analysis of the work done by the Queen is fascinating, and the author demonstrates clearly the significant influence of the Duke of Edinburgh in the stability of the Royal family. I found this a difficult book to stop reading, and will certainly be re-reading very shortly!!
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