on 17 March 2002
This is an in depth and informative book which at the same time remains very easy to read and enjoyable. It looks at Elizabeth's relationship with her family, husband, children, the Windsors, her advisors and her Prime Ministers and gives you an insight into Elizabeth as an individual. It gives you an indication of what has shaped her, what interests her and helps the reader understand her behaviour during the more difficult periods of her reign. This is about as intimate a biography as can be possible given Elizabeth's status and career and Sarah Bradford does a good job.
on 9 May 2002
Its fluent and personal style makes excellent reading; the historical context is fascinating and personal issues are treated discreetly but openly. A must for everyone interested in Her Majesty, her life, her job, her background and british history.
It must always difficult to write a biography of an individual yet living - after all, what is a biography but the story of a life, and surely one can only get the necessary perspective when one can see the entire picture. How much more difficult it must be when that yet-living-individual is the Queen, and as a result so many aspects of her life, the most personal and therefore most interesting from a biographical point of view, are shrouded in mystery and protocol and etiquette. Not to mention the lack of access to relevant documentation which is no doubt hidden away in royal archives for an unknown period of time.
That said, this is a brave effort from Sarah Bradford, an sympathetic yet not hagiographic portrait of a woman who has left her mark on everyone's lives, aware of it or not. It is hard to understate the impact and importance of the Queen - she has served as a pillar of stability for the nation through thick and thin, a unifying figure above party, politics, creed or code. The one theme which emerges from this book, and one assumes the central theme of the Queen's life, is her dedication to duty, her awareness of the responsibilities of her position, the price royalty must pay for the privilege they enjoy. Elizabeth II is very much like her father in that, something I noticed all the more having read Bradford's biography of George VI immediately beforehand.
Which brings me to my one criticism of this book - almost the entire first quarter, effectively the entire period of Elizabeth's life up to her father's death, is almost identical to passages from Bradford's George VI. It doesn't detract from either book separately, and admittedly it must be difficult to revisit identical group in a new way, but I was having distinct sensations of deja vu reading the two in this order.
Elizabeth emerges from this pages with great credit, and even in those areas where she has been held to the greatest criticism, namely her lack of the maternal instinct and prioritising of her role as Queen over that of mother one finds it hard to hold it against her. She has been Queen through perhaps the most tumultuous and testing period in the monarchy's history, when the very institution itself has been held up to the greatest scrutiny in the glaring light of modern media - and yet the recent events of her Golden Jubilee demonstrate just how much affection she inspires in the British public, and much of that is down to her as an individual.