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on 10 December 2014
If you are interested in how many regiments Queen Elizabeth inspected, snippets from letters to her (own) family, rather creepy correspondence between her and her mother in law, Queen Mary and other such trivia, then this book is for you.

However, if you want to know what motivated Queen Elizabeth in an extraordinary period of the British Royal Family, forget it. We learn nothing of her relations with her royal contemporaries; nothing of the family's views, actions or attitudes to their European cousins as their world closed; nothing not already known about the family's reaction as their world imploded with the abdication of Edward Vlll (and what we do get is sketchy in the exteme). We get a detailed account of the self indulgent and selfish life of the widowed Queen, but nothing of the period when she and the Royal Family were at the centre of a monumental gathering, and happening storm.

The book is far too long.

Don't bother : bad history; bad book.
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on 21 April 2017
Item arrived as expected.
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on 26 February 2016
I don't know if I have to keep this very boring boring boring biogaphy for any intellectual reason or keep it to help hold the back door in my house during the summe when the windy conditions get iun the way? I should probably dump it in the garbage for being the most boring, stupid & crappy book ever published. But at the end I realized that the stupid scottish bitch didn't need 1096 pages to describe her worthless life. So her life goes to the dumpster.....
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on 17 January 2010
This is not biography; it is hagiography. Sycophantic slush written in a state of permanent genuflection about a lady whose main characteristics were a saccharine charm, a mixture of racism and snobbery and, as evidenced by the abdication story, extreme vindictiveness. At some one thousand pages long it is as thick as its subject.
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on 25 September 2015
"The organizer, as for her eightieth and ninetieth birthday celebrations, was Major Michael parker. In the mid-1990s Parker had had tea with the Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother. When the Princess said to her, 'we're all so looking forward to your hundredth birthday', Queen Elizabeth replied, 'Oh, you mustn't say that, it's unlucky. I mean I might be run over a big red bus.' Parker said he thought this was very unlikely, to which Queen Elizabeth replied, 'No, no, it's the principle of the thing [...] That's the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you'll be run over by a big red bus.' And that, Parker thought, was exatly the way she did live. Moreover, 'she treated each day as a lovely surprise that was going to be wonderful'." Pag. 922

"Churchill commented that the intimacy which developed between him and the King was unprecedented since the days of Queen Anne and his ancestor, the Duke of Malborough. Just as unprecedented, however, was the presence of the Queen at these private conversations between the King and his prime Minister. [...]
By now the King and Queen symbolized resistence to Hitler not only in Britain but also in all the occupied nations of Europe.
Britons were now organizing to resist invasion. In the South-east, there was widespread fear of Germans parachuting or gliding down from the skyes, perhaps even disguised as nuns. Locals sabotaged possible landing sites: golf courses, sport fields, downland and fields were scattered with junk - old cars, old cookers, ploughs, tree trunks - anything to prevent an aircraft from touching down. Road signs were removed, so as not to assist any enemy who did arrive. The names of villages and even railway stations were taken down." Pag.515

"The personal dimension of monarchy can give a sense of continuity to national life which republics lack. The life of a royal family is punctuated by events which are familiar to everyone. Births, weddings, illnesses, deaths, follow each other with the sort of predictability every family knows and understands." Pag. 623
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on 28 December 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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VINE VOICEon 23 October 2009
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. It was a partnership in the true sense: Elizabeth & Bertie, Duke and Duchess and King and Queen together.

Shawcross is critised for having avoided the difficult issues - the abdication, her real political influence, her real political views. Well, I only agree partly. I think with regards to the abdication it is pretty clear where she stood and what she thought about it. Her attitude towards the Duchess of Windsor is as well crystal clear. That she was kind to the Duchess when she stayed in BP for the funeral of the Duke of Windsor is by far no indication of Shawcross glossing over the issue and white washing the Queen Mother. When it comes to her real political influence on running the monarchy with her husband and with her daughter indeed things are a bit more difficult. The Queen Mother was very discreet (or as she put it "very cagey") when it came to putting things into writing on political issues. Her letter exchange with Queen Mary on the abdication proves this quite clearly. The RF talked about it. Furthermore Princess Margret had scanned the writing and ordered many letters to be destroyed. She did what Princess Beatrice did with Queen Victoria's diaries. But I feel that Shawcross could have tried to find other means to find out. The same applies to the more recent ups and downs like the Charles-Diana-Camilla saga. So there is an area which can be explored further.

Before concluding a word on Shawcross style of writing: the whole book is written with a great flow and in very entertaining way. It is easy to read, without being superficial. It is massive (2,5 kg heavy), but never boring.

All in all, I think it is an excellent biography and properly the very best official biography I have ever read. Highly recommended.
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on 10 November 2009
Having been presented to Her Majesty and realising how close she was to her subjects I was delighted when Her official biography was published giving me the opportunity to learn more of her private life.For many years I hsave heard anecdotes connected with her formative years, her background and snippets of how she approached the daunting task of becoming Queen and of facing life without her late husband. All this and more I have learned from her biography. Reading the biography was made particularly enjoyable as I am of the same generation, albeit a few years younger,and I am certain that this is history made easy. I am of the opinion that all generations will enjoy this book and gain much from it. As is so frequently written, more than just a good read.
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on 21 September 2015
Absolutely outstanding book. Don't be put off by 1,000 pages - after all this has to cover over 100 years! The book is beautifully written and the style such that quotes from correspondence seamlessly adds the reality to the descriptive text. I had great difficulty in putting the book down. The author blends so much history of the 20th century and for much of which the Queen Mother was in a pivotal position. Her charities involvement was huge and her work load phenomenal - her life dominated by her sense of duty and complete faith in the quality of the British people, through thick and thin. The author's eminently easy and readable style makes this book a pleasure to read. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 5 June 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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