By Robert Lacey
This is certainly London’s time to shine. A fabulous royal wedding last year, a Summer Olympics in just a few weeks plus Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee! She is only the second monarch to have reigned over Britain and its commonwealths for 60 years (Queen Victoria being the first).
This small book is but an overview of Queen Elizabeth’s extraordinary life up to now. Its short length makes it incredibly accessible and allows a reader to find aspects they’d like to read more on. It’s also full of funny anecdotes and surprising moments.
Some of my favorite stories are from her youth. In childhood, there was no indication that she would eventually take the Crown, as she was the niece of the sitting monarch. Her parents attempted to give her a childhood filled with as much play as school, as much comfort as duty.
Her educational priorities, according to her official biographer, were ‘plenty of fresh air, exercise, fun — and light reading.’ So the Royal LIbrarian, Owen Morshead, was appalled to discover one July that the eighteen books that the Queen had ordered for her elder daughter’s summer reading list were all novels — and every one of them by PG Wodehouse. ~Pg 13.
Elizabeth and Margaret became important figures during the Depression and the War.
…With her nineteenth birthday approaching, she finally escaped to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service, or the ‘Women’s Army’ as the ATS was generally known — ‘No. 230873, Second Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. Age: 18. Eyes: blue. Hair: brown. Height: 5 ft. 3 ins.’ For a month she travelled to Aldershot every morning for a vehicle cylinder heads, then returned to Windsor for dinner every evening to lecture her sister and parents on the joys of the internal combustion engine. ~ Pg 22.
For me, the weaker portion of the book is during the later years. The focus is less on Elizabeth and more on Charles and Diana. True, much of the world’s attention was similarly distracted at the time but I would have preferred to read more of the Queen’s thoughts and actions in the 1980s and 90s.
More importantly, I learned tidbits I didn’t know and it piqued my interest to find out more about this impressive Queen.
Many thanks to HarperPerennial for the review copy.
Imprint: Harper Perennial
On Sale: 5/15/2012
Format: Trade PB
Trimsize: 5 5/16 x 8
Ages: 18 and Up