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Counting One's Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hardcover – November 27, 2012

4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[The Queen Mother's letters] do offer a fascinating, provocative first-hand glimpse into another world . . . Perhaps the most endearing side of the collection is the sheer number of earnest thank-you notes, written for everything from gifts to visits, and a great many written to Elizabeth's mother-in-law, Queen Mary, with whom Elizabeth carries on a warm and intimate correspondence. Elizabeth clearly delights in her friends, and is charmingly quick to offer assistance, take an interest in others' lives, and have a laugh at her own expense . . . Read [Counting One's Blessings] for the sheer entertainment value.” ―Heather Horn, The Atlantic

“William Shawcross, a renowned writer and broadcaster who has been given access to nine decades of remarkable correspondence from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, has traced the stories the letters tell . . . From childhood onwards, her words danced on the page, teeming with vitality, ebullience and optimism . . . Her letters showed a relish for language and sparkled with the joy of living.” ―The Times of India

“The intriguing new book of letters shows the unlikely evolution of the former Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, a charming, vivacious young woman who was one of the most sought-after debutantes of her day, into a gifted queen who became an enduring symbol of the British monarchy . . . she evolved into a curious, vital young woman who was an avid reader.” ―Lorna Koski, Women's Wear Daily

“With correspondents ranging from Kenneth Clark to Osbert Sitwell, as well as her parents-in-law, daughters and eldest grandson, the Queen Mother's selected letters--collated by her official biographer, William Shawcross--are seldom dull . . . [Counting One's Blessings] provides a study of maturing character against the background of great events . . . However fluffy the Queen may have seemed when young, she proved her mettle in 1939–45. Her wartime letters, showing her abnegation, selfless duty and distress, make impressive reading. They reach, at moments, an eloquent intensity . . . These letters exemplify the truth of a remark of Auden's. ‘Be good and you will be happy is a dangerous inversion,' the poet wrote. ‘Be happy and you will be good is the truth. Men often speak of their right to happiness. In fact, it is their only duty.' The Queen saw happiness as a duty--not an entitlement--because it was her route to good works.” ―Richard Davenport-Hines, The Times Literary Supplement

“One of the most appealing aspects of the Queen Mother was her zest for life to the end--her passion for the arts, horse racing, foreign travel and whizzing round the country in helicopters. She cared nothing about money; even the Queen complained wryly about her extravagance. ‘There's something about her that's kept very young,' Ted Hughes wrote . . . [Counting One's Blessings is] expertly edited and introduced by William Shawcross.” ―Sarah Bradford, The Literary Review

About the Author

William Shawcross became a writer after leaving University College Oxford in 1968. He was in Czechoslovakia during the Soviet occupation; this inspired his first book, a biography of Alexander Dubcek, the Czechoslovak leader, which was published in 1970. Since then he has written and travelled widely. In 1995 he wrote the BBC Television series Monarchy. In 2002 his BBC Television series and book, Queen and Country, celebrated the Queen's Golden Jubilee and examined the changing face of Britain during her reign. He is also the author of Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11 and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (2012). He lives in England.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (November 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780374185220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374185220
  • ASIN: 0374185220
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book contains many letters to Elizabeth's family and friends, written over almost all of the twentieth century. Elizabeth, the mother of Queen Elizabeth II, lived through the two world wars, and she played a major role in England's courageous response to Hitler's 1939 declaration of war as the consort of King George VI.

Many of these letters are thank-you notes, and the reader could not find better models for such letters. Perhaps Elizabeth overused the words heavenly and angelic, but her warmth and enthusiasm for gifts and entertainments come through.

The royal family's joys and sorrows are shared in the letters to family members. Political events are a frequent theme, too, with discussions of growing relationships with Churchill and others. She also describes the exhausting days on tour in faraway places as the royals endure heat and humidity to see their subjects.

Even if you stop reading after the death of George VI in 1952, this book is a fascinating look at the activities of the royal family and the life of a very popular English queen.
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Format: Hardcover
While I have enjoyed this collection of letters and I know I don't know how the letters were selected and what letters were still available, and what ones weren't or just didn't exist anymore (plus you can't include them all) I wonder about the letters that seem to be missing. No letters after Churchill's death? No letters about the engagement and wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana? Maybe there weren't any. But the Queen Mother did seem to write so many notes and letters to so many people about so many other events, that it seems odd that events like these weren't written about in letters to someone. But all in all I have enjoyed this book. It did help that I had read his biography of the Queen Mother when it came out so that many of the letters fit into a time line.
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Format: Hardcover
I read William Shawcross' biography of the Queen Mother in early 2012, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This book added to my knowledge, sympathy and understanding of this most remarkable woman. I am glad I read the biography first, because these letters enable you to not necessarily read the book in chronological order, but you can now revisit areas of the biography and read the detailed correspondence in full that Shawcross used to extract from and create his narrative.

In today's frenetic world with text messaging and e-mail speeding up so much of our communication I spent many enjoyable evenings reading the beautifully crafted letters in this book. Even more intriguing to me was to find that the style and tone, and above all graciousness, of the writing of the Queen Mother never changed over 80 years. She wrote with the same sense of warmth and humour when she was 101, as she had been writing when she was 21!

The Queen Mother never gave an interview to a journalist or the media in her entire life, that is why this book and these letters are so important, because it captures in a way that a journalist could never do the feelings of this most remarkable woman, and her perspective on the history of the 20th century.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I have read many biographies of Queen Mother Elizabeth. I have visited both Glamis and Balmoral Castles.These selected letters give a true to life portrait of a much beloved Queen.Her personality and dignity breathe all her her words.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For followers of the Queen Mother -- This is an excellent compilation of her letters. Provides great insight into one of the most important members ever to grace the Royal Family. An endearing memory of Elizabeth II's mother, and her contributions to the empire.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although it is interesting for a peek into royalty, mostly these letters are repetitive & boring. Sometimes there is a very minimal glimpse into emotions related to the events of the letter but mostly mundane at best. I have started this book weeks ago & I have difficulty finding my enthusiam to pick it up to finsih reading it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book very much. The problem I had with the Kindle edition was that the footnotes at the bottom of the pages were not there. Those footnotes explained references in the letters, explained who people were that the Queen was referencing in her correspondence, etc. I had to get the book from my public library and reference it as I read along on my kindle, which sort of defeats the purpose of buying the Kindle edition. I would not have purchased the Kindle edition had I known of this omission. I sent a message to Amazon, and what they sent me back was information on how to do Bookmarks (????).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I gave this book as a gift to my mother-in-law and started to read it when I visited her some time later. I ran out of time, and couldn't finish the book during my visit and she wouldn't let me take it, she had loved it so much. One day I'll either buy another copy for myself or finish the book on another visit. It was, up to the point I read, as charming and gentle as the lady herself, but shows the depths of strength and courage it took for her to adapt to a life she had not chosen. This woman had backbone and a strong sense of duty. It was interesting to read her point of view on so many subjects and it also gave a strong image into the times in which she lived.
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