Watching Queen Elizabeth place flowers at a makeshift memorial to Diana in 1997, journalist (and renowned Nixon-basher) William Shawcross sympathized with the often misunderstood monarch: "I thought how lonely she must feel, and how perplexed she must be by the vast changes through which Britain has passed in the decades since her accession."
The U.K. is now not quite so united, not quite so British, not nearly so powerful as it was in the time of her father, George VI. Elizabeth has struck many observers as a lonely, aloof soul, struggling valiantly to hold a difficult family together while assuring her nation that the constitutional monarchy remains relevant in the modern world.
Over half a century of rule, Shawcross suggests, the queen has risen to every occasion and capably led both the British Commonwealth and the royal family, even if both have given her plenty of troubles in the bargain. This well-written and nicely illustrated portrait does a fine job of showing the many ways she has earned the affections, respect, and consent of her people. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, this lavishly illustrated biography attempts to portray the monarch in both her personal and public capacities. Noted journalist Shawcross (Sideshow, etc.), who had the cooperation of the Palace, has set himself a difficult task. Those covering the royals have to navigate between two extremes: the Scylla of salacious gossip and the Charybdis of dull, "officially sanctioned" Palace propaganda. Shawcross could certainly never be accused of salaciousness. The Elizabeth II he describes is unflappable and devoted to her duties as queen. Is Elizabeth, as many of the tabloids claim, a coldly detached and unfeeling individual? Shawcross thinks not. "[C]lose friends... say that though she might not reach out and hug you, she will be thoughtful and concerned about your welfare, and she is a good listener." Shawcross gives us the history of Elizabeth's long reign. As the times have changed, Shawcross contends, so has Elizabeth: "The Queen has not sat back and let the tide of events surge over her. She has responded to the demand for greater openness." Shawcross details the British tabloid wars that have raged since the 1980s and tells how the royal family has increasingly been the subject of invasive and titillating press scrutiny. The book opens and closes with the fallout from Princess Diana's death. This rather reverential biography should please fans of the British monarchy, although it won't exactly satisfy the public's rabid appetite for gossip.
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