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Queen and Country: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth II Hardcover – April 23, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (April 23, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743226763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743226769
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Roger K. Ward on June 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Those who believe that the institution of monarchy is archaic and serves no purpose in the modern nation-state might find Mr. Shawcross's book somewhat suprising. Employing a succinct writing style, Mr. Shawcross provides his reader with a fascinating glimpse into the woman who, by accident of birth and unforseen dynastic events, has occupied the throne of Great Britain for half a century and who, in a quiet, unassuming way, has exacted considerable influence over the politics of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and world. This book shows the error in characterizing the Queen as a mere figurehead. Indeed, her role as confidant to prime ministers, the political knowledge and wisdom she has acquired through her lengthy tenure as sovereign, her ability to lead by example, and her steadfast willingness to dedicate her life to the service of her nation and the Commonwealth, combine to produce a portrait of a woman who is anything but a token head of state.
This book successfully argues the case for monarchy. Politicians, scandals, and events come and go, but there, above it all, remains the Queen.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found this book very interesting. I suggest all Britons campaigning for a republic read this book. It proves how influential and important the monarchy really is. It also proves what a brilliant woman Elizabeth II is and how she has come to embody the ideal constitutional monarch. What I found most interesting is her actual involvement in British (and many Commonwealth) affairs. Most Americans think of her as a mere figurehead who opens up hospitals here and there. This is far from the truth. As she is probably the most experienced diplomat in Britain, her sage counsel to Prime Ministers has proven invaluable. I urge those who pass off Elizabeth as dispensable to read this book and see how indispensable she really is.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read the book in one sitting, and while it covers all a book can given the enormity of its subject, I was left wanting more. Give the author credit for capturing a remarkable monarch.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Scamp Lumm on March 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"There was something magical about this Queen's accession to the throne. She is the only woman known to have gone up a tree a Princess and come down a Queen." William Shawcross is referring to the circumstances of Her Majesty's accession which happened automatically once her father, King George VI died. She and her husband were in Kenya at the time with a small company of courtiers and servants on a trip on behalf of her government since her father was stricken with cancer. At a place called Treetops, which was a hut built within an enormous and old fig tree, the small royal entourage watched all sorts of wildlife gather at a salt lick, and it might have been when they were there that her father passed away. I loved this story told by Lieutenant Michael Parker, the Prince's Private Secretary: "Parker remembered ever after that as they sat there a large white eagle circled and swooped low above their heads. He was concerned that it might even dive on them. Later he realized that the appearance of the eagle had almost coincided with the moment when the King died."

Shawcross wrote this book to coincide with Her Majesty's golden jubilee. As a protestant American, I've always scoffed at all of the pageantry which the British subject themselves to. You must understand my religion is a no frills religion, my government, a no frills government. A monarchy of any kind seems outdated. What purpose could it possibly serve? And so too today, there are some in Great Britain who feel the same way. At one of my workplaces, a British couple would talk about such things like the Trooping of the Color as if it were some grand event not to be missed. What is the Trooping of the Color, I thought? Who cares, was another? I'm slowly beginning to understand why.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on October 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am going to disagree with my fellow reviewers. This was a fluff piece about Elizabeth II by a well respected author. Shawcross is the author of Sideshow, a definitive book about the the American campaign in Cambodia. This was a hard hitting book that asked some tough questions about the Nixon's administration spread of the war into Cambodia. I would have thought Shawcross would have done the same with the British royal family. This was not the case.

Shawcross details the long reign of Elizabeth II. She has been a success not only in her relations with the British political process, but also Commonwealth relations. To say otherwise would be to go against her solid reputation. However, her sister Margaret, and her children Anne, Charles, and Andrew have had disasterous marriages, and have generally not been successful in representing the British royal family. Shawcross defends these members, but is not critical enough of them in his history of the British monarchy.

Shawcross shows his views about the monarchy in this writing. A more critical viewpoint perhaps would have shown the true nature of this British institution.
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