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Same old history, poorly repackaged. It's Windsor 101 (again).
on October 18, 2006
Don't be deceived by the cover of this book. This is the same old Windsor tale, written in a light and breezy manner. The idea of focusing specifically on these four women is an interesting idea, but the author only seems to remember the point in the last chapter. Instead, what we get is a pretty good portrait of the Queen Mother's early years, and then plow right into Windsor Lite-- standard fare, but certainly nothing new. A good book for starters, but don't be deceived here-- Princess Margaret and Princess Anne are not studied to any degree of depth, nor is Queen Elizabeth II probed and examined as any solid biography would demand.
Interestingly, Diana is in full force throughout the second half of the book because of her obvious impact on the Windsors. Also examined to some degree is Wallis Simpson, and this is important-- although she's an ambiguous character, her impact on the royals was perhaps greater than any other woman in that she literally shifted the course of the accession-- assuming Edward VIII was capable of fathering children, in which case the crown would have fallen to Elizabeth II anyway (as George V well knew).
Nearly invisible in the book is the indomitable Queen Mary, very much a Windsor, and largely responsible for setting the tone of the royal court in the first half of the 20th century-- and for moulding her granddaughter, Elizabeth, into the monarch she is today. This was probably some sort of marketing scheme-- the idea of putting the most well known women on the cover must have been too appealing. And sadly, the intelligent, complex and duty-bound Princess Anne, who truly does deserve a body of work dedicated to her own life, gets little more than superfluous treatment (as does Princess Margaret, who is basically written off as misunderstood, but superfluous in her own right-- haven't we heard all this before?).
Think of this book as Windsor Lite, a current "simple history" starting with Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon's youth and teen years, through her marriage to Bertie and ultimate accession to Queen Consort, through the highs of the coronation and declines of the 80s, ending with the death of Princess Diana. Nothing new here, and disappointing treatment of women who should be examined far more closely, but a decent job for those just getting to know the history of the royal family in the current century. Otherwise, move on.