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The Queen: A Life in Brief Paperback – May 15, 2012
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“Lacey employs a meticulous, fluid writing style that steers clear of tabloid-type sensationalism for a restrained, dignified approach and a level of intimacy with more than a few emotional peaks.” (Publishers Weekly)
About the Author
Robert Lacey is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty books, including The Queen; Ford: The Men and the Machine; The Year 1000; and Inside the Kingdom. He lives in London.
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I enjoyed his assessments of the characters in her life and I'd like to read more written by him. Five stars!
In advance of the Diamond Jubilee, I wanted to read one book about the Queen, but I didn't care about a lot of detail, and I definitely did not want a fawning hagiography. This book was just the ticket.
We get a quick bio of the Queen and even quicker profiles of her immediate family. There's not a lot of gossip, because when it comes to the Queen herself, there isn't any. On the other hand, her family is a wealth of scandal and gossip, and Charles, in particular, gets a rough ride in this book, but not undeserved.
Despite the brief nature of the book, there is enough here to make some interesting observations about the Queen. You would think that in 21st century Britain, it would not be important for the monarch to have leadership skills. And Elizabeth doesn't have any. If she leads at all (and constitutionally, she really can't), it's only by example. So when the public were outraged that she failed to show an adequate amount of public grief over Diana's death, she took Tony Blair's and Alistair Campbell's advice to go on television. And when her children fail to imitate her conservative and scandal-free lifestyle, she finds herself powerless.
There are plenty of photos and Lacey has accomplished his goal of providing this reader, at least, of a single afternoon's pleasant reading.
And having just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee for 50 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth appears to have weathered it all far better than many would have guessed during the most turbulent years of her reign.
Robert Lacey, who has written two full-length and detailed biographies of the queen, culls some of the interesting tidbits and highlights from both for The Queen. It's a souvenir book with photographs that is portable, rather than coffee-table size. The depth of reporting is to be expected for a book meant to be read in an evening.
But it is a handy reference. The opening section covers the years when Elizabeth was a princess not expected to become a queen. Lacey brings her status in those years into focus by comparing her to Beatrice, the oldest daughter of Prince Andrew. When her uncle abdicated the throne and her beloved father became King George VI, Lillibet apparently was a natural at learning duty. As a teen, she decided Philip was her fellow and, regardless of what he's done in the years since, has remained steadfast. As a young mother and the monarch who denied her sister her first choice in marriage, it's apparent that duty once again was foremost.
Later sections of the book spend more time chronicling the mood swings of the nation regarding the monarchy and the foibles of Elizabeth's children. There is much here for Diana-philes as well as those who have moved on.
The book does cover the years since the queen made her speech just before Diana's funeral, when she seemed to be back in best form and putting her foot right every time. The mood that she had become the nation's grandmother and is respected for having stood by her post all these years is conveyed well. It matches the coverage of the queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations last month.
For those who think back to the princess who learned she had become queen while up in a tree in Kenya, or those who have never known another monarch on the British throne, Lacey's book is an enjoyable exercise in nostalgia.