Top critical review
19 people found this helpful
on November 29, 2016
This book wasn't awful, and it was packed full of all sorts of things I didn't know about Queen Elizabeth, her duties and her reign. If you've never studied the monarchy or queen in any depth this book provides a highly detailed and well researched narrative of the queen's reign. I think the author did a good job with admittedly dull subject matter - the queen's life seems to move from gala event to commonwealth tour with bouts of misbehavior by various family members providing occasional color.
This book stops short of being unbiased and ends up telling the reader what to think. At times I felt I was revisiting my childhood Nancy Drew books. No matter what the situation, the plucky, dutiful, Island-Of-Tranquility queen makes the right decision and saves the day! With corgis! I very much wish the book had allowed me to draw my own conclusions because I think they would have been generally positive. However, the effusively enthusiastic, overly positive narrative crossed the line into outright gushing by about 1972 and makes me skeptical that what I'm reading is truth and not opinion.
The book is completely biased when it comes to describing people who have somehow harmed the monarchy, primarily Wallis Simpson, Diana and Fergie. Diana was dismissed as "overly emotional and manipulative" and her relationship with Dodi Fayed was "a new low". Charles was essentially blameless and ran to Camilla (who will be Queen, don't worry) because his crazy wife drove him there. Fergie was called "vulgar, vulgar, vulgar" - utterly ignoring the fact that Prince Andrew more than holds his own in the vulgarian department - and Wallis Simpson was simply "evil". Members of the royal family who displayed identical behavior, particularly Prince Andrew, Princess Margaret and Prince Charles, were either glossed over or sympathetically portrayed as ill, misguided or wronged in some way. While this all might be true, the book doesn't allow the reader to come to their own conclusions and doesn't portray these people with any objectivity.
The most egregious whitewashing regarded the queen's mishandling of the death of Princess Diana. No matter how you spin it, the monarchy made a mistake that week. The author takes us through ridiculous contortions to justify the behavior of the royal family and cast it in a good light.
I'm also a little skeptical about the accuracy of some of the quotes. I laughed out loud when I read a quote attributed to George W. Bush, "Whatever did you do that for, man?" He's a Texan!! That isn't even American syntax, let alone Texan.
I agree that the author either had unofficial approval of the palace or was perhaps currying favor in order to obtain access to important people for future books.
So yes, there's a lot of good information in this book but I felt like I had to dig through too much authorial bias to get to it.