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on February 15, 2017
I have always been a fan of the British Monarchy! This book gave me a much greater insight to Queen Elisabeth II, than I have ever had before. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book as I learned so much more of not only the life of the Queen, and also the workings of the Royal Family. I feel as if I had been allowed to see the insides of each member of them, and one have a greater understanding of how each member of the Royal Family has their part to "play" for the Monarchy to exist as it does.
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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.
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on March 26, 2012
This book was like a prolonged cup of tea, cosseting, comforting, kindly. I learned much about the Queen I was unaware of, like her self control and courage. I found her ability to stand erect through tedious rituals personally inspiring. Yet there was something missing. When Bedell Smith mentioned the high statistics in Britain in favor of the Queen and the Monarchy, she failed to break down the statistics in terms of groups. Are the Pakistanis and religious Islamic residents in favor of the Queen? Do they respect the Monarchy? If so, there are no statistics offered. In fact, reading this book, you would think the population of English Europeans is exactly the same in 2011 as it was in 1953. Ms. Bedell Smith never mentions the decline in moral standards of much of the lower classes, the dependence on welfare, the criminal classes who prey upon the law-abiding with impunity, the weakness of the police, the shocking impotence of law enforcement during the riots of last fall. You would think all England is a picture postcard, glossy greenery and pictures of Big Ben.

Furthermore, while the author is obviously writing to maintain favor with Queen Elizabeth's courtiers who control her entree into royal circles (yes, there is that subtext), she comes up short in one respect. Prince William will be next. And will he open his doors and his journals and his palace to the writer who called his late devoted mother a "borderline personality", not to mention conniving and manipulative? Prince William's mother, despite her faults, is beloved to him, and he cherishes her memory. I'm not sure how Bedell Smith could have handled this sensitive subject so as not to alienate William. Otherwise, Bedell Smith has written a highly readable biography, and I greatly enjoyed it.
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on June 22, 2015
I found this book an intimate look into the private and public life of an individual who has given her country and its subjects the very essence of her life-long existence. Her sense of duty and commitment to the monarchy and its traditions is beyond comprehension; she has put these considerations before her very own wishes and dedicated her life to serving them. I don't know of any leader since WWII that has given so much of themselves in the manner she has, day after day, year after year. She has borne such a burden of responsibility in an amazing display of love and loyalty to her family and her kingdom. An absolutely incredible human being!
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on March 28, 2012
With regards to Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch ELIZABETH THE QUEEN] [Hardcover] I must confess to a decades-old Anglophilia, no doubt permanently instilled in me when I had a chance to attend Oxford University's Trinity College for a term in 1973. I learned a lot about the Royals while I was there, and I had the added benefit of long weekends spent with two very different couples: one upper middle-class and the other blue-collar. They and almost every Briton I met seemed duty-bound to inform me about the Royals and their admiration was, interestingly, fairly consistent. (They STILL hated Wallis Simpson for the pre-war scandal that cost Edward VIII his throne.)

A THOROUGHLY researched (even the 70-degree-temp of the Queen's bath), well-organized book, Ms Bedell Smith should be proud. I gave the book four instead of five stars because her prose style is very flat.

Since my stay I've eagerly followed the ups and downs of the Royals and considered myself well-informed. After reading this book I felt that what I had learned was for the most part accurate, but at least until recent years the Royals acted like icebergs (and I don't mean emotionally), whereby only some 10% of the berg shows above the waterline.

As I read, I was often fatiqued learning what her typical day might be. Perhaps most interesting was learning that she and the Prince do manage to get together regularly with "just friends. All of the major members of the family - except Elizabeth, who's too busy - have made major contributions in various forms of endeavor. Maybe I should include the Queen; she started the "Horse Whisperer's" career and invested a lot of money to spread the word about his talents. There's a lot of detail in the book about the Queen's intense interest in and love of everything horsey.

Virtually every Prime Minister, beginning with Winston Churchill, who has served her has praised her to the skies and the reasons are explained here. No one else has had such a long run, seeing governments and ideas and come and go, as she waits to see what will stick to the proverbial wall. Before I read this I didn't know much about the Commonwealth and, once again, her role in creating opportunities for foes to agree on something is heralded.
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on February 5, 2012
Elizabeth II, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland etc., is someone I have respected and revered since we were both girls and are now defined as senior citizens. My hope for this book was for an illustrated chronology amplified by interesting or amusing detail. I did get the chronology, although sometimes the detail tended to become tedious. [The constant repetition of the author's apparent disapproval of the British upper-class way of raising their children gets rather dull.] Most of the events recounted here are familiar to me, and little of gossip was fresh. I read this version on my Kindle, and the photographs were all gathered at the end of the book and disappointingly small. However, there is a fascinating section that compares the styles of the Queen and the Prince of Wales. Additionally, there is a discussion of the issues surrounding the place and title of Camilla the Prince's sometime girlfriend and mistress, now wife when [and if] Charles inherits the title. Prince William, older son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, follows his father in succession to the throne and is evidently more popular than his father. This causes speculation that will not be resolved until the need arises. Another conundrum that has haunted Queen Elizabeth's reign is the problem of Ireland. Divided between North and South by the British, site of local terrorism as well as British military incursions, Elizabeth made a state visit to Ireland. She was welcomed with open arms and hearts, to the great relief of her security people.
This is a summing up of an unusually long reign full of challenges and changes and of much interest to Royal watchers. Child rearing patterns aside, this would be an excellent reference work for students of modern History.

By the way, there is a superb satire on the Royals by Alan Bennett of Beyond the Fringe that is a real and amusing contrast to Smith's workmanlike book available on Amazon.
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This is an absolutely wonderful biography of Queen Elizabeth I. The story begins with her uncertain childhood, following the death of her mother, Anne Boleyn, by order of her father Henry VIII. Her first passion is briefly told and her fears for her life as her sister, Mary, reigned.

But it is really the tracing of the arc of her reign that is at the heart of this book. The volume weaves together Elizabeth's personal life, her court life, and the political context in which she operated. You need a scorecard to keep all the actors straight here!

The book does a superb job describing the relationships of Elizabeth with intriguing people such as Mary, Queen of Scots (how Mary could have survived so long given her perpetual scheming to overthrow Elizabeth is stunning), Robert Dudley (Leicester), Robert Devereaux. Also well done is the tale of her on and off again courtships with foreign leaders, as she moved to (a) produce an heir, (b) create useful political alliances, and (c) retain her power. The latter, holding on to her power, always trumped the former. The story of her hot and cold linkage with Anjou is nicely done.

Inherent in a work like this is the poignancy of the Queen and her leading advisors aging and dying.

An important adjunct to reading is a set of genealogical tables at the end of the book. Keeping the players straight calls for some aid such as this!

Overall, an exquisitely written book that brings the character of Elizabeth I into focus. The amount of information available about the Queen allows for such a detailed book that the people and times seem to come to life.

In the end, a book well worth looking at if interested in the times and the people. Highly recommended.
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on March 18, 2012
When one considers Elizabeth was only 21 when she became Queen, one can only imagine how her life drastically changed from the moment she learned of her father's death; (Her sister, Margaret, asked Elizabeth when they were children if upon their father's death it would mean Elizabeth would be queen, Elizabeth answered "yes", Margaret responded: "Poor you").
She has spent most of her life as Queen and has always taken her duties very seriously. She is obviously very intelligent and has great physical stamina... Reading this book I learned that it hasn't always been easy for her OR for her children who did not have their mother's full attention when they were growing up and suffered for it.

Never having been a fan of Prince Philip, it does seem from reading the book that he has been her greatest supporter despite always having had to walk behind her, figuratively as well as physically, and despite his ascerbic comments through the years on various subjects,he remains steadfastly beside her. I enjoyed this look at her life and though no great revelations were made, it seems the Queen has had many of the same woes as the matriarch of her family as many of us - - her children's failed marriages, her only sibling's many problems due to alcoholism, the loss of her dear mother who she spoke to every day. I think she is quite an amazing woman and I really enjoyed this book.
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on December 26, 2014
This is a comprehensive biography of Elizabeth II from her childhood through to the present day. Her path to the throne was unexpected, but once on the path, her father did his best to prepare her for the monarchy. The author details both her personal and public lives, in particular her interactions with her many prime ministers over the years. Those that are fans of Diana may not appreciate seeing a different perspective on her and her marriage to Charles, and overall the book presents a skew towards Elizabeth, but does do a good job in portraying many interesting historical details and provides a real insight into the hard work and effort her position entails. There are moments of humor, humanizing moments, as well a times of great sadness.
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on June 14, 2015
As engaging as is the prose of Alison Weir, reading it left me with no notion of what must the author be like. The author remains invisible as there is no bias evident in the telling of the story. A history written with no apparent agenda is refreshing.

Lost in the multiple dramas of Elizabeth's life is the wonder that such a strong yet compassionate Queen should emerge from such a savage family and such a traumatic upbringing. And the fact that Elizabeth held the loyalty of her nation through genuine affection rather than tyranny is the wonder which threads subtly through the book.

I look forward to reading more Alison Weir.
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