The Queen: A Life in Brief
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Elizabeth II was not born to be queen. She came into the world on April 21, 1926, the equivalent of the modern Princess Beatrice, first-born daughter of the Duke of York, destined to flutter on the royal fringe. So while Lilibet was brought up with almost religious respect for the crown, there seemed no chance of her inheriting it. Her head was never turned by the personal prospect of grandeur—which is why she would prove so very good at her job. Elizabeth II's lack of ego was to prove the paradoxical secret of her greatness.
For more than thirty years, acclaimed author and royal biographer Robert Lacey has been gathering material from members of the Queen's inner circle—her friends, relatives, private secretaries, and prime ministers. Now, in The Queen, Lacey offers a life of the celebrated monarch, told in six succinct chapters, accentuated by elegant color and black-and-white photographs that capture the distinctive flavor of passing eras and reveal how Elizabeth II adapted—or, on occasions, regally declined to adapt—to changing times.
home-grown profusion of posters and souvenirs, from tin pots to tea towels, emblazoned with the solemn, dark-eyed likeness of Elizabeth. The enigmatic young woman at the heart of this hysteria remained reserved and shy–too shy, in fact. When presented with the proposal that her coronation ceremony should be shared with the 1.5 million of her subjects who owned the recently developed television sets, Elizabeth said no. There were certain moments of the ceremony, like the anointing with sacred oil
silhouette in the corner of commemorative issues, the Queen fought a rearguard action through her private secretaries that eventually compelled him to admit defeat. ‘The plain fact is, I shan’t get the Queen’s head off the stamps,’ noted the republican plaintively in his diary in December 1965. ‘And it is probably rather foolish of me to go on knocking my head against a brick wall.’ Benn failed to appreciate how the essence of Elizabeth’s job was the concealing of her personal feelings–her
things.’ It was rather more complicated than that, for the bitter break-up of her parents’ marriage had actually affected Diana quite profoundly. Her sister Sarah reacted to stress by starving herself–the long-recognised syndrome of anorexia nervosa. Diana’s reaction was to stuff herself with food, then stick her fingers down her throat to induce herself to vomit–the condition of bulimia nervosa, that had only been given a medical name two years earlier. Fragile though she was, Diana had not
In Thatcherite terms Her Majesty was a ‘wet’–a ‘super-wet’, indeed. Elizabeth supported the campaigns of her black African Commonwealth leaders to end white South African apartheid, while deploring the lip-smacking ruthlessness of the New Right’s assault on Britain’s underclass. ‘The people of Govan have got nothing,’ she remarked over dinner with the Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock in 1988, discussing the derelict Glasgow ship-building district. ‘I know, because I have sailed Britannia
afternoon playing croquet with the eighteen-year-old midshipman in training for the war that was just weeks away: clearly bowled over herself, the governess thought Philip looked ‘like a Viking’. But the cousins had met several times before that–at such family gatherings as the 1934 marriage of Elizabeth’s uncle the Duke of Kent to Philip’s cousin Princess Marina–and it was at Christmas 1943 that matters came to a head. The festivities had started with a dance at Windsor Castle featuring the