The world dreams, before all else, of taking tea with her. Given a choice, she would have liked to be ""a lady living in the...


MAJESTY: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor

The world dreams, before all else, of taking tea with her. Given a choice, she would have liked to be ""a lady living in the country with lots or horses and dogs."" But Elizabeth of York, the little Princess made heir presumptive by her uncle's selfish, willful abdication (as the family saw it), knows her duty. Like her majestically ordinary grandfather George V, like her diffident, steadfast father George VI, she believes it her mission to represent England as, perhaps, the English would like to be; and author Lacey contends that, after some early personal and political blunders, she has emerged as the exemplar of stable values and sensible, compassionate adaptation. For this biographical chronicle, the fullest yet, he interviewed persons close to the Queen in public and private life (though not, by tradition, Elizabeth herself), and presented his manuscript to Buckingham Palace for factual verification. He writes with reserve and, certainly, with respect--for Elizabeth and the royal house, whose attitudes he appears, consciously or not, to express. Thus Wallis Simpson is uncouth and abrasive; Edward VIII is an immature poseur, subservient to her (and--incontestably--toadying toward Hitler); Princess Margaret, not unlike her uncle, is spoiled and indiscreet; Prince Philip grows from a dashing youth to a ""dynamic, virile, and opinionated man."" But Elizabeth is the resolute center of this troubled menage--not bullied by her husband or dismayed by her sister, and conciliatory toward her uncle and his longostracized wife. These personal problems, so like those of her subjects, she has ""turned to her advantage""--even as she is quietly supportive of her Prime Ministers (to socialist Harold Wilson's surprise) and ""useful"" as an arbiter in governmental crises. The particular value of Lacey's book is to make of the ceremonial tours, the daily initialing of dispatches, and the gamut of English country pleasures a unified portrait of ""dutiful representative monarchy""--most vulnerable, ironically, on account of its untaxed, unrepresentative wealth.

Pub Date: March 1, 1977


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1977