An intelligent, understanding, critical, if ultimately admiring study of Elizabeth II and her age, by a Whitbread Prize-winning British historian (Hugh Dalton, not reviewed). When Elizabeth was born, in 1926, there was little expectation that she would be monarch. She was the daughter of the duke of York, George V's second son. The prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) was the clear successor. The turbulent, unsettling sequence of events that led to her accession--the abdication of Edward, the heroic role played by her father (then George VI) in WW II, the storybook quality of her romance with Philip, and her coronation--contributed to her being subject to ""adulation unparalleled since the days of Louis XIV."" The underlying theme of this book is how this all changed, despite the remarkable job she herself has done. Pimlott carefully argues that Elizabth, who at first relied heavily on her courtiers, gradually assumed more and more control of the monarchy, becoming at last a cool, confident professional, deeply interested in politics and in her people, legendary for her energy and patience. As to the decline of interest in royalty, Pimlott suggests a number of factors having relatively little to do with the queen herself, including the antics of the younger generation of royals, the intrusiveness of the press, the decline in respect for institutions, the transfer of British interests to Europe rather than the Commonwealth. Reflecting the greater openness that now characterizes discussion of the royals, Pimlott tartly notes, for instance, that the union of Charles and Diana was ""a marriage of convenience that was disguised to everybody, including themselves, as a lovematch."" He concludes with a paradox: ""a pilloried family, a much criticized institution, even a widely questioned role--and yet, a valued incumbent."" He is, perhaps, exaggerating the institution's difficulties. But no one has analyzed these problems with greater acuteness or more sense.