A sometimes engaging, occasionally illuminating patchwork of observations and reflections on the Queen of England, as the 50th anniversary of her monarchy approaches.
As with earlier oral biographies, the Strobers (Nixon, 1994, etc.) interviewed hundreds of people for their recollections and comments on the monarch who came to the throne as a young and happy wife and mother and has endured through political crises—the conflicts in Ireland and the Falklands War, etc.—as well as the marital scandals of her children and the throne-shaking controversy on the death of daughter-in-law Diana. The Strobers’ interviewees range across the globe, from Canberra to Coventry, and across classes, from Dukes and Earls to the stud manager of the Queen’s racing stable and the journalist’s ubiquitous fallback, taxi drivers. With the exception of a few internationally known names like Nelson Mandela, Mohamed Al Fayed (Dodi’s father), and Jeffrey Archer, most of them will be unfamiliar to Americans. Organized in a loose chronology, the authors open with touching memories of Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1952 (she was in a nature park in Kenya when her father died) and the travails of the House of Windsor, including Edward VIII’s abdication. It moves on to discuss the role of the Queen, and her relationship with her prime ministers (ten so far, from Winston Churchill to Tony Blair). Other chapters look at relationships with the Commonwealth countries and “The Future of the Monarchy”—meaning, will Charles ever make it to the throne and, if he does, what kind of king will he be? The answers are ambivalent. The picture of Elizabeth that emerges is no surprise: a woman dedicated to duty and protocol, stiff on formal occasions, but with a sense of fun and warmth in more private gatherings.
Those in search of the real Elizabeth will not find her here, but these interviews are enlightening footnotes to more formal biographies.