ELIZABETH II by Douglas Keay


Portrait of a Monarch
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 In a biography written to mark the 40th anniversary of Elizabeth II's accession to the throne, British journalist Keay tells you all you can want to know about the monarch without offering any illuminating insights of his own. Queen Elizabeth has been served by nine prime ministers (the first was Winston Churchill), has seen Britain decline in power, headed a Commonwealth made up of countries as far-flung and diverse as Nigeria and the Falkland Islands, and has had to cope with divorce and separations within her own, very visible, family. All this should make for a rich biography, but the queen is still the queen, and, with her advisors, closely guards her privacy--which means that Keay must rely on often unattributed gossip and old sources in telling Elizabeth's story. We do learn that the monarch is a bit of a tightwad; that she is pragmatic, has a dry sense of humor, does not forgive those who have offended her, and is not amused by the antics of her daughters-in-law. Elizabeth apparently cares tremendously about the Commonwealth, which ``she sees almost in sentimental terms as a family of nations which offers the rest of the world an example of informal unity,'' and she is considered to have influenced Margaret Thatcher to expedite independence for Zimbabwe. Elizabeth's long reign, Keay says, has given her an unequalled continuity of experience that she draws on in weekly meetings with the prime minister, whom legally she can only advise, encourage, and warn. It is unlikely, the author argues, that she will abdicate in favor of Prince Charles. Keay concludes that, despite some rocky times, the Royal Family is now as much a beloved national treasure as an invaluable institution of governance. More anecdotal than analytical, and written in less-than- sparkling prose: for hard-core royalty fans only. (Sixteen-page photo insert--not seen.)

Pub Date: June 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-07776-9
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992