THE QUEEN MOTHER: A Biography by Elizabeth Longford


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At last: the perfect gift for the reigning monarch whose mother is in need of an impeccable role model. Few others, however, will be informed or so much as amused by this harmless official panegyric--whatever the truth of Longford's initial claim that ""the universal affection in which she is held can only be explained by the full story of her life."" In this case the ""full story"" consists of a brief, well-illustrated lesson in right queenly living, presented in ringing High Church tones. Accordingly, the Queen mother is ""a creative artist in home life"" who ""wore beautiful dresses to gladden the people's hearts."" She lived by ""her simple creed--to make the best of what life brought""; and as a result her life is populated primarily by heroic figures--her husband and family, Winston Churchill, and her dressmaker Norman Hartnell, ""the master of silver tissue and cloth of gold."" The piece, of course, does have its villains, most of them people intimately associated with the institution of divorce--that ""thoughtless and besotted king"" Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson, and Tony Armstrong-Jones, whose former headmaster Longford quotes as saying, ""Armstrong-Jones may be good at something but it's nothing we teach here."" In the end, however, villainy is righteously van-quished and, ""despite all unhappiness, the Royal Family has remained as close as ever."" How the Queen Mother felt about all these matters we are left to guess (or to learn from others less constrained). This is foremost a history of her regal smile--""she knows that smiles win more response than frowns""--and of her clothes--from her ""sparkling crinolines"" and ""ostrich feathers"" to the ignominy of ""a tweed coat with white shoes."" A trifle, then, but becomingly illustrated; and in this year of the Prince's wedding, it may prove a serviceable scorecard, at least with respect to Charles' side of the family.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow