A courtier’s fawning portrait of the longed-lived, thoroughly modern monarch.
At 60 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. According to British royal biographer Hardman (A Year with the Queen, 2007, etc.), she has never been so well loved and appreciated by her people for he r many virtues. The author examines the success of her long reign in terms of her ability to confront the “anachronistic pantomime” of the hereditary institution and institute reforms (whether she liked it or not), as she was forced to do with Lord Airlie’s royal-efficiency controls put in place in the ’80s. The royal household resumed paying taxes, thus becoming self-sufficient and managing to prove to the British government its continued relevancy and independence. Hardman rehearses the highs and lows of the queen’s reign, from her triumphal accession in 1952 and world tour a year later, to the frequently abominable behavior of her wayward children, the fire at Windsor Castle in 1992 and aftermath of the death of Lady Diana. Things could only get better. Since the ’90s, the palace staff has modernized, computerized, consolidated dining rooms, opened the pool and royal opera box to more democratic use and acquired an in-palace dairy. The queen makes dizzying tours of her Commonwealth every year and has been served by a dozen British prime ministers, no longer choosing them herself. Except for a rare glimpse at her temper in an unguarded, human moment caught on film in 1954 (hurling shoes and curses at the fleeing Duke of Edinburgh, her husband), Elizabeth II remains in this stately portrait as enigmatic (or merely blank) as she ever was.
A reverential look inside the intricate workings of Queen, Inc.—likely to appeal mostly to British readers and royal watchers.