There may be no family in the world of whom one reads so much yet knows so little as the British Royal Family, but Flamini (Ava, 1982; Pope, Premier, President, 1980) now gives us an informed and credible if still discreet portrait, timed to coincide with the queen's 65th birthday. Queen Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Prince Albert, George V`s second son, who grew up very much in the shadow of the more glamorous Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII. When Edward was forced to abdicate, the shy, tongue-tied Albert unexpectedly ascended the throne as George VI. Elizabeth, also shy and sheltered, succeeded him when she was just 25, and has now been on the throne for nearly 40 years. The portrait of her that emerges here is an intriguing one. Much of it is familiar: her conscientiousness, sense of duty, lack of small talk, love of horses, lack of intellectual interests. But much is less well known: she is knowledgeable, well briefed, with definite opinions, often very sensible ones. And much discussed here has been obscure: why has she given Prince Philip, whom she ``adores,'' so much less to do than, say, Queen Victoria gave her adored Albert? Why has she never named Philip Prince Consort? Flamini suggests that it was because of opposition to Philip among Elizabeth's courtiers, who saw him as too blunt, too likely to make waves, at a time when she was young and inexperienced herself and reliant upon their advice; and when she gained confidence, she like her unfettered role. A good read, with a lot of inside detail, but a bit like those broad histories of American political campaigns before Theodore White really started analyzing them.