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ELIZABETH by Sarah Bradford

ELIZABETH

A Biography of Britain's Queen

By Sarah Bradford

Pub Date: April 16th, 1996
ISBN: 0-374-14749-3
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 In the year of her 70th birthday, Elizabeth II of England comes under scrutiny as mother (not quite good enough), wife (better), and constitutional monarch (outstanding). Bradford's work falls into the category of molecular biography--pages of minutiae that very nearly bury the subject and leave the reader gasping for less. But apparently people can't get enough of the British Royals. Bradford (Splendours and Miseries: A Life of Sacheverell Sitwell, 1993, etc.), herself a viscountess, tells all, scandals included. The scandals range from the rumored involvement of Elizabeth's great-great- grandmother Queen Victoria with her servant John Brown to Elizabeth's youngest son's alleged affair with his valet. Detailed looks at the Duke of Windsor's abdication and the family bitterness it caused, Prince Philip's flings (no names, but titles--``a princess, a duchess, two or perhaps three countesses''--and more), and Princess Margaret's ``guttersnipe life'' are titillating and sometimes shocking to casual followers of the Windsor clan. Also scrutinized are the royal finances and the annual peregrinations to family holdings at Sandringham, Balmoral, and Windsor, as well as the fitting and refittings of the royal yacht Britannia, and the queen's fondness for racehorses and corgis. If it was Elizabeth's loose hand on the reins of her family that has contributed to the monarchy being blemished, it may be her dignity and commitment to her nation that saves it. Well informed and professional when she meets with her prime ministers {most of whom have ``fallen in love'' with her, according to Bradford), she works hard and successfully at her role as head of state, a model of ``courage, decency and a sense of duty'' through a period of tumultuous political and social change. No tabloid hype here, but this authoritative biography has enough revealing nuggets scattered through an otherwise flat narrative to keep a royal watcher enthralled. (17 color and 39 b&w photos) (Author tour)