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Elizabeth the Queen

Cover of Elizabeth the Queen

Elizabeth the Queen

The Life of a Modern Monarch
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"An excellent, all-embracing new biography."--The New York Times

From the moment of her ascension to the throne at age twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II has been the object of unparalleled admiration and scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how well do we really know the world's most famous monarch? Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, acclaimed biographer Sally Bedell Smith pulls back the curtain to show in extraordinary detail the public and private lives of one of the world's most fascinating and enigmatic women. In Elizabeth the Queen, we meet the young girl who suddenly becomes "heiress presumptive"when her uncle abdicates the throne. We see the young Queen struggling to balance the demands of her job with her role as the mother of two young children. And we gain insight into the Queen's daily routines, as well as her personal relationships: with Prince Philip, her husband of sixty-four years and the love of her life, her children and their often-disastrous marriages, her grandchildren and friends.

Scrupulously researched and compulsively readable, Elizabeth the Queen is a close-up view of the lively, brilliant, and steadfast woman we've known only from a distance, and a captivating window into life at the center of the last great monarchy.

With a new afterword by the author.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"[An] imposing, yet nimbly written, biography [that] dwarfs the field . . . a most satisfying and enjoyable read, one to be savored at length."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"An excellent, all-embracing new biography."--The New York Times

From the moment of her ascension to the throne at age twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II has been the object of unparalleled admiration and scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how well do we really know the world's most famous monarch? Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, acclaimed biographer Sally Bedell Smith pulls back the curtain to show in extraordinary detail the public and private lives of one of the world's most fascinating and enigmatic women. In Elizabeth the Queen, we meet the young girl who suddenly becomes "heiress presumptive"when her uncle abdicates the throne. We see the young Queen struggling to balance the demands of her job with her role as the mother of two young children. And we gain insight into the Queen's daily routines, as well as her personal relationships: with Prince Philip, her husband of sixty-four years and the love of her life, her children and their often-disastrous marriages, her grandchildren and friends.

Scrupulously researched and compulsively readable, Elizabeth the Queen is a close-up view of the lively, brilliant, and steadfast woman we've known only from a distance, and a captivating window into life at the center of the last great monarchy.

With a new afterword by the author.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"[An] imposing, yet nimbly written, biography [that] dwarfs the field . . . a most satisfying and enjoyable read, one to be savored at length."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

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  • Chapter One

    A ROYAL EDUCATION

    It was a footman who brought the news to ten-year-old Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor on December 10, 1936. Her father had become an accidental king just four days before his forty-first birthday when his older brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, a twice-divorced American. Edward VIII had been sovereign only nine months after taking the throne following the death of his father, King George V, making him, according to one mordant joke, "the only monarch in history to abandon the ship of state to sign on as third mate on a Baltimore tramp."

    "Does that mean that you will have to be the next queen?" asked Elizabeth's younger sister, Margaret Rose (as she was called in her childhood). "Yes, someday," Elizabeth replied. "Poor you," said Margaret Rose.

    Although the two princesses had been the focus of fascination by the press and the public, they had led a carefree and insulated life surrounded by governesses, nannies, maids, dogs, and ponies. They spent idyllic months in the English and Scottish countryside playing games like "catching the days"-running around plucking autumn leaves from the air as they were falling. Their spirited Scottish nanny, Marion "Crawfie" Crawford, had managed to give them a taste of ordinary life by occasionally taking them around London by tube and bus, but mostly they remained inside the royal bubble.

    Before the arrival of Margaret, Elizabeth spent four years as an only- and somewhat precocious-child, born on the rainy night of April 21, 1926. Winston Churchill, on first meeting the two-year-old princess, extravagantly detected "an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant." Crawfie noted that she was "neat and methodical . . . like her father," obliging, eager to do her best, and happiest when she was busy. She also showed an early ability to compartmentalize-a trait that would later help her cope with the demands of her position. Recalled Lady Mary Clayton, a cousin eight years her senior: "She liked to imagine herself as a pony or a horse. When she was doing that and someone called her and she didn't answer right away, she would then say, 'I couldn't answer you as a pony.' "

    The abdication crisis threw the family into turmoil, not only because it was a scandal but because it was antithetical to all the rules of succession. While Elizabeth's father had been known as "Bertie" (for Albert), he chose to be called George VI to send a message of stability and continuity with his father. (His wife, who was crowned by his side, would be known as Queen Elizabeth.) But Bertie had not been groomed for the role. He was in tears when he talked to his mother about his new responsibilities. "I never wanted this to happen," he told his cousin Lord Louis "Dickie" Mountbatten. "I've never even seen a State Paper. I'm only a Naval Officer, it's the only thing I know about." The new King was reserved by nature, somewhat frail physically, and plagued by anxiety. He suffered from a severe stammer that led to frequent frustration, culminating in explosions of temper known as "gnashes."

    Yet he was profoundly dutiful, and he doggedly set about his kingly tasks while ensuring that his little Lilibet-her name within the family-would be ready to succeed him in ways he had not been. On his accession she became "heiress presumptive," rather than "heiress apparent," on the off chance that her parents could produce a son. But Elizabeth and Margaret Rose had been born by cesarean section, and in those days a third operation would have been considered too risky for their mother. According to custom, Lilibet would publicly refer to her mother and father as "the King and...

About the Author-
  • Sally Bedell Smith is the author of bestselling biographies of William S. Paley; Pamela Harriman; Diana, Princess of Wales; John and Jacqueline Kennedy; and Bill and Hillary Clinton. A contributing editor at Vanity Fair since 1996, she previously worked at Time and The New York Times, where she was a cultural news reporter. She is the mother of three children and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, Stephen G. Smith.

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    Random House Publishing Group
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