"The Queen Mother: The Official Biography" by William Shawcross (2009)

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some more quotes from the above The Independent review...

"Berlin's appraisal, consigned to a footnote, is untypical of William Shawcross's official biography but overlaps to some extent with the Queen Mother's own self-assessment: "a very ordinary person" and "not as nice as I seem". Shawcross's focus is not so much the Queen Mother's niceness or otherwise – the verdict, repeatedly confirmed by primary sources, is one of potent charm – but her place in British life during her 78 years as a public figure.

...this impressively researched biography demonstrates how the former Elizabeth Bowes Lyon won the public esteem which made her, alongside her husband George VI, a plausible wartime morale-booster, and how she retained the public affection won then through a further six decades.

To the sceptic, smiling royal women are ten-a-penny. But this is an anachronistic dismissal. Before Elizabeth Bowes Lyon married the Duke of York, royal women seldom if ever smiled in public. The Tsarina Alexandra of Russia was known within her family as "Sunny"; her public face was anything but. Elizabeth's redoubtable mother-in-law Queen Mary dazzled with all the jewels of Empire: she saw no reason to light up a gathering by smiling. Elizabeth's willingness to smile for ordinary people – and to do so both naturally and apparently sincerely – represents a minor revolution. It was a symbol of her ability to reach out and forge connections with those she had never met and would never know, part of a broader warmth which she deployed, for example, in the service of Britain's war effort. In Shawcross's reckoning, her radio broadcast to the women of America and conquest by charm of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt contributed to the States' eventual willingness to enter the war.

Official royal biography involves pitfalls. Inherent in the diligent chronicling of daily engagements, foreign tours and posh frocks...is the possibility of hagiography. Shawcross avoids the traps. Undeniably his biography has much of the encomium about it, but occasional flashes of mischief – he describes the Queen Mother's attitude to money as demonstrating "a certain insouciance" – help dispel the sugariness."
It must be exhausting to be a monarchist, forever finding ways to pretend a family of cold, talentless snobs are better than the rest of us. They have to make gold out of mud. The system of monarchy – selecting a head of state solely because of the womb they passed through, and surrounding them with sycophants from the moment they emerge – produces warped and dim people and demands that we scrape before them. What's a poor monarchist to do? They can only lavish a thick cream of adjectives – "dignity", "charm", "majesty" – over the Windsor family in the hope that some of us are fooled.

Johann Hari: Gin, servants and bloodlines for royalty's Alf Garnett in a tiara - Johann Hari, Commentators - The Independent
well spending on that level will never happen again.
It does ring true that she was possilbly very conservative, perhaps the whole familiy is (Philip, Harry in nazi uniform at a dress up party come to mind) but most are discreet about it.

I like it that in England such articles can be published, not many countries in the world have such freedom of press.
susan alicia, when you say "conservative" do you mean sympathetic to Nazism?

I can't see that that would be true of Philip, given his service in World War II (although there's always been talk about his schooling in 1930s Germany and his brothers-in-law). Harry, I would chalk that up more to ignorance and not thinking than a purposeful statement of his politics.

Of course, I don't know for sure.

I could see the Queen Mother being "conservative" in that she had a vested interest in keeping British government the same (and the monarchy stable) and it probably never crossed her mind that colonialism wasn't necessarily good for all the people in the "British" empire. After all, the African colonies and others like Burma and India kept giving her beautiful jewelry for her collection. They must have enjoyed giving "their" queen and empress such trinkets.
I was rather struck by some criticism of the Queen Mother about the fact that she had nieces, whom she never visited, stuck away in an asylum (and may still have one in a nursing home). Back "in the day" that wasn't uncommon, and family members were often advised to forget these disabled relatives (my grandmother and aunt worked with this group from the 1950s to the 1990s).

Even in America the Kennedys chose to forget Rosemary, until Eunice Kennedy Shriver began working with special children in Special Olympics.

So I don't find this criticism particularly valid, although there was additional talk about her claiming that this didn't run in the Bowes-Lyon family. Given that the nieces had 3 first cousins from their maternal family who were also institutionalized, the QM was probably correct (although it probably wasn't very kind of her to point this out).
no, I would never say that about anybody, I would say very conservative.
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So I guess you would use "conservative" to mean dedicated to keeping things the way they are, if not even going backwards. I understand that, and from the Queen Mother's perspective (perhaps even most royals) life was pretty nice when people knew their places and deferred to your every wish. (I think most of us would prefer that, if we were the ones being deferred to.)
Iowabelle is right on the mark. If you are the one being deferred to, it is good. For the rest it is nonsense.
A biographer worth his salt must put scholarship above sentiment. It is a thankless task I am sure. Of course if you want a Hello style biography then don't visit libraries or bookshops, your local newagent will have lots of glossy glitz on his shelves.
My copy came today. Given we've had a death 'in the family' tonight...yes there will be alcohol consumed....
does anyone know if it has been published in Italy? Or when it will be published?
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Bio

I just finished reading the 957 pages of the new bio on Queen Elizabeth, the Queen mother, it was interesting, especially for me during the war years, no real great surprises.
Has anyone else read it?:flowers:
A very interesting read recieved from a good friend for Christmas. It took me a month to read it through but totally rivetting. Thank God there were no needless "revelations" about Diana. We see enough gratuatous pictures of her still!
There were few revelations in the book at all. Did you see that Camilla's name appeared exactly once (as the spouse of APB).
You've already raised this point at post #30.
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Thank you for pointing that out to me Warren. I did not re read the thread.
I just finished reading the 957 pages of the new bio on Queen Elizabeth, the Queen mother, it was interesting, especially for me during the war years, no real great surprises.
Has anyone else read it?:flowers:

I have, and I think it is a very interesting book. The bit that I enjoyed the most was the period that covered her as Queen Consort.

If one was looking for the tawdry scandals of the 1990s, this was not really the place.
Frankly, she did not discuss the 'tawdry scandals' of the 1930's that brought her husband to the crown either. Or any major world events. I found this book to be primarily a travel book. As in 'and then Queen Elizabeth travelled to ABC country where the weather was pleasant and she met Lord XYZ wearing a lovely aqua dress'. Just my opinion.
I started reading few days ago. It is very interesting, full of informations ...it is written very well, but I read it slowly. I'm not english-native-speaker so 1000 pages is a big amount for me:-D but I'm happy that I could have bought it in shop there not via the internet.
The biography was very informative and covered her entire life in great detail, but it was saddly lacking in those touching and funny annecdotes one so often hears associated with that great lady. A good biography should bear some resemblance to the person it is about, both in tone and span of life. There is some of the charm but none of the sparkle that the Queen Mother had in life within this very official biography.
I was skimming through the book and I didn't find it that interesting or worthwhile. It seems for such a long book and a long life; that the book is quite boring and doesn't give any worthwhile information.
Wow, Xenia, I loved it - devoured it actually. I don't know her life well or at all, so I thought there was quite a bit of sparkle - and the biography kept to a path that allowed it to be acceptable to Royal family members (one can't expect a tell-all book to do that).

I thought it was highly interesting. I had no idea the Queen Mother had the role she did in nursing/helping WW1 wounded - or how her family got its reputation for running the kind of hospital/respite that they did.
It was kind of a bummer that WWI was annonced on her 14th birthday.Not exactly a fond memory when you look back.And it was also very sad when her brother died in the war.
I 've just finished reading the biography. I really enjoyed reading about her earlier years, but the chapters devoted to her life as the Queen Mother I found were rather bland - I lost the sense of the woman behind the State visits & many patronages. Like many have already commented in this thread, some of the major upheavals in more recent years are glossed over. I agree with pgm152:previous: it is a "very official biography"
I hate to say it, but William Shawcross' biography of Queen Elizabeth is absolutely one of the worst I've ever read in that genre. While he provides much information and plenty of detail of a trivial sort - one finishes the very long book with no sense of the person behind the public image.

For example, he spends much time chronicling the intricate and lengthy courtship of the then Duke of York and Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon and how she kept refusing his proposals - but he never tells you much about why she hesitated and even more annoyingly says nothing about what made her finally say yes!:bang:

I have seldom been this disappointed in any book and reading is my main indulgence. I am just glad I was able to get it at the library instead of purchasing the heavy volume.

If anyone here has read Hugo Vickers' biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, I would much appreciate an opinion about it. Having read many Vickers' works before, I find it hard to believe it is not more incisive than Shawcross' bland, boring and court circular-like account of one of the most fascinating women of the twentieth century but I'd love some "reviews" before I go to the trouble of ordering it as these books are not easy to purchase where I live! Thank you. :flowers:
I have never read the Shawcross book but in books that I have read regarding the BRF, they make no mention of an actual proposal just rumours of one.

I just finished reading the Shawcross book and believe me, Zonk - you're not missing anything; it's easily the worst biography I've ever read, not to mention the hardest on the hands with its weight.

By any chance did you read the Vickers' biography of QEQM? I don't want to go through the trouble of ordering it if it's as bland as Shawcross'.

Now back to the thread topic; I was wondering if anyone knows the story behind Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon's childhood nickname of Buffy?
I'm reading Ann Morrow book on The Queen Mother from the mid 80s. Just started the book and so far it is ok. The 2009 biography I can never get my hands on at a library because it is very popular.
You know I have never heard of anything about Elizabeth's siblings after she got married and then eventually became Queen.
I'm reading Ann Morrow book on The Queen Mother from the mid 80s. Just started the book and so far it is ok. The 2009 biography I can never get my hands on at a library because it is very popular.
You know I have never heard of anything about Elizabeth's siblings after she got married and then eventually became Queen.

In the 2009 Shawcross bio, you're not going to find much about her siblings after marriage, either. As I posted on another thread, it is the worst biography I have ever read. An endless recitation of facts but very little about the whys behind the facts. For example, he spends much time on the chronology of the courtship between Bertie and Elizabeth, but never really gets into why she refused him so many times and even more frustratingly - he doesn't give one single word of explanation as to what changed Elizabeth's mind and why she did finally say yes to Bertie's proposal.

I knew very, very little more about QEQM after all of those pages that I didn't know before. As a matter of fact, I think the Morrow book is a better biography, especially when one considers the sources available to Shawcross in the Royal Archives and that he was not given a single restriction as to what he could write.:bang:

If you do read it, I'd be curious to hear your opinion of this book. I don't believe it is just my impression as on Amazon.com the reviews had many of the same complaints that I do - and I didn't read the reviews until after I read the book and formed my opinion. I'm trying to find someone who has read the Vickers book, also published after QEQM's death. It is rather hard to find here, though!
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