There was more to the late Queen Elizabeth than met the eye; she was not just a monarch but also a mother, a grandmother, a mother-in-law, and above all, a person who wasn’t even supposed to become Queen in the first place. Author Robert Lacey’s The Queen – A Life in Brief takes the readers behind the life of Elizabeth of York who before ascending to the throne was an equivalent of the modern Princess Beatrice, but then became the Queen, with a twist of fate.
There is a reason why this book is the most appropriate read to know everything about the late Queen Elizabeth and her reign. It has been written in a way that it caters to all kinds of readers out there, those who know about the Queen and those who don’t. The acclaimed author not only talks to those who belong to the Queen’s inner circle but even quotes her private secretaries and prime ministers. He seems to have had a checklist while interviewing these folks because he doesn’t miss much, and that’s what makes this biography something not to be missed.
Interestingly, he divides the book into as many as six parts and deals with all things Elizabethan. The first one deals with her earlier years, the second revolves around the time when she learns the ropes about being a ruler, the third one features her years when she was gaining experience, followed by the fourth, fifth, and sixth ones where she asserts her powers, finds the dream girl for her eldest son and remains steadfast despite dodging controversies, respectively.
The book tackles everything from not being ready at the beginning of her career as a monarch to becoming a remarkable ruler, thus explaining her ‘life in brief.’ The author begins the book with Elizabeth’s carefree years, where she was even featured on the cover of Time magazine, not because of her lineage but for setting a major fashion trend at the age of three years. From there on, he combs through the abdication crisis that changed the direction of ‘Lilibet’s’ life, her early education, and the lessons her father taught her while she was growing up.
If you didn’t know that Queen Elizabeth’s least favourite British Prime Minister was a female one, how she dealt with an intruder who entered her room one fine morning in the early 1980s, that she was devastated when a fire broke out in the Windsor Castle in the 1990s, and what was the first thought that entered her mind when she heard about Lady Diana’s accident, you will have to read this book.
Her relationship with her late husband Prince Philip as well as many other members of the family and staff are mentioned in these pages, and although The Crown TV show might portray her as a sad monarch, she wasn’t anything but sad. The author claims that even though she as a sister wanted Princess Margaret to marry Peter Townsend, the Church forbade her to agree to the union, which damaged the relationship between the two daughters of King George VI.
According to Robert Lacey, before Lady Diana’s revelations about the monarchy, the Queen was on excellent terms with her and blamed his son Charles for the unhappiness in the marriage. She tried counselling both when their marriage was going towards disaster and wasn’t happy when the two spoke to the press about their ‘affairs’. The book also tackled some of the national issues that could have been handled well but weren’t, including the Aberfan Coal Mine Disaster in 1966 as well as granting her uncle and former King Edward’s request to grant her wife Wallis Simpson a ‘royal’ title. The Queen may have given her consent to bury the Duchess of Windsor on royal grounds too late, because by the time she agreed to it, her husband was gone, and she was buried beside her at the royal burial place in Windsor Greater Park.
The people of Great Britain as well as the Commonwealth might be sad at the passing of their Queen today, but that wasn’t the case on many occasions, a few of which are highlighted by the author. According to the book, there was a time when Great Britain was running out of money and the Queen and her family had to let go of many privileges, including selling a yacht that belonged to Prince Charles, which disturbed the ‘current’ King.
That, as well as the crisis that arose after it was learned that the renovation amount required to rebuild Windsor Castle might come out of the taxpayer’s pocket, or when the Queen refused to acknowledge the death of her former daughter-in-law, were the lowest point on the Queen’s otherwise impressive career as a monarch. It was her smart decision-making that saved the Crown on all occasions and helped her become popular again amongst her people.
Although The Queen – A Life in Brief covers the life and times of the Queen, the author misses a few landmark events that would have made the book more interesting. How the Queen reacted to the Great Smog of London that took place during the first year of her reign, why she didn’t reject the Prime Minister’s advice to not attend the Commonwealth meeting in 1971, and why wasn’t her private secretary sacked after leaking a story to the press are some of the questions that remain in the readers’ mind after they are through with this book.
However, it very carefully captures the distinctive flavour of passing eras, in which she guided more than a dozen prime ministers, who in turn kept her in the loop on how they were running the government. Some unseen pictures are there to make the readers visualize the kind of life Elizabeth II lived, while the book also explains that since there was no chance of her becoming the Queen when she was growing up, she had no ego and her feet never left the ground, making her a different and memorable ruler. -Ends