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Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Jan 10 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First edition edition (Jan. 10 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067893
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 4.4 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #152,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“Fascinating….After 60 years on the throne, the monarch of Britain is better known for her poker face than for sly wit or easy charm. Yet in biographer Sally Bedell Smith's Elizabeth the Queen, Her Majesty sparkles with both. Via interviews with a legion of royal watchers, from horse trainers to lords and ladies, Smith teases out a woman both austere and animated, duty-bound yet undeniably authentic.”
“All the details are here for the reader to gather a comprehensive picture of a life so rarefied none of us could imagine it….[Smith] brings into focus the personal side of the ordinary-extraordinary balancing act that has been not only the queen’s trademark style but also the cause for continued appreciation.”
A respectful, engrossing, and perceptive portrayal.”
--Publishers Weekly

“She was so young, and the task was so enormous. Yet with grace and a determination to do her duty come what may—and so much has indeed come—Elizabeth II studiously made herself part of the fabric of global civilization in the most tumultuous of times. This is a terrific book about a fascinating figure.”
“A deeply researched, unvarnished, and therefore totally fascinating portrait of the transcendent icon of our age . . . Many authors have written about Elizabeth II, but none of them can match the literary style, wit, or insightful commentary of Sally Bedell Smith.”

“In an era plagued by flawed public figures, the world’s most famous woman has graced her realm impeccably for sixty years. She does so by being both mysterious and grounded. Sally Bedell Smith, through great reporting and insightful writing, provides a revealing look inside the palace to show how the Queen balances being both modern and traditional. Our celebrity-saturated world could learn a lot from her—and from this book.”
“This is a biography that avoids none of the difficult questions. Sally Bedell Smith asks them in a way no one else has dared.”

Elizabeth the Queen shows the woman as well as the monarch, and helps us to understand how Elizabeth has become a key figure in the history of our times.”

Elizabeth the Queen is an engaging, insightful, and altogether entertaining journey through the life and trials of the world’s most beloved monarch. By the end of Sally Bedell Smith’s winning book, I felt as if I had a new friend in Buckingham Palace.”

“A compelling, deeply human portrait of the remarkable Elizabeth II. This is a biography not to be missed.”

“Sally Bedell Smith’s Elizabeth the Queen is a remarkable and sympathetic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. At the same time, it provides a fascinating picture of the major modern enterprise that monarchy has become. It is a deft and very readable book.”

“Sally Bedell Smith's book on Queen Elizabeth II is an enterprising, well-researched and intelligent work on a difficult subject, and deserves to be widely read.”

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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MA Tisdall on March 3 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I appreciate the fact that the author lets the Queen be herself and doesn't try to over analyse everything, like so many other writers do. The pictures are wonderful, and the history is very interesting for those who were not there in those early years. Beautiful layout. A total pleasure to read! Would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in the Royal Family and especially Her Majesty.
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By Love my pets on April 24 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
There have been many books written about HM.this is without a doubt the best.Very well researched ,honest,historically informative and no nasty comments.The Queen has had many Prime Ministers and it is fascinating to read about them and the current problems that had to be dealt with.One learns about her informal moments and her laughter ringing out.Also the hard work and sacrifice .
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful By baj on Feb. 17 2012
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

I found this book to be excellent reading, very well written and extremely interesting.

However, for the type of book it is and the price I paid I was expecting much better "quality" than what i got. The page edges are all rough looking so it takes away from the look of the book and I would expect the value in later years wouldn't be as much either.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 251 reviews
169 of 184 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating and heart-warming Dec 21 2011
By P. B. Sharp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
As author Bedell-Smith points out in this comprehensive, balanced biography Elizabeth II is the only person in the world for whom all the world is a stage. She learned at a very early age to exhibit a public persona which is controlled but not phony. She is dignified and friendly but not a friend. The line is drawn and neither she nor her subjects can step over it.

We follow Elizabeth from her long-ago childhood to the present, learning an immense amount of interesting stuff, such as the fact Queen Mary, Elizabeth's grandmother, wore her tiara to dinner even when she and her husband, George V, dined alone. Queen Mary walked on her stage as a rigid, unbending poker, advising her granddaughter that smiling in public is vulgar, and although she inculcated in her granddaughter a sense of presence, Elizabeth put her own spin on her own image, a much warmer one.

Elizabeth's mother. the Queen Mum Elizabeth, who was a star in her own right, exuded a graciousness in public that endeared her to all . Elizabeth publically is shyer, less ebullient than her Mum, but comfortable in her unique role.Her father, George VI, was tossed on the throne by the abdication of Edward VIII, and he was horrified. He was a sensitive man but insecure, and suffered a pronounced stutter that made public speeches for him a nightmare. But he had courage, he persevered and brought Britain through the agonies of World War II.

The young Princess Elizabeth and her sister, Margaret Rose, lead idealized childhoods but duty was considered before all. The Princess had a role to play, and even though her ownchildhood friends had to bow and curtsy and call her "Ma'am," she was not arrogant. Compare her to her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, a massively selfish man who believed the world was there to serve him and he was a Nazi sympathizer, to boot. If Queen Mary tried to teach him that duty came first, the advice fell on deaf ears. However, when Elizabeth returned from Kenya and was dressed in black for her dead father, Queen Mary curtsied then whispered "Lilibet, those skirts are much too short for mourning!"

We can say that Elizabeth was prepared to be the future Queen from her early childhood on and that she grew more confidently and efficiently into the role as she aged. With hindsight, it could be said that as Head of the Church of England she should not have refused to allow her sister Margaret to marry Peter Townsend, a divorcee with two children unless she gsve up her royal title and all the perks. Margaret didn't relish becoming plain Mrs. Townsend, living in a cottage. Margaret was more or less propelled into an alternative disastrous marriage with Anthony Armstrong-Jones. However, Tony who was not divorced was awarded a peerage so Margaret remained a royal highness.

With hindsight, too, Elizabeth agonized over public remarks made many years later by her son Charles who felt abandoned and bullied into remaining at Cheam snd Gordonstoun Schools, where his father Philip had gone. Charles especially loathed Gordonstoun where he was picked on and harrassed and begged to leave, his unhappy letters home cutting no ice with his parents. I am sure Queen Elizabeth feels now she made mistakes in regard to Charles and her sister Margaret, too. And it's likely, if they could turn back the clock, that she would have allowed Margaret to marry Townsend and to pay more heed to Charles' unhappiness.

Prince Philip is treated with considerable sympathy by author Bedell-Smith. As she points out, Philip's situation is quite reminiscent to that of Albert, the Prince Consort to Queen Victoria. Publically both princes had to walk behind their wives but on the domestic front, in private, both Queens deferred to their husbands as head of the household. However, unlike Albert, in public at least, Philip often makes acerbic remarks, is often tactless and prefers calling a spade a spade.

During the early years of his marriage Philip was treated disrespectfully by palace servants who probably considered him a parvenu. There is nobody snobbier than a royal servant. Rumors have been circulating for years that Philip had many affairs when he was traveling alone around the Commonwealth. He's had to put up with a lot but he is supportive of the Queen and is rather like a rottweiler, a guardian protecting her interests. He has earned the respect of the British people but not their love. However, even if he is not able to keep his mouth shut when he should, he has established literally hundreds of charities and causes all of which he oversees. And he now is admired by his staff who are very loyal.

We follow closely in the Queen's wake as she sails through the years. There will be many storms -her sister Margaret's alcoholism, the IRA assassination of Dickie Mountbatten, the indiscretions of daughter-in-law Fergie and the biggest tsunami of all, Diana. The Queen has weathered the tragedies. She is simply THERE. She has become a symbol of strength and inspiration. She has seen happiness in the apparent contentment of Charles and his wife, Camilla. She has rejoiced at the marriage of William and Catherine Middleton. She knows that her kingdom will be in good hands. You'll root for her as you read this fine biography and you'll probably say to yourself when you finish it, as I did:"God save the Queen!"
142 of 166 people found the following review helpful
The authorized unauthorized biography... Jan. 7 2012
By Cynthia K. Robertson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I enjoy reading about Queen Elizabeth II and the British Royal Family, so I selected Sally Bedell Smith's Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. Although Smith claims that this is not an authorized biography, it didn't take long to realize that this is actually an authorized unauthorized biography. While I admire Queen Elizabeth II, she has shown some warts over the years. Yet, this book follows the strict party-line when writing about the queen and Smith downplays anything that could be critical.

Elizabeth the Queen provides just the shortest of backgrounds about Elizabeth's childhood. In fact, World War II has ended and Elizabeth turned 19 by page 23. Most of this book is dedicated to Elizabeth's time as queen, her marriage, her children, her mother and sister, her royal duties, her prime ministers, her travels, her estates, her horses and her dogs. There is much to admire about Elizabeth, who came to the throne as a young woman of 25. She always has a seriousness of purpose and devoted her life to her country and the Commonwealth. She has also adapted to change, although not something that Elizabeth found easy over the years. But red flags went up when I started to see all the friends, employees, and even cousins that were extensively quoted in Elizabeth the Queen. Smith even provides entries from Prince Charles' diaries. Such interviews would not be tolerated unless Elizabeth gave her approval for this biography. And because of this, this book is just a little too much of a white-wash.

Smith's harshest treatment is saved for Diana, Princess of Wales. The adjectives that she uses to describe Diana are anything but complimentary (unstable, conniving, secretive, manipulative, etc.) and speculates that she may have suffered from "borderline personality disorder." Of course, Smith claims that the Royal Family was in no way responsible for what happened to Diana and that they were never cold and uncaring. Yet while the Royal Family takes no responsibility for Diana's actions, they certainly made sure to not make the same mistakes when Prince William married Catherine Middleton recently. Also, Smith mentions the tears that were in Elizabeth's eyes when Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, was buried. Yet, she doesn't mention the hatred for Wallis that consumed the Queen Mum, and was thus transferred to Queen Elizabeth II. During the funeral service for the Duchess of Windsor, the name of the deceased was not once said aloud.

Published in time for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, I'm sure Elizabeth the Queen will be a best seller. But overall, I found this biography a disappointment.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing Look in Queen Elizabeth's Life Jan. 3 2012
By Busy Mom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This book is a lengthy read, so prepare yourself for some time to read it as it is intriguing, interesting and for me, personally, an eye-opener. I grew up in the Diana era, when she dominated the stage starting with her wedding to Prince Charles and I viewed Queen Elizabeth as this fuddly old monarch royal. After reading this book (of which I read an excerpt of in Vanity Fair and found it interesting enough to request this from the Amazon Vine newsletter), I find the Queen a much more interesting persona than what the news media would have you believe

This is a time-line biography starting from the time Elizabeth II was a little girl, but it really did not go into much detail of her earlier life since this is a portrayal of the queen itself and how she handled the transformation from being a young princess happily married to reigning a commonwealth of many countries. While the biography is not intimately personal as this is a book written with comments and conversations derived from people close to her, it is still interesting enough to read. It does give an insight to what the Queen might be thinking or doing while accomplishing her duties and this woman does take her duties seriously.

It is a bit of a harder read as it didn't always flow so smoothly in the narrative, and the details of how people are related to her as relatives, friends or friends of her children, can bog this reading down considerably. (After awhile, I found myself skimming the pages to get to something more interesting such as politics or events that were happening world-wide.) It is still an interesting read of a woman who continues to be an world-wide influence on today's events. I personally love reading historical books and this one is a good read, though not as well-written as I had hoped it to be. Still, it is an interesting read and definitely changed my perceptions of who this queen really is.

89 of 105 people found the following review helpful
If you think you know Her Majesty Dec 23 2011
By wogan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I have always been fascinated by history and especially the House of Windsor. I lived in England, I subscribed to `Majesty', I joined my English friends in lining the streets for walkabouts and ceremonies...so it is a surprise to me to find a book on any of the Windsors that can say something new. The book, of course, does not have any direct personal interviews with the Queen; what it has are the insights of those around her and the records of how her time is spent. We learn of time blocked out for silent reading when she was a girl and later, even though she makes no comment on what she reads, we do learn something about her tastes.

It is especially interesting to be able to feel we know the monarch, through statements she makes to those around her, that are reported in these pages and to the author's credit most of them accredit the person and under what circumstance they were made. Her sense of humor is portrayed frequently, for example, when she tells how she met one of her security guards...during a hunt where a pheasant flew out of a hedge, knocked her over and left blood on her clothing. The detective fearing she had been shot threw himself on top of her and began mouth to mouth. She simply states, "I consider we got to know each other rather well".

There are touching insights to others in the family. Queen Mary saying she wished that just once, she had gotten to climb over a fence and King George leading conga lines through Windsor Castle. The Queen's early life through WWII is dealt with in the first 22 pages. The book is mostly from the time of her marriage to the wedding of William and Catherine and the planning of her Diamond jubilee in 2012.
This is a more sympathetic and affectionate portrait of the Queen than most. There is little criticism of her actions. Her motives are described as pure and honest. Even the infamous photo of her shaking hands with Charles when he was 3, is left out and instead we are told she gave him a peck on the head. Motherly love must wait. Even Prince Philip is dealt with in a most sympathetic manner - describing him holding John Jr's hand at the dedication of the memorial to JFK at Runnymede.

There are some amazing details about the Queen in these pages. Her complete and thorough interest in her horses, even attending their breeding sessions. Her "annus horrendous" is examined as well as Charles and Camilla's affair, Diana's death and 9/11. Although there is almost nothing given at all of her opinion of British troops fighting alongside their American allies in the Middle East.

This is a 537 page biography that, especially if you have a fascination with England's royals, reads like a novel. No matter what you have already read this book will give you a clearer and more personal perspective on the Queen and her family.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Elizabeth the Queen Jan. 15 2012
By Gaby at Starting Fresh blog - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Sally Bedell Smith's Elizabeth the Queen comes just as Elizabeth II celebrates her 60th year on the throne. Some reviewers have described the book as an authorized unauthorized biography, likely because Bedell Smith writes with sympathy and admiration for the Queen's dedication and the sacrifices that the Queen has made and makes on a daily basis.

I hadn't read any of biographies of the royal family and have had a mild fascination with Princess Diana (like most of the world). I'd enjoyed the movie The Queen with Helen Mirren. I'd requested Elizabeth the Queen through the Amazon Vine program with a general curiosity of the second longest reigning monarch and was delightfully surprised to learn the details of her life as queen. The book begins with ten-year old Elizabeth and her sister discuss the abdication by King Edward VIII and their father's ascension to the throne. Elizabeth suddenly becomes next in line to the throne and she is prepared accordingly. Drastic changes are made to her education, training, and treatment - she, her family, and those around her take care to prepare her for her role. In contrast, her father Prince Albert ("Bertie") had not been raised as the heir and his sudden ascension when King Edward VIII abdicated to be with Wallace Simpson had not only created a constitutional crisis but had imposed an incredible burden for which he -- at least from Hollywood's depictions -- had not felt well prepared. But as Prince Albert took on the role of George VI, history (and again, the movies) reveal that he met unexpected and unparalleled challenges with great grace, dedication and success -- he steered England through World War II and the challenges afterward. The royal family made sure that Elizabeth was prepared, insofar as one can be, for her future role as monarch. "I have a feeling that in the end probably that training is the answer to a great many things. You can do a lot if you are properly trained, and I hope I have been." said the Queen on the eve of her 40th year. But as the book reveals, preparation is not so much intellectual education but also a deeper devotion to, understanding of, and commitment to the responsibilities, obligations, and limitations of her position as queen. Her role as constitutional monarch - and the restrictions that are imposed on her - and her larger role as diplomat, role model, and queen that brings together the Commonwealth nations and her subjects the world over.

I was fascinated by the conversations, anecdotes, and details that Sally Bedell Smith revealed. Having only known Queen Elizabeth as the older monarch, mother of the rather old Prince Charles and presumably an unsympathetic mother-in-law to the lively Princess Diana, it was lovely to read about her early years, of her own youth, glowing beauty, the personal and diplomatic triumphs of the young queen. Sally Bedell Smith gives us a fuller story of Queen Elizabeth II with careful research and meticulous details. We learn of her love affair and marriage to Prince Philip as well as the ways in which she has sought to give him greater importance. The relationship between Elizabeth II and Prince Philip is similar in some ways to that of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Prince Consort - except that Prince Albert was given a greater role in governmental affairs. However, Bedell Smith recounts the romance in much the same way: the fabulously wealthy heir presumptive is attracted to a handsome, well educated, young man of similarly royal birth. Prince Philip is a descendant of Queen Victoria and a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth which Prince Albert was first cousin to Queen Victoria. Both queens sought to give their husbands primacy in their family life and to give them a larger role and importance in public life. Sally Bedell Smith devotes considerable time on Prince Philip, his background, his interests, his adjustment to his role as Prince, his treatment of their children, his wisecracking ways that are supposedly done to provide comic relief and ease tension. Bedell Smith makes Prince Philip out to be a sympathetic character. I'll admit though that while she makes him a more sympathetic character, there are things that stick out in her description of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth that make one curious as to what other people would say about incidents and these royal personages. For instance, Bedell Smith writes "Always vigilant about his own weight, he helped his wife return to trim form by encouraging her to give up potatoes, wine and sweets."

Most of the anecdotes are enlightening and I came away with great respect and affection for Queen Elizabeth II. Her dedication to her work -- she dedicates hours each day to official correspondence and briefings, taking time out only on Easter and Christmas, her strict adherence to her role under the constitution, and the physical demands of her position are all revelations and evoke my greatest admiration. I very much enjoyed reading Elizabeth the Queen and highly recommend it for those with an interest in modern history. Queen Elizabeth II is much more than a royal figure, she is one of the most important leaders of the last century.