Tue, Jan 10, 2012 - Page 16 News List

Book review: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of A Modern Monarch; The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

Two new biographies of the UK’s head of state span the gamut from slavering reverence to more cerebral inquiry

By Craig Seligman  /  Bloomberg

Marr gently lampoons such marmoreal figures as Winston Churchill and Dickie Mountbatten, but he can’t brush aside his awe of the queen.

Then again, neither can she. As Marr writes, “The Coronation was intended to awe and even to intimidate — and not only those watching, but also its subject.”

Only in a certain sense does she stand at the peak of the social pyramid: The modern monarchy is built on the paradox of “the ruler who is servant to her subjects.”

She has an amazing capacity to seem interested. I was once at a reception in Oxford she was attending, and I somehow managed to jockey myself into her path, allowing me to bore dinner parties with the story for years to come. During the five minutes or less that we exchanged banalities, although I was distracted by the diamonds in her hair, I was convinced, in spite of myself, that she was fascinated. I learned more in those five minutes about political skill and the graceful execution of duty than any book could teach me.”

Publication Notes

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of A Modern Monarch

By Sally Bedell Smith

Random House

663 pages

Hardcover: UK

The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

By Andrew Marr

349 pages

Henry Holt and Co

Hardcover: UK

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