Wed 30 Nov 2011
I have mentioned before that I have been enjoying biographies of historical figures whose lives spanned the majority of the 20th century. There is no better fit for this mini-genre than the life of Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, better known as the Queen Mother and consort of King George VI. Indeed, the Queen Mum was born in 1900 and died in 2002.
The amazing life of this woman is related in the wonderful biography, The Queen Mother: The Official Biography by William Shawcross. The Queen Mother, mother of the current queen, and great grandmother of Prince William, has always been a character of great interest to me.
I enjoyed watching her over the years as a mentor to Princess Diana for a time, and reading about her role keeping the morale of the British public high during World War II. I fell in love with her all over again with her depiction (by Helena Bonham Carter in her Oscar nominated role) in last year’s film, “The King’s Speech.”
In The Queen Mother: The Official Biography, Mr. Shawcross does a great job of humanizing the woman who led an epic life and ended up, by a random twist of history, as a central figure on the world stage for most of the 20th century.
About The Queen Mother: The Official Biography: “The official and definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: consort of King George VI, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of Prince Charles—and the most beloved British monarch of the twentieth century. Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon—the ninth of the Earl of Strathmore’s ten children—was born on August 4, 1900, and, certainly, no one could have imagined that her long life would come to reflect a changing nation over the course of an entire century. Now, William Shawcross—given unrestricted access to the Queen Mother’s personal papers, letters, and diaries—gives us a portrait of unprecedented vividness and detail. Here is the girl who helped convalescing soldiers during the First World War . . . the young Duchess of York helping her reluctant husband assume the throne when his brother abdicated . . . the Queen refusing to take refuge from the bombing of London, risking her own life to instill courage and hope in others who were living through the Blitz . . . the dowager Queen—the last Edwardian, the charming survivor of a long-lost era—representing her nation at home and abroad . . . the matriarch of the Royal Family and “the nation’s best-loved grandmother.”
I will admit that I am an unabashed anglophile and royalist, so my admiration for this book and its subject may be a bit biased. However, no matter where you sit, Mr. Shawcross paints a portrait of a major historical figure of recent vintage and places her life into the record with well documented details and exhaustively researched information. Oh yeah, and it is interesting to say the least!