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There have been thousands of books written about the Queen. A few were hateful, some were banal, and most were just plain wrong. However, there are also gems among these works: biographies and histories, as well as novels that bring the singular – and silent – story to life.
Ben Pimlott – The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II
In writing the Queen’s life, Pimlott was not the obvious choice as an academic historian and Labour intellectual. We should be grateful he did. With access to many new parts of the royal archive and interviews with everyone from Princess Margaret to Hardy Amies, Pimlott offers a pin-sharp analysis not just of the woman but of the whole phenomenon of modern monarchy. He’s especially good on the Queen’s relations with her prime ministers. Clearly, she could detect nonsense at 50 paces.
Angela Kelly – The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe
Servant to the royal family should not become too close to them, and they should certainly not write books about them. But Kelly, who worked as the Queen’s dresser for nearly 30 years, is the exception. Kelly became a much-trusted personal assistant to the Queen, not only coordinating all those hats and coats in primary colours, but also designing outfits from scratch. Her achievement was to ensure that her employer was quite simply the most instantly recognisable person in the world.
Marion Crawford – The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny
In 1950, Crawford experienced the full chill that comes with being cast out of royal favour into utter darkness. She published an account of her life as governess to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret without the full permission of the royal family. Crawfie’s book may seem slightly coy to us today, but it does contain gossip about George VI and the Duchess of Windsor that horrified the Queen Mother, who had warned her that royal servants needed to be “utterly oyster”. Crawfie was drummed out of her grace and favour flat and never spoken to by any member of the royal family again.
Robert Hardman – Queen of the World
The Queen spent more time travelling the world than any other monarch, always navigating political minefields with a light touch. Hardman tells the story of this untold diplomatic career, splicing examples of the way HM deployed “soft power” with plenty of gossipy insider chat. She met some rotters along the way, like Ceausescu and Amin, as well as Mandela and JFK. And she charmed them all without giving anything away. Hardman is particularly good on the eccentric presents she received, from a pair of Brazilian jaguars to a baby crocodile in a biscuit tin.
Jane Stevenson – The Empress of Last Days
Would it be possible for the rightful heir to the British throne to be a young black scientist living in Barbados? This is the premise of Jane Stevenson’s exquisite novel, part historical narrative, part piercingly contemporary analysis of spin. Stevenson employs her prodigious historical knowledge to explore the way colonial legacies still impinged on the royal family at the beginning of the 21st century, and doubtless will continue to do so.
Source: The Guardian