Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
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Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  13,356 ratings  ·  686 reviews
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In this magisterial new biography, New York Times bestselling author Sally Bedell Smith brings to life one of the world’s most fascinating and enigmatic women: Queen Elizabeth II.

From the moment of her ascension to the throne in 1952 at the age of twenty-five, Queen Elizabeth II has been the object of unparalleled scrutiny. But through the fog of glamour and gossip, how w...more
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Random House (first published January 1st 2012)
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Wanda
A very detailed biography that gives one the feeling that the author cobbled together multiple People magazine articles. The treatment of the queen is sycophantic and the historical contextualization is superficial. Prince Charles comes off as a misguided but lovable dweeb; while Diana is villified. Even Camilla comes off as wonderful. I am not saying that Diana did not have problems and was not a manipulative person, but everyone comes off as well meaning in this book but her. The author's trea...more
MichelleCH
Just awful, if an author is going to propose a biography of a well known figure, at least have the courage to acknowledge a bias or predisposition to a certain viewpoint. This so-called biography is laughable. Yes she had access to "never before seen documents", but shouldn't we have heard some of this before? Somehow the author knows what Princess Diana's children and Tony Blair were thinking and their thoughts always paint Diana in the worst light possible. Really! Very National Enquirer-like....more
Lesa Parnham
Jan 26, 2012 Lesa Parnham rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Royal Watchers
Shelves: 2012-books-read
Parts were fascinating, parts were boring (one Prime Minister after another), I have read enough about the royal family to have doubts about how much of this is true. Quite possibly the author didn't want to make the queen angry. What happened to the c/c bracelet that Charles had for Camilla right before he was married to Diana? It is a proven fact that Charles carried on a relationship with Camilla throughout the marriage, Smith skipped over the part where while being interviewed on tv said he...more
Sarah
Books about royalty, British royalty in particular, are my secret passion. Victoria's Daughters, Tina Brown's biography of Diana....I hung on every word. Nothing better than good gossipy history. So I picked up the hefty 537 page autobiography of QE II with some excitement. I enjoyed reading it, but was frankly...a little boring.
The author interviewed many people with numerous anecdotes, all of which portrayed the Queen as smart, admirably devoted and loving at all times, but there was no analys...more
E
Elizabeth The Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
by Sally Bedell Smith is an in depth look at the life of, perhaps, the most well-known woman in the world. This is a biography of both a woman and a Queen who has reigned for sixty years. From the first page it becomes obvious that this a well-researched work filled with anecdotes that provide an opportunity to understand how she has managed to be a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and grandmother as well as a monarch.
The abdication of King E...more
Jamie
I received a free Advance Reader's Edition of this book. I found it a very readable biography, and quite absorbing, particularly in the first half.

I've read other books about George VI and Elizabeth II, so I already knew much of the information presented about the Queen's early life. A good bit of the material about the middle part of her life was new to me, and quite interesting. Some of the later stuff felt ripped from the headlines: Diana, Fergie, William & Kate, etc.

The author doesn't h...more
Phoebe
History, it is said, is just one damned thing after another. I've long felt that the best biographies provide the illusion that this is not the case. Instead, a skilled biographer will craft what can only be called a narrative from the series of events that make up the subject's life. They render this party a character--as thorny and fully-fledged as any great literary creation. I suspect readers of biographies do not read simply to learn the minutiae of a celebrity's life, but rather to view th...more
Aposprout
I really, REALLY enjoyed this book! I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy. I found myself unable to put it down. It was a very easy read and you come away with a real sense of who the Queen is. Not an easy feat, I'm sure. You see both her public and hints of her private persona, along with her strengths and weaknesses. There is a lot to admire about her.

Smith also does a great job writing for an American audience, who might not be as knowledgable about some of the inner workings of t...more
Julia Reed
I have a not so secret passion for monarchies, so when I read the excerpt of Elizabeth the Queen in Vanity Fair, I knew that it was time to indulge. Even less ardent monarchists than myself will find a lot to love in this well-researched, entertaining, and even somewhat loving chronicle of England's longest serving monarch. From her sheltered childhood and unexpectedly early ascent to the throne (when Elizabeth became The Queen she was literally in a treetop in Kenya), to the marriages and divor...more
Dixie Swanson
I found this book to be fairly similar to the previous biography. Elizabeth However, this is a most unusual woman. She deserves more than one biography! Incredibly wealthy, she's frugal. Trained for a rather boring job, she has done it without a misstep for going on sixty years. Once, when asked to define herself, she said she was a "working mother." Known among her friends as someone who has a quick wit and a ready laugh, she looks dour to the world. At eighty-five, she's still working full-tim...more
Gwen
Sep 06, 2012 Gwen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gwen by: browsing at the library
Shelves: biography-memoir
A highly readable account of Elizabeth II's life from birth to Golden Jubilee. As a reader not fully versed in British politics, the bits about the various prime ministers went over my head (I think I need to find "British Political History for Dummies" or something similar.), but what Smith was able to write about Elizabeth's personal life was fascinating.

From what I could ascertain (not doing any further research into Smith's background, philosophies, etc...my history graduate professors would...more
Hannah
Found it overly fawning/biased, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. QEII is a fascinating personality.
Susan
I admittedly knew very little about Queen Elizabeth II before I read this biography but what little I knew made me want to know more. This book has satisfied that want in a very entertaining and engaging way. This isn't one of those nasty tell-all biographies where readers doubt that truth of some of the revelations. Instead, it is a well-written and well-researched biography that shows the Queen in a mostly favorable light but is not afraid to gloss over any shortcomings. The photographs on the...more
Everyday eBook
Elizabeth the Queen, by New York Times bestselling author Sally Bedell Smith, is an exquisite biography that illuminates the life of the world’s most famous monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, Bedell Smith shows in intimate detail the public and private lives of this fascinating woman, who has led her country and Commonwealth through the wars and upheavals of the last sixty years with unparalleled composure, intelligence, and grace. He...more
Dianne
Queen Elizabeth II is someone I've admired all my life. She was crowned in the second year of my life, so she has been my Queen for 60 years. I can't imagine having any other monarch, though I probably will have to get used to a change if I survive another decade. It's a change I don't look forward to.

There have been many, many books and television shows about Queen Elizabeth, including the popular movie, which I loved, "The Queen", with Helen Mirren in 2006. They all have their own slant (there...more
Wendy
This book is an interesting biography of Queen Elizabeth. Because we have seen so little of her personality in public I found it fascinating to learn about what she is really like. I think the first half of the book is much stronger than the second half. Her childhood and early years as a monarch are well covered and the author appears to have good sources who were within the inner circle. It seems that the author didn't have equally good sources for the most recent years. A lot of the modern da...more
Carrie
This is a lengthy account of Queen Elizabeth's life to date but completely worth the effort to read it (book is 650 pages with about 550 pages of actual text and photos plus 100 pages of references and indexes). I thought I was moderately informed about the monarchy in England. I'm a bit of an Anglophile, I cried when I found out Diana died, and I wished I had studied abroad in Edinburgh to have befriended the future king. Reading this book showed me how little I understood about the role of the...more
judy
I found myself rolling my eyes when I opened this book and thinking "tell me something I don't know." I can't say the author told me a lot of things I didn't know but the context and flow were amazing. Although an official biography will be written when the Queen dies, I expect this is the one that non-academics will read. It is charming, well researched and moves right along through this amazing woman's 85 years. Probably there will be some anti-monarchists who will claim that Bedell Smith was...more
David
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith is a respectful, detailed portait of the life and accomplishments of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

I had a grandfather who was born in England and lots of New England ancestors who came from England, so I have always been interested in English history and the monarchy. I have been to England 4 times, toured Buckingham Palace twice, and visited Windsor Castle, Edinburgh Castle, The Tower of London, Frogmore and Clarence House...more
Tamra
Very informative and interesting, I was engrossed by this book, despite the author's obvious favoritism towards the Queen. Filled with facts and fascinating tidbits about world history events over the course of her reign, I also would have liked to learn a little more about the Queen's personal side, though I suppose that would be a difficult task given her notorious penchant for privacy. I was disappointed, though not surprised, to read of Elizabeth II's coolness and distantness when it came to...more
Margaret Sullivan
This book clearly had an agenda. In a good mood, I might call it a hagiography; when the snark is upon me, I would call it a whitewash. Now, I like the Queen, very much. I admit I never thought of her much until I saw the series "Monarchy" on PBS, which I enjoyed. I felt Her Majesty's sense of duty and that she works very hard. I feel like this book was trying to do the same thing, but in a misguided sort of way. The author was working hard to present the Queen as a champion of the "little peopl...more
☯Emily
May 13, 2012 ☯Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anglophiles
Shelves: biography, arc
I would actually give this book 3 1/2 stars. I received an Advance Reader's Edition before publication. Thanks to Random House for sending the book to me.

This history of Queen Elizabeth II is detailed; sometimes too detailed. I did not need to read for the 50th time that she greeted each guest with dignity at every function she attended. However, the book was easy to read and contained some interesting information. I was surprised at the lack of maternal skills Elizabeth had. She seemed to feel...more
Erin
This is my first biography regarding a royal, and I found it quite enlightening. While some parts were a bit boring (I found it a little dull reading so much about horses) I found the political and family drama really interesting.

I'm a little embarrassed to say I had no idea before this book that Queen Elizabeth II had more than one child. All I've ever heard about was Charles so when I read about her other three children I was a little shocked.

What I found most shocking was the way in which D...more
Sylvie
Good long summary of life events but nothing else than the Queen is perfect and keeps perfect neutrality. The author is obviously biased as there is no mention of any dissension. For example the Queen visit to Canada in 1964 is mentioned as absolutely perfect with adoring crowds and no mention is made of the booing and the people turning their back on her motorcade when she was visiting Quebec City, along with the protests against her visit. Naw, all was perfect in front of adoring crowds as per...more
Simon
I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. The Life of a Modern Monarch is incredibly boring, if you go by this book. Score another victory for Elizabeth Windsor. No one ever seems to get under her skin and reveal what makes her tick. There may be two reasons for this. The first is that she is really adept a concealing what is going on underneath, and the second is that there isn't a whole lot going on. She comes across as a moderately intelligent snob for most of her life (Smith can...more
Katherine Coble
This is a good overview of her amazing life. It hits all the expected story beats--Margaret, Diana, 9/11--and gives the reader a good idea of the ironically regimented life of the British sovereign.

Unlike many other royal biographies this doesn't choke the casual reader to death on a raft of peerage arcana. It's possible to get a feel for the institution without having to sort through dry lists of people with a hundred different names and archaic titles.

The author is an American Anglophile, an...more
Nicole
As a follower and lover of the British monarchy I thoroughly enjoyed this book but then again, who doesn't love a book about Queen Elizabeth II? She is an icon and embodies strength, loyalty and continuity. That being said the writing is a little tired and dull at times, not the stories but the writing. Without question the queen's actual words are the best part of this book. As they should be I guess. While I felt pretty knowledgeable bout her life beforehand I certainly realized how much I did...more
Methanie
Before I read this book, I didn't know much about the British monarchy. I could tell you the names of the members of the royal family, but mostly I was in it for the tiaras and gowns. I learned so much from this book - being the Queen is pretty much the crappiest job you'll ever inherit. Queen Elizabeth approaches her job tirelessly, and takes her job as a monarch seriously. While she is involved in government, she does an incredible job of keeping herself separate from politics. She is incredib...more
Marco Filippo
Somewhat disappointed... it seems to me Mrs. Bedell Smith is fishing for a knighthood... the book is certainly well researched and features many interesting anecdotes, but it depicts the Queen in a way that fails to provide an "earnest" picture of her. Bedell Smith's remarks on Diana border on outspoken distrust whereas whatever the Queen, or Prince Philip for that matter, does is "suitable", "elegant", and "perfectly aligned with a modern monarch".

All in all, a nice reading if balance is not an...more
Barbara Robarts
Interesting and full of information. The writing style was adequate but not gripping.

I have always been a little bit of a fan of the English and of Elizabeth. This increased my admiration, respect and understanding of her. It showed me a little of how being born a royal affects a person's life as a person. We sometimes for get that celebrities, royals, famous people are human beings. I have never been much of a fan of Charles, but now I understand, respect and like him more.

The monarchy is an...more
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Author of six biographies: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch (Random House 2102); For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years (Random House 2007); Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House (Random House 2004); Diana In Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess (Random House 2004); Reflected Glory: The Life of Pamela Churchill H...more
More about Sally Bedell Smith...
Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House Diana in Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years Reflected Glory: The Life of Pamela Churchill Harriman In All His Glory: The Life and Times of William S. Paley and the Birth of Modern Broadcasting

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“Thatcher once said that if she were a visitor from Mars required to create a constitutional system, "I would set up ... a hereditary monarchy, wonderfully trained, in duty and in leadership which understands example, which is always there, which is above politics, for which the whole nation has an affection and which is a symbol of patriotism.” 6 likes
“Like the princess, Philip didn't believe in public displays of affection, which made it easy to mask his feelings. But he revealed them privately in a touching letter to Queen Elizabeth in which he wondered if he deserved "all the good things which have happened to me," especially "to have fallen in love completely and unreservedly.” 3 likes
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