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Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  18,876 Ratings  ·  810 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
Published January 10th 2012 by Random House Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
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Apr 14, 2012 Wanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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 it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 04, 2011 E rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Jun 18, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 19, 2013 Dianne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favorites, 2013
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
Jamie Collins
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
Sep 06, 2012 Gwen rated it liked it  ·  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, history graduate professors would
Dec 11, 2011 Aposprout rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Before I went into reading (well, listening) to this book, I was convinced that Queen Elizabeth's husband had died. I knew that she inherited from her father, that she married some man and had at four kids, and all that. But, I didn't know what happened to him. Was it like she was some queen bee? Did he die after giving her all he needed? Or, was it an arranged marriage and he was hella old so she got off free after all? Apparently he's still living and they're a very happy couple.

That gives you
Jan 27, 2015 Lynda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am an unashamed royalist and anglophile. I have read quite a few histories and biographies of twentieth century English history. If I had not done so much reading, I probably would have enjoyed this book more.

This is a superficial handling of the subject. It is a popular biography. It is also biased. I would not recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in anything other than entertainment.
Julia Reed
Feb 18, 2012 Julia Reed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Everyday eBook
Mar 01, 2012 Everyday eBook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2012 judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
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
Karis North
If you're looking for a balanced and even handed review of Elizabeth II's reign, this book isn't it. It was so blatantly pro-monarchy, and so blindly partisan towards the Queen that even I found it too much to bear. And how the author dealt with Diana (and all the royal brides, frankly) was awful. A large investment of time and not near enough return.
Mar 29, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 13, 2012 ☯Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2012 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 17, 2013 Simon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
I didn't know much about the Queen's life when I started this book, and I learned a lot! The author does definitely have a pro-monarchy and pro-Queen bias, though, and this is not the place to go for a balanced look at her life and choices. It almost becomes comical in the second half of the book how speedily our author rushes to counter any possible criticisms that might be made! Still, lots of entertaining anecdotes and a fun audiobook overall.
Apr 17, 2013 Dona rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It took me months to wade through this tome to Elizabeth the Second. The fact that I stuck with it and did finish it is monumental. The historic facts in this biography can’t be overlooked; my issues were with the fawning, sycophantical tone of the writer. Seriously, you would have thought she had been paid by the monarchy to write this book! No one is perfect and I’m sorry, I find it very hard to believe that Queen Elizabeth hasn’t made some missteps in her many years on the throne (i.e., handl ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Marty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well written and thoroughly researched book. I learned so much about her life, the devotion in which she gives to her many activities, and the fascinating accounts of the men and women who have been a part of her public and private life.

As others have commented, Bedell-Smith does have a conservative undercurrent in tone and attitude when writing about the Queen's relations with government figures. She lavishes praise on Thatcher, Major, Mulroney, and in particular the Reagan and Bush fam
Dec 09, 2013 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Found it overly fawning/biased, but an enjoyable read nonetheless. QEII is a fascinating personality.
Jun 28, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
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
Feb 04, 2012 Tamra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2012 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend reading this book only if you have an interest in really learning about the British monarchy. I enjoyed learning all about Queen Elizabeth II: the impact of war on her childhood, her early accession to the throne, her unusual mothering style and difficulties with her children, her "normal" life at Balmoral each fall, and her tremendous dedication to her country. I was happy to see her progress from a very stoic monarch to a very friendly, welcoming leader. At times I felt that ...more
Jan 11, 2014 Erin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
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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.” 8 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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