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Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  1,173 ratings  ·  177 reviews
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes Lyon, the youngest daughter of the Earl of Strathmore, was born on 4 August 1900. It might reasonably have been expected that she would lead a life of ease and privilege but few could have imagined the profound effect she would have on Britain and its people. Her life spanned the whole of the twentieth century and this official biography t ...more
Hardcover, 1096 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by MacMillan (first published January 1st 2009)
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At 943 pages, this may be more than anyone who isn't a "royalty buff" may ever want to know about Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. I'm fairly exhausted after reading the book--primarily because the sucker is really, really heavy. I've been reading this book for what seems like weeks, 50 and 100 pages at a time, and still I'm left feeling unsatisfied. It's an official biography, which apparently means that the author is a total admirer of the Queen Mother and the current Queen so that scandals ...more
This book was fantastic! I usually reead a couple of books a day, but this one lasted almost three weeks. The author used hundreds of sources to flesh out, not only the person of the Queen Mother, but her husband, King George VI, his parents, their kids, his brother King Edward and the woman he abdicated his throne for, and many, many others, including Winston Churchill. The historical perspective it gave was priceless, stretching from the beginning of the twentieth century for a hundred years. ...more
Shannon Vincent Nelson
One of the best biographies I've read of an incredibly interesting life and an even more fascinating woman.

While not for the faint of heart at almost 1,000 pages, The Queen Mother portrays the interesting life and experiences of a common woman who ascends to the throne of England. The Queen Mother proves a fascinating character shaped by her childhood experiences, sense of duty, joy for life, and love of family. Her experiences alone make this book worthwhile, but by reading her correspondences
Oh, Lord...what can I say? The book is a total whitewash of Queen Elizabeth (the one that was married to George VI) and her life. Granted, she was a hard working Royal who was devoted to the British public. But she also drank hard, held grudges like a bulldog and ran up a multimillion debt at Coutt's, Britain's richest bank. She was one of the most interesting women of the 20th century and this book could have been a really interesting look at her. But instead it glosses over her weaknesses, jus ...more
Absolutely fascinating and surprisingly topical look into not only the Queen Mother's personal and private family life, but a simultaneous look into the history and politics of Great Britain during the Queen Mother's 100+ year life.
William Shawcross the biographer and historian, explains how the Queen Mother and members of her immediate family made important decisions and how they then lived with the outcomes of these decisions.
Topical book because what went on with Great Britain in the 193
Nancy L.
I didn't expect a seminal work from this official biography - I should probably give Hugo Vickers' 2002 work a whirl for that. But I did appreciate the liberal use of correspondence and other personal papers Shawcross was given access to.

The bio is riveting up through George VI's death and then went off a cliff into some rather numbing recitations, including her "welfare and warfare" patronages. I can't decide if her life did turn boring after her husband died or if Shawcross is just being enor
This amazing woman, who became queen only because she was married to the brother of Edward VII who abdicated the throne, was gracious and as well-loved as Princess Diana two generations later. Born in 1900 and buried in 2002 she experienced the entire 20th century including two world wars, drastic changes in the views of the people toward the monarchy, and personal pain as she outlived siblings and her husband. This is a wonderful story of what she and her world were like.
THe first half was really enjoyable, but after King George VI dies, the book becomes more a compilation of her patronage organizations and house party guests. The earlier part of the book gives insight into family relationships by quoting letters from various royals, especially Queen Mary, but as the book goes on the material is thinner. There is no discussion of her relationship with Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, or her grandchildren.
Natalie Tyler
What ho! as the Queen Mother was wont to begin her letters when she was a young woman. This biography sheds fascinating light on the Queen Mother as a child and as a young woman. Especially amusing were the quotations from the letters she wrote at the time---a bit racy and saucy and fill of puns, double entendres, and other lively palaver. After she married "Bertie" (the Duke of York and then King George VI) the book becomes much more decorous and starts to bog down.

I doubt that she lost her viv
Mark Hollingsworth
The author was given exclusive access to the archives of the Royal family to write this biography. As a result it is a warm and generous, yet balanced, perspective on the life of the Queen Mother. More importantly it is a unique perspective on the history of the 20th century, with the Queen Mother being born in 1900 and living for over 100 years.

You cannot but help feel a great deal of sympathy for her as you read this book. Growing up in the period of the First World War, when her house became
A phenomenal book!

Author, William Shawcross states in the Epilogue that fate dealt the Queen Mother an extraordinary hand and that this book attempted to show what she made of it.

She had an incredible life! I learned so much about the Queen Mother and her family from this book; I also gained a wealth of information about Great Britain and its history. For example, in 1772 the Royal Marriages Act was put into place after two of King George III's brothers secretly married commoners of whom the Kin
I have read biographies of English monarch before, except only those during the Middle Ages or Renaissance. And while not non-fiction, I have read about Queen Victoria, who until now, was the most modern British monarch I'd read about. The Queen Mother is interesting because she was born in 1900, what I consider history, but lived until 2002, what I, instead, consider modern times. Because of her long life, the book reads not only a a history of her life, but also of the 20th century itself.

It w
This was unbelievably difficult to get through. I have not ever read anything as detailed, meticulously researched and with as many footnotes. I have to say that I am very glad that I stayed the course and finished it. I thoroughly enjoyed the history of both World Wars and it brought to life all the stories I had been told during childhood. My impetus for reading this book was really seeing the current film "The King's Speech". The subject of George VI's stuttering problem is given very little ...more
None of my friends or relatives would likely read this biography. One review I read of it had the reader 'tired' from covering almost 1,000 pages of 101+ years of history, holding a 5 pound book along the way. I feel somewhat the same way having just finished it. Well written, though does get bogged down w/ reviews of QEQM's regiments, patronages, trips to Canada. During her widowhood, the 22 'private' trips to France w/ her entourage over 30 years were interesting in that her private secretary ...more
This book started out as a bang for me. The Queen Mum was way more fascinating then I anticipated or remembered about her. Towards the end the book starts to lose itself. Entire chapters (which are not short) were devoted to her charity work and travels. Although, on the surface this seems like a good thing to write about it, it knocks the entire book out of chronological order for a very dull side road---especially as they had been peppered through out the previous 600 pages. Interesting enough ...more
What an amazing book. I felt as if I lived her whole life as a friend and from day one, August 1900 until her death in March 2002. The author has writtien about the life of a very well loved woman without sugar coating or over dramatizing the Queen Mother's life. The author's insight and research was complete and non-biased and made for a very entertaining history of this most loved person. For questions on why she did or didn't do certain things was explained by way of learning the how and why ...more
Isa Lavinia
The Queen Mother On being pregnant with the future Queen Elizabeth II:

"'The sight of wine simply turns me up! Isn’t it extraordinary?’ she wrote to her husband in September. ‘It will be a tragedy if I never recover my drinking powers.’ She need not have worried."

Very tame, but then again it's an official biography. Still, The Queen Mother did write very entertaining letters.
This book took me over a year to finish but it was well worth it. While the Queen Mother's views were pretty conservative and she'll likely never be referred to as a feminist, she was an accomplished and compassionate woman, devoted to her duty as Queen consort and later as Queen Mother. She experienced incredible loss in her life and knew firsthand the consequences of war. Though never supposed to be Queen, she embraced the role and this book made it clear to see why she was loved by so many. T ...more
Kate Stout
This well researched and documented bio of the mother of the current Queen of England eventually starts to drag. Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, the subject of this book, was from a well known Scottish noble family. She grew up both in Scotland and England, in a family that was livelier and more relaxed than many of the Victorian and Edwardian noble families of the time.

During WWI, as a young teen, she helped her mother with a hospital for wounded soldiers, which helped her establish her sense of duty. Af
Being an "official" biography it's a little squeaky clean, but still plenty interesting, well-written and well-narrated.

** Please support your local independent bookstore when buying this book! Buying from hurts your local economy. If you don't know where to go, check here: **
Elizabeth Bowes Lyon lived a long life, but most importantly, she lived during fascinating historical times and knew all the people who shaped those times, including her own. She did not seek notariety, but when it was thrust upon her she rose to the occasion with such class and warmth that she was universally loved. She was the "people's Queen" long before Princess Diana ever considered being the "people's Princess." She saw her place as helping her husband be the best that he could be in all t ...more
Barbara Kling
Read in tandam with Shawcross' book of her letters, this book gave the Queen who saw Great Britain through its darkest days her due. Highly enjoyable
Tom Schulte
This was an educational, easy read covering the life of a royal family member who was somewhat vague and mysterious to me until seeing the Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in The King's Speech. Not only that episode of quiet leadership, this life story tells of her youg womanhood, meeting and marrying Prince Albert, role in WWI and WWII and her letters and eyewitnesses to the abdication of King Edward VIII, introduction of Lady Diana and her untimely death.
Since I couldn't give this book a 3.5, I went for a four-star rating. I adored the first seventy percent of this book. The author was a newspaper writer, and he did his homework researching and documenting.

Up until the time of George VI's death, the book contains many sections that read more like a social commentary on England and European politics than like a biography. I rate these sections of the book at five stars.

One of the major educational themes of the book is showing (in fastidious de
Chase Insteadman Mountbatten
"The organizer, as for her eightieth and ninetieth birthday celebrations, was Major Michael parker. In the mid-1990s Parker had had tea with the Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother. When the Princess said to her, 'we're all so looking forward to your hundredth birthday', Queen Elizabeth replied, 'Oh, you mustn't say that, it's unlucky. I mean I might be run over a big red bus.' Parker said he thought this was very unlikely, to which Queen Elizabeth replied, 'No, no, it's the principle of the ...more
Pity the poor writer of an official biography of a member of a powerful family. He must not offend anyone. And that means he won't offer any insights or interpretations. The outline of the Queen Mother's story is well-known and other, less hampered authors have been far more revealing. Ye gods, even the presence of numerous homosexuals among the household staff, reasonable given the low wages and high time commitments and the generally upscale ambience, is not admitted. On one page, relating the ...more
Alison Moore
Whoever said this book was very long and heavy was not exaggerating - it took me five weeks to read and I had to rest it on a cushion to read it. I found it a worthwhile read, and had no trouble persisting despite these challenges !t had the merits and drawbacks of an official biography; on the one hand Philip Shawcross had access to a huge amount of documentation so that the story was well backed up wit references, and I felt I was getting a fair picture of what she did. But at the same time he ...more
950 pages of text! You might ask yourself, is such length really necessary for a person who, however charming, was not really "a world historical figure"? 400 pages - maybe. 600 pages for an exceptionally full account that includes "longeuers". But 950 pages? You have to be a masochistic royalty-watcher (like me) to survive the complete book.

Alas, this book is well-padded with endless passages about royal tours - eleven to Canada alone. If I had to read about one more wreath-laying in Toronto I

Quite a tome and a little too meticulously detailed with not much real analysis of character or opinion. Shawcross seems happy for the evidence he presents to speak for itself. He does not address criticisms made of the Queen Mother directly. The QM was the last great Edwardian and clearly lived her life against those principles. The influence of a strong Christian faith in her approach to life was very interesting to see. Some issues, such her relationship with the Duke of Windsor during and a
4.5 stars, maybe. This book was a huge undertaking, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The second half of Queen Elizabeth's life was for me less exciting, since she had to take more of a backseat (though one can argue she didn't do this at all!) in her role as Queen Mother. I didn't sigh my way through the frequent Canada tours so much as other reviewers did, but I'll grant that this section was probably the least entertaining and interesting of the whole book.

I enjoyed reading about her early years -
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William Shawcross is a widely renowned writer and broadcaster.
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“All I can say is, 'Damn the exam!” 15 likes
“After she married the Duke of York, she immediately transformed his life, bringing him love, understanding, sympathy and support for which he had always craved. She inspired him, she calmed him and she enabled him for the first time in his life to believe in himself. Her sense of humor awoke his own, her natural gaiety lightened him. Their marriage was a rare union in which each complemented and enhanced the other.” 4 likes
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