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Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  24,624 ratings  ·  1,200 reviews
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Perfect for fans of The Crown, this magisterial biography of Queen Elizabeth II is a close-up view of the woman we’ve known only from a distance—and a captivating window into the last great monarchy.

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 glamou
Hardcover, 663 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Random House
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Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith is a 2012 Random House publication.

Well written, very interesting, and detailed accounting Queen Elizabeth’s life-

I will be completely honest – I’m not really a ‘royal watcher’. Before Diana married Price Charles and the media circus surrounding the wedding, I couldn’t have cared less about the royal family. I never gave Queen Elizabeth a second thought.

But, like many other American girls my age, Diana captured my teenage
The Hook - I rarely write a hook for non-fiction but in the case of Elizabeth The Queen I felt the urge to tell you how this title made my list.

I’ve never been a royal watcher or much of a royal fan, until I had my DNA tested. I went through my whole life thinking I was pretty much Italian. Imagine my shock when my test showed I was only 47% Italian with a smattering of other regions including 11% Great Britain. I realize 11% is not a great deal and though I knew there was a chance I had some Br
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hands down the most comprehensive, well-researched and interesting biography I have ever come across. As an Anglophile and a royal watcher fascinated by the history of the monarchy, I was keen to read this book especially after it was recommended to me by two friends I trust.

The portrait drawn here is of a mighty remarkable woman, one who was called to the throne early in life, but who assumed her role with dignity, grace and more pluck than most credit her with. More than anything else, this bi
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a marvelously entertaining biography about Queen Elizabeth II.

Sally Bedell Smith's book covers the queen's life from her childhood up to the wedding of Kate & William in 2011. I especially enjoyed the stories that were similar to scenes from the show "The Crown." After finishing the book I have more admiration for Elizabeth's dignified leadership and a better appreciation of the role that she plays.

Recommended for readers interested in learning more about the royal family.

Personal Note
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
This was a fantastic portrait of perhaps the most constant, consistent persona of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Especially now, as we follow the Queen into her nineties (and minimal signs of slowing down, as with her eighties), it's mind-boggling to think of all the people she has come in contact with and all the policies she's had a hand in advising.

I'd love to see an updated edition in a year or so to include William and Kate's kids and Harry & Meghan's wedding. Back to rewatching The Cr
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
This is a fascinating book about an extraordinary woman.

Princess Elizabeth has a fairly normal upbringing for a member of the Royal family, given that she was not raised to become Queen. But when her uncle, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne for Wallis Simpson, her father became King George VI and she became next in line for the throne. Upon her father’s untimely death in 1852, Elizabeth, at age 25 became Queen Elizabeth II. She took her duties very seriously, stating:
“I declare before you a
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)
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 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
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.
Description: 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 well do we really know the world’s most famous monarch? Drawing on numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, acclaimed biographer Sally Bedell Smith pulls back the curtain to show in intimate detail the public and private lives of Queen Elizabeth II, who has led her country and ...more
Lesa Parnham
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that is unapologetically PRO-Queen, or royalist, monarchist or as Dame Helen Mirren said "Queenist". This is also a fairly long book that is best read in small bits. The author does a great job of juxtaposing what is going on in England, the UK and the world with the details of Elizabeth II's reign.

We get to meet her Prime Ministers, her advisors, her friends. We learn about her hobbies; horses and horse racing, and horse breeding. Her family, her family dysfunction and more. If
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, favourites
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
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Pedestrian and anodyne biography of Elizabeth II. That's the problem with most biographies - you have to wait until the person is dead and can't be offended, and when the person is royalty you pretty much have to add another 100 years to that before getting anything like a clear, unpartisan perspective. Nevertheless, the 20th century is the one period of history I've formerly ignored, and I've got to have SOMETHING to tide me over till the advent of season 3 of everyone's favourite glitzy royal ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this because I love watching The Crown. There are actually a number of similarities between the show and the book (perhaps not surprising since it’s nonfiction afterall, but the perspectives on different events line up).

I think the most interesting part to me were the sections on Princess Diana, but for different reasons than I initially thought. Bedell Smith paints a less rosy picture of Diana than I think we typically see, but in retrospect I would say that it’s remarkably ob
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 hesit
Sep 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Karis North
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Cherise Wolas
Watching The Crown on Netflix compelled me to read more about Queen Elizabeth II. An informative and intriguing read.
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013-45-books
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
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
A sensational book that takes an in-depth look at the life of the British Monarch that has spanned 60 years. Smith uses extensive interviews, press clippings, and numerous background books to illustrate the multi-faceted nature of Elizabeth II's life and the numerous events that helped shape her life, both before she ascended to the throne and during her (ongoing) historic reign. While dealing with many subjects, the book is neither too shallow in its description, nor too weighed to give a prope ...more
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a well put together biography. I noticed some reviews said it was nothing that could not have been pieced together from the news media but I do not believe that. It is not the indepth tell all that some people have been known to write. But you do get a more personal look at the way the British Monarchy works, a solid overview of Queen Elizabeth II's life. There is barely anything on her childhood but that is because this is more about the Monarch than the woman. It really starts with lea ...more
Emi Cooper
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was fascinating! I really liked the inclusion of politics milestones as well as personal achievements and events. It was a fair look at not just the Queen, but a royal family that has had a checkered presence in British history. There were a few slow parts throughout all of the political ins an outs (I don’t have a great understanding of the constitutional monarchy- although better now!) but well worth the read!
Caitlin Hannah
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
2.5 stars, maybe? It’s really hard for me to pick a rating for this book. It’s clearly very well researched, and it covers an immense amount of territory in a long and storied life. A lot of the early part of the book is covered in the first two seasons of The Crown, and I think that was done in a much more entertaining way—this is more the book equivalent of watching a multi-part documentary. It’s more dry.

My problems with this book are that there’s clearly an agenda. Which is strange for a bio
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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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I am honored and thrilled that the Goodreads community has selected Elizabeth the Queen as your best book in the history and biography category for...
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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.” 9 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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