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The Queen Mother: The Official Biography

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,865 ratings  ·  228 reviews
The official and definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: consort of King George VI, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of Prince Charles—and the most beloved British monarch of the twentieth century.

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon—the ninth of the Earl of Strathmore’s ten children—was born on August 4, 1900, and, certainly, no one could have
Hardcover, 1120 pages
Published October 27th 2009 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2009)
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Dec 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 01, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Caidyn (NO LONGER ACTIVE; he/him/his)
This review can also be found here!

The thing that stands out most to me is the small print about this being the official biography of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Shawcross states as much in the introduction that Queen Elizabeth II asked him to write this biography. Which means that this is pretty biased towards her.

It glosses over the nasty things. Such as Diana, the Queen Mother’s reported alcohol abuse (although reading up on it a bit, I don’t see it as abuse), and her intimate thoughts
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
May 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
I WON!!!!

Ahem. Anyway, parts of this were very good, parts of it were a slog. I hadn't realized that Princess Margaret played Princess Beatrice with the Queen Mum's papers, but that's pretty fucking unfortunate. STOP DESTROYING PRIMARY TEXTS, BRF.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 Loe
Oct 31, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
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
Feb 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommend this book for "Royal Fans". What a strong woman. Author Shawcross did an amazing job with this biggie. Do not be intimidated at the size of the book.

I did make some notes as I went along..

Interesting tidbits of how the Prince of Wales felt knowing he would become a king one day. Not sure he thought it would be this long though.

Edward did not appear to have the personality and strength to become King, abdication was an easy choice for him. Did you know Edward owned a ranch in Al
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Queen Mother was an amazing person! Wow! She was incredible.

When I picked up this book, I was hoping to also learn a little bit about British history in the 20th century. I was not disappointed. The book was primarily about the Queen Mother, obviously, but I also learned a lot about the changes in England, the monarchy, and about the economy (generally speaking.)

I really loved the part in the book about England during World War II. I knew that England was important in the war, suffered from
Sarah Beth
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was born in 1900 and was the ninth of the Earl of Strathmore's ten children. Although born to a well to do, aristocratic family, likely no one, including Elizabeth herself, would have guessed that she would die in 2002 as the Queen Mother of Queen Elizabeth II. After a very happy and carefree childhood amongst her close family, Elizabeth finally agreed to marry the Duke of York. After her initial hesitation, the two appeared to have had a loving and close m ...more
Angie Rhodes
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This has taken me months to finish, over a 1000 pages, but a great read, some reviews have said that she was a little full of herself as a child etc, personally I just think, she was comfortable in her own skin., liked to help people when and where she could. I enjoyed reading about her life, her family,,and what made her tick. Some people will hate it. others will love it. You don't have to be a Royalist to enjoy it.
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
Mark Hollingsworth
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Natalie Tyler
Sep 14, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Oct 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 22, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Sep 12, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
May 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I wanted to read more about the Queen Mother after seeing "The King's Speech." I didn't realize how long this biography was until it came in the mail...943 pages. There was a little TOO much detail for me. It wasn't just in the page numbers (I loved Walter Isaacson's 650 page biography on Steve Jobs)...there was just so many small details. Of course I wanted to know more about how she felt about Princess Diana...that was a blip in the book. Next I would like to read more about her daughter, Quee ...more
Isa Lavinia
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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: **
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Natalie Print
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well researched, interesting, and insightful biography of the Queen Mother. It took me a good few months to work through this biography, but it was worth it and I learnt a lot about the Queen Mother and royal family along the way. This is a positive portrayal of the Queen Mother, without ignoring her faults! Some chapters were more gripping than others, but I have a new found appreciation for how much the royal family do, and some of the challenges that they face.
Jun 10, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
It takes a lot of pages to tell the story of a life than spans more than a century. However, the contents of these pages may not be everything you're expecting. This book is precisely what it purports to be - a biography of the life and times of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Here are the things that this book is not, although you might wish it to be: a House of Windsor tell-all (Diana appears only briefly, Fergie is a non-character, and there aren't any juicy Wallis Simpson/Duchess of York p ...more
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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