Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography” as Want to Read:
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,558 Ratings  ·  197 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Feb 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Beth
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: royalty
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, royalty
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 -
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, this was a very engaging book. Though extremely long, as befits such a long and noteworthy life story as that of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the combination of personal anecdote, education about royal custom and the monarchy, and history makes this worth the read. There are some annoyances, such as the author's tendency to namecheck, usually in a detailed footnote, what seems like every single person with whom the Queen Mother ever came into contact (I didn't feel as though knowin ...more
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an official biography incorporating the letters and diaries of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. But it seems she didn't keep an extensive diary, and there's almost nothing of the scandals that plagued her grandchildren. At times, it reads like a recitation of her travel schedule.

Still, I enjoyed reading about her childhood at Glamis Castle and St. Paul's Walden Bury before WWI. It was a little bit like Downton Abbey, except Lady Elizabeth and her sisters all got along. And there could
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio
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
Shawn Thrasher
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If only this book had stopped at World War II. But then, the author warned us that Queen Elizabeth's decades in the 50's 60's 70's 80's 90's tended to blend one into the other. Indeed they did. I have to admit - I skimmed a whole bunch of do-goodery volunteerism and Commonwealth tours to get to Diana's funeral et al. The first part of this book was wonderful though. What a woman, thrust into the limelight completely against her will, and then bravely facing the dangers of World War II at her hus ...more
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
Leslie Goddard
A massive read that's somewhat, but not deeply, satisfying. The amount of detail is far too extensive for anyone but the most dedicated reader and key issues in her life are glossed over. What emerges is a fairly shallow portrait of a woman who was much more complex. That's the struggle I always have with official biographies -- I prefer my heroes to be fully dimension, complex individuals with flaws, but in these books they always emerge as flat, one-sided characters with few, if any flaws. Tha ...more
What a lifetime. I wonder if she ever got tired of being adored? It must be such a strange position to be in.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Prince Philip: The Turbulent Early Life of the Man Who Married Queen Elizabeth II
  • Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor
  • The Last Princess: The Devoted Life of Queen Victoria's Youngest Daughter
  • The Real Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II
  • Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece
  • Edward VII: The Last Victorian King
  • The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI, 1895-1952
  • Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage
  • The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II
  • Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England
  • An Uncommon Woman - The Empress Frederick: Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm
  • Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria
  • Her Majesty: The Court of Queen Elizabeth II
  • The Final Curtsey
  • Charlotte & Leopold: The True Story of The Original People's Princess
  • Majesty: Queen Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor
  • Dearest Vicky, Darling Fritz
  • Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III
William Shawcross is a widely renowned writer and broadcaster.
More about William Shawcross...

Nonfiction Deals

  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival
    $8.24 $1.99
  • A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
    $27.00 $2.99
  • Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
    $8.99 $1.99
  • A Room of One's Own
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Life in a Medieval City
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Too Close to Me: The Middle-Aged Consequences of Revealing A Child Called "It"
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
    $13.99 $2.99
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Heart of Christianity
    $9.74 $1.99
  • Hidden Figures
    $4.09 $1.99
  • Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
    $7.24 $1.99
  • Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Decoded
    $9.99 $1.99
  • K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
    $15.99 $2.99
  • Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness
    $10.49 $1.99
  • The Crosswicks Journals: A Circle of Quiet, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, The Irrational Season, and Two-Part Invention
    $29.99 $3.99
  • Come to the Edge
    $6.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Communicating
    $9.49 $2.99
  • American Jezebel
    $8.24 $1.99
“All I can say is, 'Damn the exam!” 21 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
More quotes…