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Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
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BRITISH MONARCHY/ROYAL HOUSES > 8. ELIZABETH THE QUEEN ~ February 27 - March 4 ~ ~ CHAPTERS 15-16 (333-375) ~ No Spoilers Please

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message 1: by Jill (last edited Feb 24, 2012 09:07AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Hello Everyone,

For the week of February 27-March 4, we are reading the next two chapters of Elizabeth the Queen

The eighth week's reading assignment is:

Week Eight - February 27 - March 4 - pg 333-375:

FIFTEEN - Family Fractures - 333

SIXTEEN - Annus Horribilis - 355

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

This book was kicked off on January 10th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle. This weekly thread will be opened up on February 27th or sometime during the weekend before.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Jill will be leading this discussion. But since this is Jill's first time moderating a book; Bentley will be co-moderating this selection.




Elizabeth The Queen The Life Of A Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith Sally Bedell Smith Sally Bedell Smith



It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.


If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however.

If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:


Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.


There is a Bibliography where books cited in the text are posted with proper citations and reviews. We also post the books that the author used in her research or in her notes. Please also feel free to add to the Bibliography thread any related books, etc with proper citations. No self promotion, please.

Q&A with Sally

Please as you are reading post questions to the author's Q&A thread because Sally Bedell Smith will be looking in periodically and will be posting answers to your questions and will be available for a chat. She will be dropping in every now and then when she has time between stops on her book tour. We are very fortunate that she is making time to spend with us.

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Chapter Overviews and Summaries

Chapter 15 (Family Fractures)

The Queen gets some bad publicity which causes a bit of a dust-up with her PM, Lady Thatcher. The Queen and Prince Phillip make a trip to China, the first by any monarch to the Chinese mainland. Phillip manages to offend with another one of his gaffes and the British press makes much of it. The artistic talents of Prince Phillip are revealed and his influence on some of the Queen's decisions. The expenses and administration of Buckingham Palace are modified. Some of the Queen's children embarrass themselves and the monarchy in a television appearance. The marriages of Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne fall apart. The Queen strikes up a fast friendship with American cowboy, Monty Roberts and after utilizing his methods with her own horses, encourages him to write his autobiography.....he became the Horse Whisperer. Apartheid is abolished in South Africa and Nelson Mandela is freed from prison. Lady Thatcher resigns as PM and John Major takes over.

Chapter 16 (Annus Horribilis)

The Queen and Prince Phillip visit the United States and establish an easy camaraderie with President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara. Family troubles escalate as Charles goes back to Camilla and Fergie misbehaves publicly. The Queen marks her 40th year on the throne. Diana betrays the family and support moves to Charles. The couple separates and the Queen calls this year her "Annus Horribilis".

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Please feel free to post your comments and thoughts related to Chapter 15 (Family Fractures) and Chapter 16 (Annus Horribilis). This is a non-spoiler thread.

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) The Queen gets some bad press when some comments she makes (and later denies) about her PM, Lady Margaret Thatcher are less than complimentary. The Queen:
...purportedly took issue with her prime minister's opposition the the Commonwealth's advocacy of economic sanctions agains South Africa to bring an end to apartheid, her tough tactics to break the miners' union during a long and violent strike....(pg.333). With the Queen's concern about South Africa leaving the Commonwealth due to sanctions, it appears that the reports were false......or were they?

Barbara (barbaraannewaite) CHAPTER 15-Family Fractures - Fitting title to this chapter.
This chapter felt like it was more soap opera than I want to watch. The author did a great job of trying to describe what was going on in the royal family during this turbulent time. Describing Phillip she wrote: “He has..ability to pull an idea to bits, find the good parts and parts that need work.” It just seems too bad he could not help his adult children with this ability. I was disappointed to read that “Elizabeth II found escape from her family travails in her equine pursuits.” I do not want to be judgmental of the Queen, but I can’t help but wonder if she had paid as much attention to her children as her horses perhaps some of this could have been avoided?
Chapter 16 - I appreciated the minute detail that describes the Queen “jammed” 18 engagements into a 3 day trip to the USA. Wow, I can almost understand how she would be too exhausted to attempt to help her adult children.
I do like the way this chapter enlarged my understanding of Phillip’s role of writing a 2 page letter to Diana, “…the first of five thoughtful letters he wrote from June through September.” It was too late, but at least it sounded like he was attempting to assist them as much as he could.

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) The author was very supportive of the manner in which the Royal Family handled the Diana situation...and yes, it was much like a public soap opera. At the time, the public did not know that Diana had very fragile mental health and the Queen and her family were blamed for being insensitive.....and they may have been to a point. But what were they to do?

Karolyn | 67 comments Some of the first stories I recall reading about the Royal Family were the dramas with Diana and Fergie. It's really sad to watch such tragic, personal situations play out so publicly. I agree the author handled the topic with a slant of support to the family, but also tactfully.

In hindsight I'm sure the Queen could have been more proactive in Chales and Diana's life, but that wasn't her style or personality. It seems that Phillip was more involved than the media gave him credit for at the time. And, Diana did her part to alienate the Royal Family... Although the public didn't know it at the time. I only wish Diana might have gotten the help she needed, who knows how history may have been diffrent.

message 8: by Jill (last edited Feb 27, 2012 08:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Yes, it is sad that Diana couldn't have gotten the help she needed. She was so lovely, gracious, and loved by the British people who weren't aware that she was having difficulties. But there are some pictures of she and Charles toward the end of their marriage which really illustrate the rift that had arisen. I have posted one in the Glossary thread.
I wonder if her children were aware of her mental issues?

message 9: by Bryan (last edited Feb 28, 2012 06:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig We learn from our author that the Queen does not like conflict, so maybe it wasn't her style to intervene.

I wonder if Diana's brother told his nephews about her struggles; I would think he would be one to share those stories, not from Charles.

message 10: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I'm not sure that Diana's brother realized or wanted to face the depth of her problems and I get the impression that he blamed Charles for the entire situation. The author does not say much about Earl Spencer at this point in the book. He would certainly be someone that should have been speaking to his nephews but I wonder if he did. A very sensitive situation.

message 11: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I'm not sure how I feel about Prince Phillip......he appears at times to be insensitive and almost crass and then he I read that he has written several books, was a conservationist and an artistic jewelry designer. What are your thoughts?

message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
I guess I am torn too. He has been loyal but there is always an undercurrent.

message 13: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) South African Premier Frederic de Klerk stuns the world by freeing Nelson Mandela from prison where he served 27 years for resisting apartheid policies. The Premier also set in motion the dismantling of apartheid.
"Mandela believed that the Commonwealth's anti-apartheid stance had been vital as was the Queen's role in keeping the organization (the African National Congress) unified......In the area of moral leadership, Mandela would say the the Commonwealth saved South Africa." pg. 351

I feel that this particular human and civil rights victory was never recognized as resultant from the hard work of the Queen and her government. Was it heartfelt or just the right move to keep South Africa in the Commonwealth? Or a little bit of both?

Bryan Craig Jill wrote: "I'm not sure how I feel about Prince Phillip......he appears at times to be insensitive and almost crass and then he I read that he has written several books, was a conservationist and an artistic ..."

I go back and forth. He says insensitive things on the one hand, but writes a lovely letter to Diana on the other.

message 15: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) He is famous for his public gaffes. See post #93 in the Glossary for a link to some of the classics.
His position has got to be extremely frustrating......somewhat like the Vice-President, only worse!!!

Bryan Craig Yeah, the author suggests these remarks are part of his coping mechanism. Some of it could also be generational.

message 17: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Princess Diana cooperates on the explosive book; Diana: Her True Story although she initially denies that she was involved. Although the book is filled with vivid details about her severe emotional problem, it is her depiction of Prince Charles that causes the most distress.

.....far more dangerous was its indictment of Charles as a cold and unfaithful husband (with chapter and verse about his affair with Camilla) and an uncaring father, and its depiction of the royal family as remote and strange Pg.364

Although there was fault on both sides of that marriage, I felt that the Princess was not thinking about the feeling of her two sons when she attacked their father in print. Do you agree and do you think it has affected the ongoing relationship of Charles and his sons?

Diana Her True Story in Her Own Words by Andrew Morton by Andrew Morton Andrew Morton

Cheryl (cheryl319) | 372 comments Reading this section was like walking down memory lane - I was in London on a college trip when Kuwait was invaded. Flying home the next day was scary: armed soldiers in Heathrow, and increased security at home. I recall the American press sympathizing with Diana through the entire mess - quite the opposite of the picture painted by the author. Seems she had everyone snowed . . .

message 19: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I think in hindsight, Cheryl, that indeed Diana had everyone snowed. She seemed like a breath of fresh air when she married Charles but she was already suffering from the fragility that would become public later in the marriage. It is a tragic story of what "might have been".

Cheryl (cheryl319) | 372 comments I wonder about the high divorce rate in the Royal Family, and what connection it has to the television age. The previous royals, and even the Queen and Prince Phillip at the outset, did not have to deal with the pressure of the constant scrutiny of the press. We all know the historical examples of kings and queens behaving badly - but they were able to hide more, not having the television and newspapers publicizing their exploits. I suppose the same is said about American politicians - how many of our founding fathers would have survived the scrutiny of the press today's politicians get?

message 21: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Constantly being in the public eye really takes its toll......add the tabloid press and television and you can't make a move without seeing it the next day in print or on the small screen. Diana courted the press and it played havoc with the Royal Family, although, frankly, a couple of the royal marriages were ill-fated from the start, don't you think?

Cheryl (cheryl319) | 372 comments Agreed, especially Charles and Diana's, as the author suggested in previous chapters. In either case, I couldn't imagine having to go through marital problems and a divorce in the public eye. It's stressful enough in and of itself without everyone watching and judging you. I'm more amazed at those royals who managed to NOT crack under that pressure.

message 23: by Karolyn (last edited Mar 04, 2012 04:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Karolyn | 67 comments It really seems that Charles' generation suffered the worst. They had to undergo the transition from Royals having some privacy to 24 hour news cycles and tabloids. I can't imagine what that would be like for anyone, let alone a couple struggling with their marriage and finally a difficult divorce.

It does seem that, so far at least, William and Harry are managing being in the public eye much better. It still has to be amazingly difficult, but they grew up with it and with all the technology that goes along with it. Maybe that makes it a little easier? They've had their moments, but they certainly seem to be handling themselves well. I think they probably have people around them giving good advice, which helps. And William and Kate certainly appear to be truly in love and are figuring out how to manage their very public lives with grace. Charles' generation could learn a thing or two from them.

message 24: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I think that William has a head on his shoulders and realizes that, as the future King, he is being carefully watched. Harry is a different story..... and I get a sneaking suspicion that the public will give him more leeway re: his public image. I think he has a little bit of his grandfather, Phillip's, outspoken personality.

Cheryl (cheryl319) | 372 comments Good points both. I think Karolyn has a good point, that William and Harry grew up with the press and scrutiny and technology, so they are better prepared to handle it and know what to expect.

message 26: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) They had to live through the media blitz when their mother was killed and learned from that experience. Although tragic, it probably prepared them for the unceasing scrutiny that they will have to endure.

Stacy William and Harry seem to be a little more private and are perhaps savvier about the press than the preceding generation. They have the advantage of knowing the press is going to take a contrarian approach - something that seemed to blindside the Queen and her children.

message 28: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) True, Stacy. I think in the past the press was more controlled than it is in the present day. For example, when the abdication crisis was in full swing, Lord Beaverbrook, the press magnate, muffled all mention of Mrs. Simpson and her relationship with Edward VIII and the British people had to learn what was going on from the American press. Times have certainly changed!

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