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Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
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BRITISH MONARCHY/ROYAL HOUSES > 9. ELIZABETH THE QUEEN ~ March 5 - 11 ~ ~ CHAPTERS 17-18 (377-440) ~ No Spoilers Please

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message 1: by Jill (last edited Feb 24, 2012 06:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Hello Everyone,

For the week of March 5th - March 11th, we are reading the next two chapters of Elizabeth the Queen

The ninth week's reading assignment is:

Week Nine - March 5th - March 11th - pg. 377-440

SEVENTEEN - Tragedy and Tradition - 377

EIGHTEEN - Love and Grief - 411

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 March 5th 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 by 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 Overviewa and Summaries

Chapter 17 (Tragedy and Tradition)

President and Mrs. Clinton visit the Queen on the eve of the D-Day 50th anniversary and they are much taken with her. The animosity between Charles and Diana is further exacerbated as both appear on television and discuss their relationship. The Queen makes a triumphant visit to South Africa which is returned by President Mandela to the great enthusiasm of the British people. Andrew and Fergie divorce which takes a back seat to the divorce of Charles and Diana. The royal yacht Britannia is retired. Diana and her current boyfriend Dodi Fayed are killed in a car wreck in Paris. The televised funeral is watched by millions of viewers around the world and the press attacks the Queen for lack of sympathy. Diana's brother, Charles, Earl Spencer takes a swipe at the Royal Family with his eulogy.

Chapter 18 (Love and Grief)
The Queen and Prince Phillip celebrate their golden wedding anniversary and rumors begin to circle that the Prince had a roving eye. The royal household takes steps to bring them closer to their subjects in response to the republicanism movement. Prince Edward marries a commoner in a low-key ceremony. The Queen and her PM Tony Blair have a tenuous relationship. The Queen loses several close friends and advisers to death and then is overwhelmed as her sister, Princess Margaret and her mother the Queen "Mum" die within six weeks of each other.

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Please feel free to post your comments and thoughts related to Chapter 17 (Tragedy and Tradition) and Chapter 18 (Love and Grief). This is a non-spoiler thread.

message 4: by Jill (last edited Mar 04, 2012 06:25PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) In 1989 the Queen began paying income tax. Do you think that this was a necessary step to strengthen the monarchy; i.e. putting the Queen on "equal footing" with the rest of the population?

Barbara (barbaraannewaite) Yes Jill I think for the Queen to be on "equal footing" by paying income tax was a very positive move.

Chapter 17 - I liked the statement on page 380 by BBC correspondent Wesley Kerr: “When she refers to herself as the Queen of Jamaica she says it with utter conviction.” I remember one day here in Antigua helping disperse the possessions of an elderly Jamaican woman I had befriended. She seemed to have several treasures that indicated her loyalty to the British monarchy. Among her “treasures” were a number of commemorative plates that were given to me. My favorite is a cracked plate from the silver jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary 1910-1935. I have stared at it often as I have written my thoughts on this book. I agree with Wesley Kerr’s statement that, “ In the Caribbean there is a closeness. “
Again I was cringing as I read that Robert Salisbury wrote that the Queen “…was nervous about the fact that the monarchy was not doing well in the public’s esteem.” I just can’t help but continue to ponder if the Queen had been able to balance her life with more attention given to her family if the family would have had less scandal.
On page 385 it refers to the Queen, her sister and her mother standing on the balcony looking across a sea of people and “…she wore the same stony-faced expression she used to suppress strong feelings.” Again I am struck by the thought that what a difference it could have made in her children’s lives if she had been better able to express strong feelings. Page 396 seems to again convey this stiff response to family. After Diana’s death the author wrote “Everyone …behaved as the royal family always does with stiff stoicism in the face of emotional pain.” This is sad, just too sad. I noticed the author wrote the Queen was “…criticized so often for putting duty over family.” That has been my conclusion over and over as I read this book. I have great admiration for what the Queen has done for her country but that certainly does not include the balance I think she missed in including her family as a priority.

Chapter 18
This chapter gave me the biggest laugh in the book. When we met our first British friends here in this formerly British island they attempted to introduce us to Marmite. I think there are few things I have ever found as disgusting as Marmite. Sorry my British friends. I loved and laughed over the author’s inclusion on page 419 of Robin Janvrin’s “the Marmite theory of the monarchy. “ A very clever observation and analogy.
I read with interest “Much as the Queen adored her mother, she had been slightly overshadowed by the Queen Mother’s merry and approachable presence, so beloved of the people.” Well said, too bad it was not a priority of the Queen to be merry and approachable.

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Barbara....I love your personal stories from Antigua where there was (or is) loyalty to the Queen. They add an inside look at the attitudes of the people to which the author was not privy.
The question of duty over family has arisen many times in this book, as you have noted, and it is a difficult one. As you look at the family interaction of past monarchs, the same parental distance between parent and child(ren) is consistent. It seems to be a learned response....duty first, family second. I think, however, that we may see a change in that attitude in the future...possibly when William ascends the throne, although I am only basing that supposition on his outgoing personality and approachability.

Barbara (barbaraannewaite) Thanks Jill- Approachability- wonderful word and how can we ever be called a parent if we are not approachable? Personally I think we all need parenting ceremonies much like wedding ceremonies where we promise to cuddle, encourage and be approachable always for our children. I suppose like the waiver for a passpors for the Queen any promises of mothering would also be waived.
When we first came to Antigua in 1974 the Queen's birthday was a national holiday. I think must have ended when Antigua became independent. The funny memory I have of the Queen's visit here was the painting of the post-office. We went to collect mail from our PO box the evening before the Queen was to pass by the post-office during her parade. There was a large crew painting the side of the building that she would observe. It was years later before the other side was re-painted.
Not a bad thing if a king could demonstrate to his people that families should be a priority.

Cheryl (cheryl319) | 372 comments I think the paying of income tax was important to the public perception. Many people seem to be ignorant of the funding for the civil lists, and that the royal estates produce their own income which goes to the government.

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I would agree, Cheryl. The royal finances have always been a rather gray area and the actual personal wealth may probably never be known.

Bryan Craig Jill, I liked your observation about Diana in last week's thread about how Diana could do no wrong as the public saw her. She seemed always to be the victim. But in the book, I am getting a different perception, like how she manipulated the press to trash Charles. She was great at working the press to her advantage and I really appreciate more than ever thanks to this book.

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

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) She was very adept at manipulating the press to her advantage, as evidenced by her appearance on Panorama where she made the statement referring to Camilla...there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded. (pg. 386). This television appearance, coupled with other bad press, moved the Queen to ask the couple to divorce. Good idea?.....I think so.

message 12: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) PM Tony Blair makes the decision to retire The Britannia, the beloved royal yacht because of the expense. But then constructs the Millennium Dome, a gigantic waste of government funds and an eyesore in London. Your thoughts?

Bryan Craig The Dome is much flashier, showy than some boat. I'm not sure the reason why he felt it was needed, but it can be seen as urban progress and renewal.

Cheryl (cheryl319) | 372 comments Maybe it goes back to an expense for the public vs. an expense for the private use of the Royal Family. I laughed when I read that the dome was not heated and everyone was shivering through midnight on New Year's Eve!

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

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) That may be the case, Cheryl.......good point.

The Britannia can be visited in Leith harbor in Scotland and is now a charitable trust. More information available at the site below:

message 16: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I did not know that Tony Blair, the PM was the one who chose the words "the people's Princess" is describing Diana. Was it an appropriate appellation? And was the press fair in castigating the Royal Family for remaining sequestered prior to the funeral in order to grieve privately? It was a public relations nightmare for the Royals.

Bryan Craig First of all, I thought the whole section on Diana's death was great. I really enjoyed seeing the Royal Family side of things; I just knew about the public reaction and the anger. I come out of this section with more respect for the Queen and trying to focus on her two grandchildren.

Blair is a pretty calculating guy, no dummy. I wonder if he underestimated the royals' reaction to the phrase. Maybe he was still learning about the Queen and her family and didn't really know they would react that way.

Karolyn | 67 comments I too had forgotten that Blair had coined the phrase "The People's Princess." I think it was a good tribute to Diana, but certainly uncomfortable forthe Monarchy. I still remember being at my parents home the night Diana died and the story breaking on TV. Complete shock and disbelief.

It's ironic that the Queen got so much criticism for trying to protect and care for her grandsons after Diana's death. After all, she is so criticized for not being motherly enough and putting duty first. And then she does what any grandmother would do and the press takes her to task for it. She really can't win, which is probably why I tend to give her the benefit of the doubt more often than not.

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

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) To be honest, I had always had the impression that she was a cold person but this book has given me an entirely different opinion. You are right, she couldn't win in the Diana situation no matter how she handled it. And this quote from the book regarding the funeral cortege also gave me a different look at Prince Phillip:

On Friday evening, Phillip-who as a seventy-six-year old former father-in-law had not been scheduled to walk - said to William "If you don't walk, you may regret it later. I think you should do it. If I walk, will you walk with me?" William and his brother unhesitatingly agreed pg. 406.

I have posted a picture of them walking in the Glossary, post #145

message 20: by Mandy (new)

Mandy I wonder how much influence Cherie Blair had on decisions made by Tony Blair in regard to all matters royal - she is well known as an anti monarchist.

Stacy It's ironic that the Queen got so much criticism for trying to protect and care for her grandsons after Diana's death. After all, she is so criticized for not being motherly enough and putting duty first. And then she does what any grandmother would do and the press takes her to task for it. She really can't win, which is probably why I tend to give her the benefit of the doubt more often than not.

The part where the Queen stepped out to commemorate Diana's death and showed a "trace of anxiety" tweaked my heart a bit. It seems she's a much more warm and accepting person than her public persona.

message 22: by Jill (last edited Mar 09, 2012 11:36AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Mandy wrote: "I wonder how much influence Cherie Blair had on decisions made by Tony Blair in regard to all matters royal - she is well known as an anti monarchist."

Good point, Mandy. She is indeed an anti-monarchist and probably had some influence on her husband.....but I think in the position of PM, Mr. Blair would have to step pretty carefully. Even in the time covered in these chapters, when public sentiment had turned against the Royals because of the Diana situation, any blatant anti-monarchist stand by the government would not have been well received.
I think that this is best illustrated when Blair spoke at a banquet honoring the Queen and Prince Phillip's Golden Wedding Anniversary.

It was on this occasion that Blair memorably hailed Elizabeth II as a "symbol of unity in a world of insecurity where nothing stays the same. You are our Queen. We respect and cherish you. You are simply, the Best of British" pgs.413-414.

message 23: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) The Queen Mum turns 100 and an outpouring of love from the British people showed, in the words of courtier Simon Lewis......
"If there was any question how people feel about the monarchy, there was a sense of joy that day. It was a tiny reminder that the institution had come through tough times and was in great shape" pg. 426.

What do you think was the defining reason that the Queen Mum was so venerated?

message 24: by Mandy (new)

Mandy I always remember reading that during the war years the royal family remained in London. That built a closer bond with the country.

message 25: by Jill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Indeed they did stay and often walked through the devastation of London during the Blitz to talk with the people. That had to endear the Royal Family to the citizens that their monarch shared their danger.

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

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Lucian Freud's portrait of the Queen was not very well received, to say the least. You make the decision.

Cheryl (cheryl319) | 372 comments It certainly shows her strength. I don't know much about art, but I'm guessing it's more of an impressionist piece where every other portrait was a traditional one. Here are two pictures of the Queen sitting for that portrait:

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Also, the National Portrait Gallery is having a exhibition: "The Queen: Art and Image at the National Portrait Gallery" from May to October for anyone who may be 'in town.'

One final note: I appreciated the comparison / contrast in these chapters to the movie The Queen - what happened vs. what didn't, and which characterizations were not accurate.

message 28: by Jill (last edited Mar 11, 2012 09:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Freud said it was a "portrait of experience". If you have seen some of his other works, they are pretty startling. And this portrait is so tiny!

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Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) The Queen loses her sister, Princess Margaret, and her beloved mother, the Queen Mother within a six week period. But the loss of her mother casts the Queen in a different role.......the nation's grandmother. Will this have an effect on her relationship with the public?

message 30: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bentley | 44328 comments Mod
I somehow do not think that the public primarily sees her in the grandmother role like her mother - at least I do not sense that. Queen takes precedence.

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