Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee

In case some of you hadn’t realized this year marks the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne. This anniversary has resulted in a whole new crop of books on the British Royal Family. Here are a few of my favourites:

by Sally Bedell Smith

I read this book a short while ago and thoroughly enjoyed it for a variety of reasons. To begin with, I am completely and utterly fascinated by the British Royal Family. One of my fondest memories was getting up at 3 a.m. along with my mother to watch the television coverage of the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and I haven’t missed a royal event since.

This new biography is extremely well researched and based on numerous interviews and never before revealed documents that make for a factual, behind the scenes look at one of the world’s most famous women. Q
ueen Elizabeth II’s passion for the British Commonwealth including the welfare of the people in those countries is foremost and helps clarify the historic role of the Commonwealth and its continuation today. I was also enthralled to discover her friendships, some closer than others, with a parade of British Prime Ministers that she has outlasted. From Winston Churchill to Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, they have come and gone but the Queen has remained as an example of stability and dedication. Now I have to admit there were times when I didn’t like Elizabeth much, particularly in her early years as a parent. However, she seemed to mellow over time and her love and dedication to her family, particularly the younger Royals, had won me over by the end of the book.

By her side all this time has been Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh. This newish title looks at his life before his marriage to then Princess Elizabeth, the heir presumptive. While his life since his marriage has been mostly spent in the public eye, the man who is the longest serving Royal Consort in Britain’s history is a man with a colourful and eventful past life.

by Philip Eade

In this book, the first to focus exclusively on his life before the coronation,biographer Philip Eade recounts the Prince's extraordinary upbringing in Greece, France, Nazi Germany and Britain, where he inhabited a notably colourful milieu yet was beset by continual turbulence and a succession of family tragedies. – HPL catalogue

Among Elizabeth II’s favourite young Royals are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate to us folks!) and Prince Harry. The Royal Wedding last April brought more biographies of the British Royals including these favourites of mine that looked at the young Royals.

by Christopher Andersen
The book takes a favourable look at the royal couple, their family backgrounds, the friendship they formed at St. Andrews University, and the long and sometimes rocky road to the Royal Wedding.

by Katie Nicholl

Nicholl does an extraordinary job of compiling and detailing accounts of the nonpublic lives of royal princes William and Harry of Great Britain, on whom the future and influence of the House of Windsor largely depend. Nicholl relies on a network of insider sources to lend further insight and draw a more complete picture of the brothers, bringing their story up-to-date. Get the scoop (or catch up) on William's and Harry's respective love lives as well as how they have been shaped by royal politics, their parents' divorce, and their mother's tragic death.

Now of course we need to remember that Princess Elizabeth would never have become Queen nor would her father have become King if not for the abdication of the throne by Edward VIII for the woman that the Royal Family often referred to as “that woman”. Now a new biography takes a look at the life of Wallis Simpson, later the Duchess of Windsor and her role in altering the ascension to the British Throne.

by Anne Sebba

The story has been told many times but never seems to get old. Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American, took up with King Edward VIII of England, and, in 1936, he abdicated to marry her, which he couldn't have done had he remained on the throne. Forever afterward, they drifted aimlessly as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The central question has been, as Sebba poses it, How could a middle-aged, not especially beautiful, rather masculine-looking woman have exerted such a powerful effect on a king that he gave up his throne in order to possess her? Wallis met and mesmerized the future king when h e was still Prince of Wales, and it was her assurance, poise and buoyancy that the Prince admired, as he could not see the underlying insecurity. The author makes it clear that Wallis never intended to become the queen, but once she embarked on her affair, she found it impossible to back out, and when the prince suddenly became king, marriage was not what she had planned. Sexual proclivities and domineering personality traits all factor into Sebba's picture of the Windsor relationship.—Booklist

For special programs marking the Diamond Jubilee check out All Things British at the Keshen Goodman Public Library.


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