Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Queen: Diamond Jubilee books round-up

Philip Eade, Prince Philip’s biographer, selects the best new books celebrating the life of Elizabeth II at the peak of her popularity.

Princess Elizabeth in 1942, by Cecil Beaton
Princess Elizabeth in 1942, by Cecil Beaton Photo: Victoria and Albert museum

Her stock has soared since the dark days of September 1997, when, in the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, The Sun ran the headline “Where Is The Queen When The Country Needs Her?”. The Queen had remained at Balmoral, yet for The Sun this was far too remote from “the focal point of the nation’s grief”. To compound matters, she had not flown a flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace (according to tradition, this was not done, not even after the death of a sovereign).
In the end, what an aide called the Queen’s “ruthless common sense” prevailed, and she capitulated: a Union flag (as opposed to Royal Standard) was raised to half-mast and the entire family flew down to London.
At the Palace gates, the Queen and Prince Philip got out of the car to look at the flowers on the railings. After all that had been written, they expected to be jeered, but instead the crowd burst into spontaneous applause. A little girl stepped forward and handed the Queen a bunch of red roses. “Would you like me to place them for you?” the Queen asked. “No, Your Majesty,” replied the girl. “They are for you.” Shortly afterwards, the Queen delivered her address to the nation: “So what I say to you now, as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart…”
It was an extraordinary turning point, since when public feeling towards the Queen has grown more favourable by the year. In 2010, D J Taylor sensed “a torrent of approbation” of such force that it “colonised parts of the media that like to consider themselves immune to royal worship, or indeed to any treatment of the Royal family not served up in a light sauce of quasi-republican irony”.
Two years on, the mood is, if anything, even more pro-monarch, and this is reflected in the celebratory tone of the batch of books that have been published to mark the Diamond Jubilee. Almost all of the giants of the genre seem to have gone into print, including the late Ben Pimlott, whose outstanding biography, The Queen (Harper Press, £12.99, t £11.99), first published in 1996 to mark her 70th birthday, has been reissued with a new foreword by Peter Hennessy and an afterword by Pimlott’s wife, Jean Seaton, examining how and why the monarchy has become so popular again.
Full story at The Telegraph.

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