Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II, by Robert Hardman

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Review by Elaine Simpson-Long

There have been so many books written about ‘Her Maj’ and, I daresay, there will be more in the future, and striking the right note is always tricky. Royal biographies written back in my younger days were mere hagiographies and the impression given was that the subject was a perfect human being, a saint and we should grovel at their feet. On the other hand you can find some which are quite unpleasant and take delight in showing the feet of clay. One in particular comes to mind, a book written by Craig Brown about Princess Margaret which was a total hatchet job, totally and unnecessarily vicious, which gave away more of the character of the author than the Princess (read Max’s review of that here!).

Robert Hardman  has written an admirable book.  It is refreshingly lacking in hyperbole and he has a journalistic style which makes for easy reading.  He is the author of previous books on the Royal Family and has also been involved in producing TV documentaries, the most recent being Princess Anne at 70, which was shown in 2020.

The Royal Family has its problems and one of the most recent was ‘Megxit’ and the ensuing interviews and publicity emanating from the US. Hardman deals with this in a measured and non-sensationalistic way and it is clear that, as a trusted and fair reporter and writer, he has been given a great deal of cooperation by his sources.

I think most of us here in the UK are aware that the Queen is not going to be with us much longer and it will be difficult to imagine her not being there.  She has travelled farther than all her predecessors put together and lived longer than any of them. She has known more historic figures than anyone alive – from Churchill to Mandela, and de Gaulle. Fourteen British Prime Ministers have come and gone throughout her reign and though there has been the odd leak or comment regarding her thoughts on everyone, these meetings and thoughts remain secret. Having said that, there is an interesting section on the Queen and her relationship with Margaret Thatcher about which controversy has always swirled. It seems Her Majesty admired Mrs Thatcher and was ‘intrigued by her’….

She has been on the throne longer than Queen Victoria and for generations she has been an immovable figure – we just accept that she is around somewhere and I, for one, find it very reassuring to have a stable figure in society.  Having a King rather than a Queen is going to take some getting used to.

I do not think there is any need for me to go into great detail of the book’s content as it has all been in the public eye for so long, but it is worth reminding us all of the the non-stop, never ending daily duties the Queen carries out. Living in a palace and having all the comforts and wealth you could possibly need sounds wonderful, but it is not a life that I would find appealing. Always in the public eye, having to smile and be welcoming when your feet might be aching and you have a splitting headache, being constantly criticised and never ever being able to answer back, it would drive me mad.

One of my favourite moments of the Queen’s entire reign is when she took part in a James Bond sketch for the opening of the Olympics in 2012. When Daniel Craig as James Bond walked into the palace, I, and everyone else, was expecting a look alike and then when she turned round, smiled and said, “Good evening Mr Bond,” I let out a shriek along with millions of others. I remember Twitter crashed. No members of her family knew she was going to do this and, in fact, the piece of dialogue was her idea. I have the feeling Her Majesty thoroughly enjoyed herself.

I am an unashamed royalist and I admire the Queen enormously. Robert Hardman has done her proud in this excellent biography in this, her Platinum Jubilee Year.

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Elaine blogs at Random Jottings.

Robert Hardman, Queen of Our Times (Macmillan, 2022). 978-1529063417, 728pp., hardback.

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