To most people alive today, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a diminutive figure in floating sweet-pea chiffon crowned by a face-framing hat, gloved hand waving from a Royal Ascot coach or accepting a birthday bouquet from some adoring member of the public.
What lay behind that sweet, impenetrable smile? Was it, as her biographer Hugo Vickers seems to suggest, emotions baser than the dedication to duty and discretion that had so marked her life?
Vickers is one who should know. Since he was an Eton schoolboy he has, he tells us, been fascinated by his subject. Indeed, the expectation in the literary world was always that the plum job of writing her official biography would fall to him. His knowledge of her life was