Paul Johnson

Buffy’s World

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography

By

Macmillan 1093pp £25 order from our bookshop

The Queen Mother’s life was one of the longest, happiest and most successful of her time. She was not only happy herself but had the gift of making those around her happy too. She has quite captivated her official biographer, William Shawcross. He obviously enjoyed tracing her footsteps, inspecting her many homes and, above all, reading the countless ebullient letters. He finds all the details absorbing and can’t bear to leave anything out. As a result his book is a heavyweight, topping out at 943 pages of text, plus a further 150 of notes and index. It has been criticised as being too heavy to hold and a strain on the binding. So what? It is full of fun and jokes – plenty of poetry too – and will provide nourishing material for future historians. It is fit to stand alongside the other successful biography of a royal woman, James Pope-Hennessy’s life of Queen Mary, and makes Wheeler-Bennett’s life of George VI seem awfully dull.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter