Queen and Country by William Shawcross - review by Alexander Waugh

Alexander Waugh

We Mean It, Ma’am

Queen and Country


BBC 240pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

It is only to be expected that the Queen, in her Golden Jubilee year, should enjoy the publication of a biography or two to commemorate her feat, especially since the music industry has decided more or less to ignore the whole event. There will be a couple of anti-Jubilee songs – one by Billy Bragg which goes 'Britain isn't cool you know it's really not that great', and an EMI reissue of a dated piece of establishment anarchy called 'God Save the Queen, her fascist regime' by the Sex Pistols – plus a gloriously invigorating version of 'Here's a health unto Her Majesty', artfully put together by myself and an ex Pistol rebel, Edward Tudor Pole. If these tributes from the recording industry seem a little meagre to the monarchist, at least the book trade is making up for it in spades. In the last two months, twelve full-length biographies of the Queen have been published, one book (by Gillian Clements) all about the Coronation, seven new books about the Queen especially written for children, two audio books, an interactive CD-ROM, and something describing itself as an 'Oral Biography', whatever that may be.

Into the middle of all this – or, shall we say, straight to the top of it – flies William Shawcross's handsomely illustrated portrait, Queen and Country, a spin-off from his much praised BBC documentary, which was apparently watched by 5.5 million people in May. If the viewing figures are

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