Books: Lucky Elizabeth Avoided Isolating Sense of Destiny; THE QUEEN by Ben Pimlott (HarperCollins, Pounds 9.99)

By Alexander, Michael K. | The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), August 11, 1997 | Go to article overview

Books: Lucky Elizabeth Avoided Isolating Sense of Destiny; THE QUEEN by Ben Pimlott (HarperCollins, Pounds 9.99)


Alexander, Michael K., The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)


After years of writing biographies of Labour politicians of yesteryear, Ben Pimlott turned his attention in the mid-1990s to the life of The Queen.

This is not a fawning biopic but a thoroughgoing analysis of the person and the monarch in the modern age.

Along the way, it offers one of two observations which shatter some conventional myths.

The first important realisation is that the Queen was born in April, 1926 and lived most of her young life, not at Buckingham Palace but, initially, at 17 Bruton Street which was the London home of her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.

Here lies an important distinction between the Queen and the Prince of Wales for, as Pimlott puts it, she grew up "less afflicted during her earliest years by the isolating sense of an inescapable destiny than either her eldest uncle or her own eldest son".

In this surrounding, the Queen grew up in a "sensible environment with no special physical or dietary indulgence where she was allowed to play with just one toy at a time notwithstanding the fact that, when her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, visited Australia in May, 1927, they were showered with three tons of toys, for 'Betty.'

Similarly, when she visited Northern Ireland without her parents in 1946, there were scenes of near hysteria and, on her departure from Belfast on March 21, schoolchildren broke down the flag- bedecked stands and ran to the edge of the quay.

As her cruiser left the harbour, the whole crowd sang Will Ye No Come Back Again and Auld Lang Syne.

One of the most revealing passages reveals the pseudo-Machiavellian skills of Lord Mountbatten in his endeavours to promote the course of his nephew, Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sunderburg-Glucksburg, who, in 1947, took British nationality and appeared in the London Gazette, having adopted his mother's and his uncle's names, as Lieut Philip Mountbatten - itself the anglicised version of Battenberg.

Princess Elizabeth was a mere 17-year-old when Prince Philip made his first formal request to be considered as a suitor.

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Books: Lucky Elizabeth Avoided Isolating Sense of Destiny; THE QUEEN by Ben Pimlott (HarperCollins, Pounds 9.99)
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