Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. New York

By Domínguez, Gricel | Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. New York


Domínguez, Gricel, Journal of Multidisciplinary Research


Book Details Bedell Smith, S. (2012). Elizabeth the Queen: The life of a modern monarch. New York: Random House, 688 pages, hardcover, ISBN 978-1-40006-789-3.

Synopsis

Opening with an anecdote on the day Elizabeth learned her uncle had abdicated, Bedell Smith begins her biography of Queen Elizabeth II with a look at the child who would one day become Queen. Learning that her uncle, Edward VIII, had officially abdicated the throne, leaving her father, George VI, in the role of reluctant monarch, ten-year-old Lilibet, as family knew her, becomes heiress presumptive and takes on the daunting task of preparing for a future as Queen. Shaking the long-held tenets of the monarch's role to serve God and country above all else, King Edward VIII's abdication challenged public opinion of the monarchy and its part as a continuous presence in British society. It also placed a new level of scrutiny on the royal family and its ability to uphold unity and tradition, scrutiny that would eventually focus on Elizabeth.

Despite being members of the royal family, Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret enjoyed a sense of freedom and ease during their early childhood. The changes to the line of succession resulting from Edward VIII's abdication placed new pressures on the Princess's upbringing. When young Margaret learned about her sister's new position as heiress presumptive, she astutely noted, "Does that mean you will have to be the next queen? ... Poor you," a precocious assessment of the demands that awaited her sibling (p. 21). The need for a wellrounded education became imperative once Elizabeth's future role was clear. No longer were grammar, reading, and composition enough, a much more rigorous education was necessary to prepare her for her part as Queen. Under the tutelage of professors and intellectuals from prestigious institutions, Elizabeth acquired knowledge on a wide range of subjects relevant to her new position.

It was this foundation that marked the beginning of the Queen's keen interest in current affairs and world news, an interest that Bedell Smith notes has been part of her daily routine since she ascended to the throne. Describing the Queen's relationship with the media and the delicate balance she maintains to avoid making statements that might be misconstrued, Bedell Smith brings to light the difficulties inherent in maintaining such a careful, neutral persona and the challenge of inspiring equal discretion among members of the royal family and household.

Touching on issues such as the failed marriages of the Queen's children, Princess Diana's death, and the impact of negative press coverage on the royal family's reaction to these events, Bedell Smith provides a sympathetic look at the Queen's actions and the changes that such negative press wrought on her public persona. Describing the 1990s as a time of great strife and negative public opinion concerning the royal family, Bedell Smith also notes this period led to a reealuation of the monarchy's place in British society, resulting in an effort to humanize the Queen and make her real to her people. With its details on the Queen's upbringing, social engagements, and love of horses and corgis, the biography serves a similar purpose.

Elizabeth the Queen presents the changing face of the monarchy as it evolves and adapts to modern society's demand for an approachable, visible monarch describing the journey that brought the monarchy from the days of radio broadcasts to adoption of YouTube, Twitter (@BritishMonarchy), and Facebook to publicize the royal family's work, charitable efforts, and appearances. …

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