The Queen

The Queen

Over the Jubilee I realised how little I really knew about the Queen. The Guardian editorial that weekend spurred me into action when it suggested that the best in royal biography was The Queen by Ben Pimlott. Given the politics of its author I felt justified in indulging in what is not supposed to be a left-wing past-time – being somewhat fascinated by the royal family.

I learned a number of things I didn’t know before. Most intriguingly, the role of the Monarch in selecting new mid-term Tory leaders, which in the end led to the introduction of leadership elections in the 1970s (Labour had had leadership elections since the 1920s). Also that Cherie Blair’s supposed remark in the film The Queen that Labour Prime Ministers always go ga-ga for the Queen appeared to be true.

Reading this biography you learn more about politics, the role of the Monarchy and changes within the Commonwealth since the second world war than you do about the Queen as a person. Usually this is exactly the stuff I am really interested in, but I found myself feeling a bit cheated, as I thought I would learn more about her. I’m not sure whether that is because there is no more to know as she has succeeded in largely staying private, or because Ben Pimlott as author is more interested in those aspects than about her as a person. A bit of both I suspect. 

Its hasty update that barely touches on the public response to the latest royal wedding last year is understandable, given Ben Pimlott died in 2004 and the final chapter has since been written by his wife, but also slightly disappointing. However, if you want to know more about the 60 year reign of our Head of State, this is a good place to start.