Dr Vaidehi Nathan
A Brief Life of the Queen by Robert Lacey, Duckworth Publishers, Pp 166(HB), £9.99.
Queen of England Elizabeth II is the longest reigning monarch. She has been witness to many epoch making events as crown princess and queen. There were geo-political changes that saw the declining influence of Britain. The incidents relating to her son and daughter-in-law, whose eventual death in car crash brought focus to the royal household that was embarrassing and a slur. But through it all, the Queen maintained a dignity that earned admiration from everyone.
Robert Lacey has been gathering material on the Queen for over thirty years. He has been writing extensively and has authored a comprehensive biography on her. The book under review is a short and handy biography A Brief Life of the Queen.
Elizabeth, when she was born, was not expected to be queen. She was third in line of succession, with an uncle who was young enough to marry and have children. But he abdicated after his proposed marriage to a divorcee socialist. Elizabeth’s father became king and since he did not have a male heir, she was the crown princess. On his death in 1952 she became queen. Hers was the first coronation to be telecast live.
In a racy manner Robert Lacey describes the events after Diana’s death. There was overwhelming public sympathy for her. The Queen did not appear in public and was not ‘seen’ mourning. The tabloids raised the issue. “In just forty-five minutes Elizabeth II had backtracked, adapted and totally reinvented her role in Diana’s ending, moving herself from the margin to the very centre of the drama. Now redemption hinged on her ability to accomplish what she liked least and did worst — expressing her feelings and speaking on television.”
Despite decades of being the head of the state, the Queen continues to be an enigma. Robert Lacey has interviewed and interacted with several people close to her to draw a portrait of her that reveals her greatest personal loves and trials and her warmth. Presented in story-telling smoothness, the book is engrossing, even if you are not a monarchist. The narrative is supported by forty illustrations.
(Duckworth Publishers, 90-93 Cowcross St London, EC1M 6BF)