cover image The Last Queen: Elizabeth II’s Seventy-Year Battle to Save the House of Windsor

The Last Queen: Elizabeth II’s Seventy-Year Battle to Save the House of Windsor

Clive Irving. Pegasus, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64313-614-1

Journalist Irving (Pox Britannica) delivers a clear-eyed portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. Covering Elizabeth’s life from her father King George VI’s 1937 coronation, when she was 11, to her grandson Prince Harry’s wedding in 2018, Irving portrays the queen as the daughter, wife, and matriarch of a “patently dysfunctional” royal family. He details scandals over the Duke of Windsor’s “flirtation with fascism” in the 1930s and the 1979 public unmasking of retired royal family art curator Anthony Blunt as a Soviet mole, a matter the Windsors had kept secret since his confession in 1964. Irving also examines Elizabeth’s relationships with her sister, Princess Margaret, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the “media feeding frenzy” that proved to be the undoing of her daughter-in-law, Princess Diana. According to Irving, Elizabeth chided journalists to “allow [Diana] to enjoy her private life,” but these words fell on deaf ears as “past customs... vanished overnight.” Diana’s death jolted Elizabeth, Irving writes, yet she “was never really able to concede the need for change.” He reserves his harshest judgment, however, for the monarchy itself: “an institution that seems to be unaware of its wanton profligacy.” Irving puts his mark on a familiar story with his confident assessments and insider perspective on the British press. Royal watchers will delight in this richly detailed appraisal of the world’s oldest reigning monarch. (Jan.)