cover image Elizabeth: A Biography of Britain's Queen

Elizabeth: A Biography of Britain's Queen

Sarah Bradford. Farrar Straus Giroux, $30 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-374-14749-5

Extracts from this biography caused a furor in the British press last month, with headlines screaming of the Duke of Edinburgh's alleged infidelities and Princess Margaret's suicide threats. Following at least three major biographies of England's Queen comes Sarah Bradford, Vicountess Bangor in private life, an aristocratic insider. She has already published biographies of George VI, Princess Grace of Monaco and Benjamin Disraeli, among others. On this occasion, claiming access to private papers (which the Palace denies she saw), Bradford has written a quiet, rather sensible biography that is neither antimonarchist nor an apology for the public problems of the Windsors. Despite the headlines, she is actually as interested in the intricacies of the royal finances (known quaintly as the Civil List and the Privy Purse) as she is in the sexual shenanigans of Princesses Margaret, Diana and the Duchess of York. Her portrait of the Queen is of a superb professional. She reports on Her Majesty's hard work, her understanding of political affairs, her attention to detail and her consideration of her staff. She also finds Elizabeth to be a woman of her times and her background, for whom confrontation and emotional display are foreign and whose attempts to preserve the monarchy have, on occasion, had unfortunate results. The great majority of this detailed biography is informative and balanced--a convincing portrait of a traditional and often anachronistic way of life, as well as of a reigning monarch. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)