cover image The Queen: Her Life

The Queen: Her Life

Andrew Morton. Grand Central, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-1-5387-0043-3

Biographer Morton (Elizabeth & Margaret) reveals “the woman behind the mask” in this fluid if familiar biography of Queen Elizabeth II. He begins in 1936, when King Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson, elevating Elizabeth’s father to the throne and sending the 10-year-old princess to scratch out the name “Simpson” from her books. Also noted are the scandal caused by governess Marion “Crawfie” Crawford’s 1950 memoir about her time with the royal family, and Elizabeth’s reluctance to seriously consider other suitors after naval cadet Philip Mountbatten “caught the eye of the princess” aboard the royal yacht in 1939. Elizabeth’s heightened role during WWII “emphasized and endorsed her stoical, reserved character,” according to Morton, and led to sibling rivalry with her sister Margaret as she assumed more responsibilities. In a speech broadcast on her 21st birthday, Elizabeth vowed to the British public that she would devote her life “to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong”; less than five years later, she acceded to the throne after her father’s death. Morton also delves into the “existential crisis” caused by the simultaneous implosions of Prince Charles and Prince Andrew’s marriages, and recounts Prince Harry’s demands that his fiancée Meghan Markle receive a special tiara fitting before their 2018 wedding. Incisive character sketches and a touch of gossip make this admiring biography go down smooth. (Nov.)