Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II Her Life and Times by Sarah Bradford

Way back in 1996, Sarah Bradford published Elizabeth: A Biography of Her Majesty the Queen, which was a decent and competent work.   Fast forward to 2012 -- Elizabeth's  Diamond Jubilee - and Bradford publishes a new biography of Queen Elizabeth.

Except for the fact that  Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life and Times (Viking: L20:00) is neither new nor very good.  This 300 page effort offers nothing new about the Queen's life, nothing we didn't already know from her birth through marriage to motherhood and succession .. and of course, her relationship with the late Lady Diana Spencer.

By page seven, I knew there was going to be a problem.  Bradford was writing about Elizabeth's birth in 1926, the General Strike, and how "newspapers cooed over the birth of the King's first grandchild."    Turn to page 22, where Bradford again writes about the birth of Elizabeth and how the Duke and Duchess of York were happy to have a daughter.   The Duke wrote to his mother, Queen Mary, asking  "would you sooner  have another grandson?  Bradford refers to Princess Mary's son, George, who was born in 1923.)   Thus, if George was born in 1923 and Elizabeth was born in 1926,  George would be the first grandchild ... and he had a brother, Gerald, born in 1924, which gave George V and Mary two grandsons.

Move to page 26, where Bradford writes:  "Prince John, who had died of a final fit at Sandringham in 1917 -- perhaps on even on insider recollections of his great-uncle, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, who had been similarly affected."   Bradford was writing about George VI.   Prince John, who was mentally handicapped and suffered from epilepsy, died in 1919, not 1917.   Prince Leopold, a hemophiliac, bled to death, after falling at his villa in Cannes, France.

And then there is the reference to the late Duke of Saxe-Coburg being a relative of Prince Philip, and not being invited to Philip's  wedding.  Yes, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was educated at Eton, and was a committed Nazi, but he was not a close relative of the Duke of Edinburgh.   But he was the son of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, and by birth, a British prince.    Prince Philipp of Hesse is also tossed into the mix as a Nazi prince and, thus, missed out on an invitation to the wedding.   Philipp's brother, Christoph, was married to Philip's sister. Sophie.  Christoph was killed in a plane crash in 1944. 

(What do editors do these days?  It seems very little when such errors get past them  .. have you heard of fact checking ... yes, there are people who are royal experts who can read manuscripts for you .. and make sure the facts are accurate.)
There is nothing special about this book, which largely rehashes Bradford's first book.  Why bring out a book (to compete with other books) which has no real new information, brings up the same old stories over and over again,  and has no real merit as a worthwhile biography.

Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life in Our Times is a real disappointment.  Bradford has produced winners, especially her biographies of Princess Grace and Diana, Princess of Wales.  Her biography of George VI was a major achievement.  This biography achieves nothing. 

Sarah Bradford is said to be at work on a new biography of Queen Victoria.  Say it ain't so, please ... not Victoria ... unless you found a secret stash of Victoria's letters and diaries that were burned by Victoria's youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice, please find another royal to write about.  There are so many superb biographies on Victoria from Lady Longford's Queen Victoria: Born to Succeed to Cecil Woodham-Smith's first volume of what was to have been a two-volume biography.

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