Monday, June 18, 2018

The Quest for Queen Mary edited by Hugo Vickers



James Pope-Hennessy's Queen Mary, is arguably the gold standard for royal biographies.   The commission came from Sir Owen Moreshead. the Royal Librarian, on the recommendation of Lady Cynthia Colville, the late Queen's long-serving lady-in-waiting, some months after the death of King George V's consort in 1953.

It would not be an easy task for the experienced biographer to bring to fruition the  resplendent life of May of Teck.   Few Queen consorts have an official biographer.  But Queen Mary, daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a first cousin of Queen Victoria, and Duke Franz of Teck, a morganatic scion of the house of Württemberg, was certainly worthy of the attention.

Writing an official biography allows the biographer to have access to personal papers and to people involved in the subject's life.  Pope-Hennessy met and talked with people who knew Mary in her various stages of life - from Württemberg cousins to courtiers and her surviving children, including the Duke of Windsor.  This journey - to homes in the UK and abroad - became the quest to learn more about Queen Mary.   Pope-Hennessy embarked on a massive project, sifting through all of the conversations, all of the papers, to write what is a comprehensive, yet very open biography of Queen Mary.

Mary's personality was largely formed by her own interactions with her family and with travel and life experiences.   Pope-Hennessy was perfectly placed to write an insightful and in-depth profile of the formidable queen.

This was achieved through Pope-Hennessy's interviews and copious notes.   Not everything made the final version of the biography.  His notes and papers for the biography were not allowed to be published for 50 years. 

The interviews were considered  "confidential."  Pope-Hennessy believed that the interviews were a "not interesting study of moral psychology as it was and as it largely remains today."

It would take a skilled biographer in his own right to sift through and offer a contemporary perspective on Pope-Hennessy's conversations in his quest to find the real Mary.    Acclaimed biographer Hugo Vickers is the perfect person to take on the challenge of bringing Pope-Hennessy's quest to our time,  60 years after the book's publication.

Hugo separates The Quest for Queen Mary  into two sections:  The Commission and Interviews.  The former was written by Hugo while the interviews were conducted and written by Pope-Hennessy.

Hugo provides extensive footnotes for all the interviews, which will prove helpful to new readers who are unfamiliar with many of the references to events and other people mentioned in the interviews.

The interviews offer further insight and history, and a but of humor, too.  The Queen's niece, The Duchess of Beaufort told Pope-Hennessy that May was "very proud of her legs and ankles.  As a girl she would jump on a sofa at games so people could see them."

The Duchess also noted that Mary was "fundamentally very very German."

According to her third son, Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, Queen Mary loathed Balmoral. "Hated it.  She had nothing to do in Scotland," he said.

The Quest for Queen Mary is one of the best royal books in the last few years.  One caveat.  Please do not read this book unless you have read Queen Mary at least one time.   A further appreciation for this biography will come after reading The Quest for Queen Mary.

It is rare for a biographer to share his research after the publication the book.  The Quest for Queen Mary is a historical treat. Savor it.   After reading this book, you will have a further appreciation for the magnificence that is James Pope-Hennessy's Queen Mary.

Hugo Vickers and James Pope-Hennessy have allowed us - the readers and historians and biographers - to be be the flies on the wall. 

The Quest for Queen Mary was published by Zuleika  Books.



1 comment:

  1. I got my copy from Zuleka last week. They had problems taking my (US issued) Visa card. I started reading the intro to *Quest,* and realized that I first needed to re-read *Queen Mary* itself. I am about 1/4 of the way thru that. Looking forward to *Quest.*

    ReplyDelete