One of the unexpected treats of William Shawcross' well-received 2009 official biography of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (1900-2002) was his excerpting of the long-lived royal's lively correspondence. Those quotations, however, turn out to be only a sampling of her prolific, lifelong output. Counting One's Blessings shares a generous selection of the queen mother's letters, which reaffirm The Sunday Times' previous judgment of them as "wonderful...brimful of liveliness and irreverence, steeliness and sweetness." The collection includes private letters from her childhood to her husband George VI's reign and beyond. A joy of the season for royal watchers.
Counting One's Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Motherby William Shawcross
William Shawcross's official biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, published in September 2009, was a huge critical and commercial success.One of the great revelations of the book was Queen Elizabeth's insightful, witty private correspondence. Indeed, The Sunday Times described her letters as "wonderful . . . brimful of liveliness and irreverence,/i>
William Shawcross's official biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, published in September 2009, was a huge critical and commercial success.One of the great revelations of the book was Queen Elizabeth's insightful, witty private correspondence. Indeed, The Sunday Times described her letters as "wonderful . . . brimful of liveliness and irreverence, steeliness and sweetness."
Now, in Counting One's Blessings, Shawcross has put together a selection of her letters, drawing on the vast wealth of material in the Royal Archives and at Glamis Castle. Queen Elizabeth was a prolific correspondent, from her early childhood before World War I to the very end of her long life at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and her letters offer readers a vivid insight into the real person behind the public face.
“[The Queen Mother's letters] do offer a fascinating, provocative first-hand glimpse into another world . . . Perhaps the most endearing side of the collection is the sheer number of earnest thank-you notes, written for everything from gifts to visits, and a great many written to Elizabeth's mother-in-law, Queen Mary, with whom Elizabeth carries on a warm and intimate correspondence. Elizabeth clearly delights in her friends, and is charmingly quick to offer assistance, take an interest in others' lives, and have a laugh at her own expense . . . Read [Counting One's Blessings] for the sheer entertainment value.” Heather Horn, The Atlantic
“William Shawcross, a renowned writer and broadcaster who has been given access to nine decades of remarkable correspondence from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, has traced the stories the letters tell . . . From childhood onwards, her words danced on the page, teeming with vitality, ebullience and optimism . . . Her letters showed a relish for language and sparkled with the joy of living.” The Times of India
“The intriguing new book of letters shows the unlikely evolution of the former Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, a charming, vivacious young woman who was one of the most sought-after debutantes of her day, into a gifted queen who became an enduring symbol of the British monarchy . . . she evolved into a curious, vital young woman who was an avid reader.” Lorna Koski, Women's Wear Daily
“With correspondents ranging from Kenneth Clark to Osbert Sitwell, as well as her parents-in-law, daughters and eldest grandson, the Queen Mother's selected letters--collated by her official biographer, William Shawcross--are seldom dull . . . [Counting One's Blessings] provides a study of maturing character against the background of great events . . . However fluffy the Queen may have seemed when young, she proved her mettle in 1939–45. Her wartime letters, showing her abnegation, selfless duty and distress, make impressive reading. They reach, at moments, an eloquent intensity . . . These letters exemplify the truth of a remark of Auden's. ‘Be good and you will be happy is a dangerous inversion,' the poet wrote. ‘Be happy and you will be good is the truth. Men often speak of their right to happiness. In fact, it is their only duty.' The Queen saw happiness as a duty--not an entitlement--because it was her route to good works.” Richard Davenport-Hines, The Times Literary Supplement
“One of the most appealing aspects of the Queen Mother was her zest for life to the end--her passion for the arts, horse racing, foreign travel and whizzing round the country in helicopters. She cared nothing about money; even the Queen complained wryly about her extravagance. ‘There's something about her that's kept very young,' Ted Hughes wrote . . . [Counting One's Blessings is] expertly edited and introduced by William Shawcross.” Sarah Bradford, The Literary Review
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Meet the Author
William Shawcross became a writer after leaving University College Oxford in 1968. He was in Czechoslovakia during the Soviet occupation; this inspired his first book, a biography of Alexander Dubcek, the Czechoslovak leader, which was published in 1970. Since then he has written and travelled widely. In 1995 he wrote the BBC Television series Monarchy. In 2002 his BBC Television series and book, Queen and Country, celebrated the Queen's Golden Jubilee and examined the changing face of Britain during her reign. He is also the author of Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11 and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (2012). He lives in England.
William Shawcross is a widely renowned writer and broadcaster. His books include The Queen Mother: The Official Biography and Queen and Country. In 1995 he wrote and presented the BBC television series Monarchy and in 2002, to tie in with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, he wrote and presented the BBC television series Queen and Country. He lives in London and Cornwall.
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Great read and insight into the Queen Mum's life. As you read, you feel like you are in the moment with her. Definitely makes an ordinary person realize how normal the royal family was and how loving they were towards one another.
I really enjoyed this book. I read it in tandem with The Queen Mother which came out 2 years ago. A great look at the times in which she lived and how she and her husband led the British empire through its darkest hour.