Queen and Country: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth IIby William Shawcross
The year 2002 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Elizabeth II's accession to the British throne. To celebrate this occasion, William Shawcross, an award-winning writer and journalist, has written an intimate and revealing portrait of the Queen and an absorbing narrative of how the faces of the monarchy, Britain, and the world have changed over the past fifty years.… See more details below
The year 2002 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Elizabeth II's accession to the British throne. To celebrate this occasion, William Shawcross, an award-winning writer and journalist, has written an intimate and revealing portrait of the Queen and an absorbing narrative of how the faces of the monarchy, Britain, and the world have changed over the past fifty years. Britain today bears little resemblance to the country the Queen inherited in 1952. There is more criticism than deference; the institution of the monarchy is no longer accepted unquestioningly. Yet, as Shawcross describes here, Elizabeth's long and valiant, sometimes difficult, always challenging reign shows us a monarch who has risen admirably to the occasion and has held the country and the commonwealth together.
Drawn from the BBC's landmark four-part television series, Queen and Country combines personal recollections, classic archive film, and contemporary footage, as it examines how the Queen has adapted and succeeded. Exploring several aspects of her public role -- including her relationships with successive prime ministers -- Shawcross shows how she has remained a fixed point in the storm, a reassuring bedrock of stability, calm, and good sense, who has earned the respect and affection of the world.
With more than one hundred photographs, this volume focuses on four parts of the Queen's life. The first explores the central relationship between the Queen and her subjects. Her private life is the subject of the second part as Shawcross describes how she enjoys horse racing, her dogs, shooting, and family life. He also discusses the turbulence of her children's marriages and lives. Part III focuses on the Queen's political role as head of state and explores how close she is to the center of decision making. The final part follows Elizabeth II as she travels the globe and strengthens the ties of the commonwealth. Written with the cooperation of the Queen's family, friends, and her trusted aides, this unique portrait accompanies the celebration of her golden jubilee that will be one of the most televised and written-about events of 2002. Queen and Country is the most authoritative account of Elizabeth's reign that will appear during this year-long celebration.
- Simon & Schuster
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 7.96(w) x 10.12(h) x 0.96(d)
Read an Excerpt
Death and Devotion
Early in the morning of Sunday, 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash in Paris. The brutal destruction of such a beautiful, young and celebrated Princess was greeted with horror.
A few hours after her death, the Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared on television to hail her as 'The People's Princess'. For the next week television covered almost nothing but the death of the Princess and the impact upon the royal family and in particular on her two young sons. The nation, or at least a visible and vocal part of it, appeared to be consumed by grief. Tens of thousands of people made pilgrimages to her home at Kensington Palace, London, and left bunches of flowers wrapped in cellophane, toys, notes and poems. Others journeyed to Althorp, her family's stately home in Northamptonshire.
This was not quite mass hysteria, but it was a massive display of group emotion of a kind that had never been seen before in Britain. Many older people, schooled in a time when emotions were more strictly controlled, both in public and private, found themselves surprised or even alienated by the spectacle. But the Princess had been a celebrity of the modern age, much admired by millions. To them her death was not just a shock, but a source of bereavement. Many of those who did not share the intensity of this pain felt excluded.
Widespread sympathy was extended to her family, especially to her two young sons, William and Harry. They and their father, Prince Charles, from whom Diana was divorced, were staying at Balmoral, the Queen's summer home in Scotland, when Diana died. Within hours of hearing of her death, Prince Charles flew to Paris to escort the body home. He then returned to his family at Balmoral. Word came from Buckingham Palace that the Queen was anxious above all to comfort and protect her grandsons. Such a decision was hardly improper but, as the expressions of popular grief grew during the week after Diana's death, so did the expressions of outrage at the inaccessibility of the Queen and her family.
The crowds outside Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace grew larger and, the media reported, in some cases more resentful. Why was the Queen not back in London? Why was she not showing her own anguish and sharing that of her subjects? Such aggressive questions were repeated, exaggerated and headlined by television and tabloid journalists. 'SHOW US YOU CARE' demanded one tabloid of the Queen. Others castigated and blamed Prince Charles.
On Friday, the day before the funeral, Prince Charles and his two sons returned to London and walked amongst the huge stacks of flowers and the people milling around Kensington Palace. Princes William and Harry behaved with impeccable courage, and all three were warmly received. The Queen flew down from Scotland. As she drove up to the Victoria Memorial by the gates of Buckingham Palace, she stopped her car and, with Prince Philip, got out to look at the tributes and speak to the people gathered there. She did not know what to expect from the crowd; some of her aides feared hostility. But when the Queen began to talk, the crowd responded not with anger but with politeness, even relief.
She then walked through the Palace gates and shortly afterwards paid a live television tribute to Diana. Through the window behind her you could see the crowds milling around the Victoria Memorial. The Queen, who never likes to display emotion in public, spoke of her admiration for her late daughter-in-law, for whom public emotion was very important.
That night tens of thousands of people slept in the streets to guarantee a good view of the funeral procession. There had been discussions all week about the route and the nature of the funeral; in the end the organization was flawless. On a beautiful sunny September morning, the cortège carried the Princess's body from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. The service was broadcast on a large screen in Parliament Square and transmitted around the world. Diana's brother Charles Spencer gave the eulogy, which was applauded in the Square outside. Elton John, a friend of the Princess, sang to her, and the Prime Minister read the lesson. The Princess's body was then taken by road to Althorp, where it was buried on an island in an artificial lake.
The events of this extraordinary week were powerful and disturbing. Some people said it would change the monarchy for ever; others seized the week for the republican cause. But it was hard for anyone to say that the week showed that the monarchy was irrelevant to the people of Britain.
Amongst the many images of the week, one that I found most arresting was of the Queen two days before the funeral, looking at the mass of flowers that had been laid outside Crathie Church near Balmoral. She was all in black and bending over to read the words inscribed on the cards. She turned to find herself being observed by the world through the lenses of many cameras, and turned away again. It reminded me of the photograph taken 45 years earlier when she, her mother and her grandmother stood all in black near the coffin of her father, King George VI. Then she had been Queen for only a few days; now she was in the forty-sixth year of her reign. Then the cameras had been distant and almost respectful; now they were invasive.
I thought how lonely she must feel, and how perplexed she must be by the vast changes through which Britain has passed in the decades since her accession. In this book I have attempted to explain some of these changes and her responses to them. I have drawn especially on interviews given for the accompanying television series Queen and Country. Her story, I believe, is one of duty done with devotion and diligence in a kingdom that has been utterly transformed around her.
Copyright © 2002 by William Shawcross
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