Queen and Country: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth II

Queen and Country: The Fifty-Year Reign of Elizabeth II

by William Shawcross

View All Available Formats & Editions

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.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, this lavishly illustrated biography attempts to portray the monarch in both her personal and public capacities. Noted journalist Shawcross (Sideshow, etc.), who had the cooperation of the Palace, has set himself a difficult task. Those covering the royals have to navigate between two extremes: the Scylla of salacious gossip and the Charybdis of dull, "officially sanctioned" Palace propaganda. Shawcross could certainly never be accused of salaciousness. The Elizabeth II he describes is unflappable and devoted to her duties as queen. Is Elizabeth, as many of the tabloids claim, a coldly detached and unfeeling individual? Shawcross thinks not. "[C]lose friends... say that though she might not reach out and hug you, she will be thoughtful and concerned about your welfare, and she is a good listener." Shawcross gives us the history of Elizabeth's long reign. As the times have changed, Shawcross contends, so has Elizabeth: "The Queen has not sat back and let the tide of events surge over her. She has responded to the demand for greater openness." Shawcross details the British tabloid wars that have raged since the 1980s and tells how the royal family has increasingly been the subject of invasive and titillating press scrutiny. The book opens and closes with the fallout from Princess Diana's death. This rather reverential biography should please fans of the British monarchy, although it won't exactly satisfy the public's rabid appetite for gossip. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. (May 3) Forecast: This has royal approbation and Shawcross's good name, but the big sales will probably to go Robert Lacey's bio, Monarch (to be reviewed in coming weeks). (Another jubilee title, The Monarchy: An Oral Biography of Elizabeth II, by Deborah Hart Strober and Gerald Strober, was published by Broadway in January. See also notes below for more jubilee-related titles.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This tribute to Queen Elizabeth II for her 50 years of dutiful service to the British Commonwealth accompanies Britain's months-long celebration of her reign. When the Queen came to the throne in 1952, Britain was a socially conservative "Christian land," and popularity for the monarchy was high. Today, with an increasingly cynical public and intrusive media, the monarchy appears antiquated and flawed. But the Queen has weathered the tides of change exceedingly well. She has been steadfast in her role as constitutional monarch, and her successful relationships with all the British prime ministers, from Churchill to Blair, reveal her keen knowledge of and interest in public affairs. Shawcross (Deliver Us from Evil), who presented a 1995 BBC series called Monarchy, provides a respectful glimpse into Queen Elizabeth's private family life, as well as illustrating her personal passion for dogs and horse racing. Most revealing about the Queen's character, however, are the accolades she is given by intimate acquaintances and world leaders alike. Shawcross's tone is refreshingly reverential, and his conclusion is touching as he comments on "how fortunate Britain has been" for having such a devoted and honorable servant. Illustrated with over 100 images, it is highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/02.] Isabel Coates, Canada Customs & Revenue Agency, ON Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A richly illustrated, well-written biography of England's reigning monarch, now celebrating 50 years on the throne. Readers who remember Shawcross (Deliver Us from Evil, 2000, etc.) for his excoriating reports on the Vietnam War policies of Nixon and Kissinger may be surprised to find him penning this extended love letter to his country's figurehead. But he delivers a nuanced, highly sympathetic portrait of a woman whose story, he holds, is "one of duty done with devotion and diligence in a kingdom that has been utterly transformed around her." Shawcross often touches on just how sweeping the changes in British society have been since Elizabeth succeeded her father in 1952. To name just one instance, half a century ago, a national furor forced Princess Margaret to renounce matrimony with the divorced man she loved; since then, no royal marriage except the queen's has gone unbroken. Shawcross points out that, though plagued by bad press, Elizabeth has been highly effective in adjusting the monarchy to modern requirements. He cites in particular her remarkable job of crafting a working commonwealth from the tattered remnants of the British empire, "an achievement made possible," comments Zambian president and former opponent Kenneth Kuanda, "because of the personality of Queen Elizabeth." Shawcross writes with restraint about the tensions between Elizabeth and the late Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson, wisely suggesting that the queen came in for public criticism not so much because her daughters-in-law were right in their various complaints against their spouses, but because "one of the royal family's functions is, in writer Rebecca West's phrase, to hold up to the public ‘a presentationof ourselves doing well.' When some of them do badly, we do not like what we see of ourselves." Essential reading for Elizabeth's admirers and a good vehicle for Americans seeking to understand the affection she commands

Read More

Product Details

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

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >