Williams (Becoming Queen Victoria), British historian and biographer, dives into the life of the U.K.’s reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, zeroing in on her childhood and young adulthood and portraying those years as the most pivotal of Elizabeth’s life. As a young royal, Elizabeth was ”brought up to be a good aristocratic wife”; her uncle, David, the Prince of Wales, was to be king, and her father wasn’t expected to hold any particular influence on the crown. But when David abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth’s father was named the new king, and she was suddenly thrust in line for the throne. Williams documents the ease with which Elizabeth, with her penchant for order and composure, fell into her new role. The author’s research is all-encompassing, but the life of Elizabeth herself is a bit muted. There is nothing particularly new or exciting in this biography; Williams writes a simple piece on an already very well documented royal life. Agency: Zoe Pagnamenta Literary Agency. (Nov.)
A well-written account of the Queen's early life.
An airy and affectionate account of Princess
Lilibet's upbringing and ascension to the throne.
Fascinating insights make this a worthwhile,
An accomplished history, told with literary grace and intellectual confidence.
It is a fascinating story.
A beautifully conjured family saga. Fans of ‘Downton Abbey’ will love it.
This terrific saga comes with a fascinating twist. Williams has a gift for showing how great movements in history affect the lives of people caught up in them.
Williams keeps her story moving and the result is a vivid portrait of a perennially fascinating period of history.
Kate Williams in a vivid writer, conjuring atmosphere through scents and tastes as well as period props. The enjoyable elements of a sweeping family saga are present, but Williams also develops a sense of the emotionaland psychological revolutions, both collective and individual, that were catalysed by the conflict.
The Times Literary Supplement
A big juicy drama set on the eve of the First World War. Kate Williams paints a spellbinding portrait of a family clinging on desperately to their privileged way of life.
Brilliant. A passionate and poignant story of a glittering family on the precipice of a vanished world. Spellbinding, gripping and beautiful. A must read.
Celia de Witt is the 15 year old daughter of a German born industrialist and his aristocratic wife who live in a magnificent country house; her elder sister is about to have a grand society wedding. What could go wrong? The First World War, that's what. Shades of 'Downton,' with a dash of Atonement.”
The new novel by the historian Kate Williams, is an epic story about a young woman whose idyllic world is shattered by the First World War.
Williams is too good a historian for melodramatic sentimentality; trusting the historical detail, the reader can relax into a well-paced, truly affecting narrative. Richly detailed, light of foot, Williams tantalises withloose ends and disturbs with shocking shadows.
Wartime-saga lovers will be kept on their toes to the end.
"The author's research is all-encompassing " Publishers Weekly
briskly written, admirably probing, and sympathetically voiced exploration of the elements that went into the formation of the woman we now know to be a very successful monarch.
Booklist (starred review)
Williams has penned a biography that draws us in and makes us feel as though we're intimately acquainted with a woman who is recognized by millions but truly known by just a few.
Elizabeth II (b. 1926) was never supposed to be queen. When her uncle abdicated, Elizabeth's father, George VI, became king and Elizabeth heir to the throne. Precocious, neat, and conscientious, Elizabeth seemed tailor-made for royalty and was the darling of the public. Though treated as a child well into her teens, the current queen exhibited an old soul at a young age, eager to do the right thing and always anxious to please. Her courtship with Prince Philip of Greece was a rare occasion when she insisted on her way. Williams (Ambition and Desire; Becoming Queen Victoria) traces the path of Elizabeth, from a girl playing pony in her nursery to the woman who accepted the throne at age 26. This biography, previously published in the UK, assumes a prior knowledge of the royal lineage. A family tree, starting with Queen Victoria, and a short glossary of royalty-related terms would have been a welcome addition. Offering a gracious yet honest viewpoint of the strengths and weaknesses of the longest-reigning monarch, Williams tours Elizabeth's beginning years and illuminates the often overlooked humanity of her personal life. VERDICT This eloquent and engaging account will appeal to those interested in British history and the early life of Queen Elizabeth II.—Stacy Shaw, Orange, CA
Early-life biography of the queen, who "in one sense…is the twentieth century." As CNN's British royalty expert Williams (Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte, 2014, etc.) acknowledges, Queen Elizabeth II has not lacked biographers. While breaking no new ground, the author's lively, gossipy narrative offers a sympathetic portrait of a young woman whose path to the throne resulted from two unexpected events: the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, which made her father King George VI; and her father's early death, which elevated 25-year-old Elizabeth to queen of England. As princesses, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, grew up sheltered, doted upon, and happily carefree. Their parents saw education as irrelevant for girls who were destined to do nothing more than marry well. Their governess was charged with tutoring them for an hour and a half per day. When Elizabeth was 10, however, her prospects changed. As royal watchers well know, Edward VIII, much preferring a glittery social whirl to the tedium of kingship, claimed that he could not rule without the support of the woman he loved, the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. Like the royal family, Williams characterizes Edward and Wallis as spoiled, selfish, and irresponsible. Edward's threat to abdicate was, Williams writes, "a bluffing game." But the cabinet would not concede, he was forced to abdicate, and his brother was forced into a position for which he felt ill-prepared. As royal heiress, Elizabeth's education somewhat intensified: she was sent to Eton twice a week to learn constitutional history. Socially, though, she remained sheltered (she did not leave her nursery bedroom until she turned 18), which Williams believes explains her intense romantic crush, at the age of 13, on debonair Prince Philip of Greece; they married when she turned 21. The author sees Elizabeth as exemplary: although "not born for the role," she has fulfilled it "with grace and dignity." A celebratory and entertaining royal biography.