Though Diamond Jubilee events are planned throughout 2012, today is the day that Queen Elizabeth will be officially celebrating her sixtieth year as the Queen of England. To mark the day — those royals have always fascinated me — I spent Saturday reading Robert Lacey’s The Queen: A Life in Brief (her coronation was on June 2, 1953, a little over a year after becoming queen following her father’s untimely death).
Clocking in at a mere 176 pages, Robert Lacey’s book is both brief and engrossing. In six short chapters, Lacey charts Queen Elizabeth’s unlikely rise to the throne; it wasn’t until her uncle, King Edward, abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson that being in line for the throne ever became a probability. Having been raised with a deep respect for the throne, the young Elizabeth took her new responsibilities seriously.
In a few years, Queen Elizabeth will become the longest-reigning monarch in England’s history. The world has changed a lot during her life, and the monarchy has had to change along with it more than any time in the past. Though she’s often accused of being terribly outdated and out of touch with modern needs (Princess Diana’s death was a prime example), Queen Elizabeth has tried to keep up and do what was required to keep the monarchy relevant.
Lacey’s book doensn’t break much new ground; if you’re looking for an in-depth biography, look elsewhere (Lacey wrote a full-length biography, Monarch, several years ago). But if you’re casually interested in Queen Elizabeth’s life and don’t want to invest a lot of time into reading an in-depth biography, this book is great. Lacey keeps things moving at a brisk and engaging pace, and also I loved all of the pictures in the book. My main quarrel with the book is that Lacey takes an obviously sympathetic approach toward Queen Elizabeth’s life; I’m curious to read a more nuanced approach. Overall, for what it is, the book is a timely introduction to such an intriguing woman.
The Queen: A Life in Brief was released on May 15, 2012 by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins.