Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 2010, 12:00am

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: The Official Biography
by William Shawcross
Macmillan, HK$130

Extending to almost 1,000 pages, this hefty tome is a defining, although perhaps not necessarily the most accurate, take on Britain's Queen Mum. Why? Because in 2003 her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, invited the author to write it. The Queen Mother died at the age of 101 in 2002. Such was her legacy that hundreds of thousands of Britons lined up at Westminster Hall in London to pay their respects. Irrespective of one's feelings about Britain's royal family - and there are many in the country who feel less than positive about it - that is an astonishing statistic. As might be expected, this is not an account that dishes the dirt on its subject. Instead, it's the photographs that stand out, a collection startling for being comprehensive and fascinating. It is, if you like, a glimpse into another, privileged world. What lingers, long after you have read this account, is the Queen Mum's legendary smile. But behind that beatific smile, as one of her staff once supposedly remarked, was a steel hand in a velvet glove. Look closely at some of those photographs and sometimes, yes, that smile does pack a punch.