Biographer Andrew Morton takes an in-depth look at Britain's longest reigning monarch, exploring the influence Queen Elizabeth had on both Britain and the rest of the world for much of the last century. From leading a nation struggling to restore itself after the devastation of the second World War to navigating the divisive political landscape of the present day, Queen Elizabeth was a reluctant but resolute queen. This is the story of a woman of unflagging self-discipline who will long be remembered as mother and grandmother to Great Britain, and one of the greatest sovereigns of the modern era.
The best known and most accessible, if not the foremost, biographer of England’s royal family ... It feels rushed and undernourished ... Morton can be droll and dry ... All but the most uninformed readers are in for quite a bit of recapitulation, often of facts that are already canonical ... The Queen isn’t terrible; it’s just terribly serviceable ... Some odd or unnecessary anachronisms and Americanizations leap out ... These might be minor traffic violations if The Queen weren’t overall such a clip job — deft and confident, but a clip job nonetheless ... A perfectly satisfactory primer. But if you’re a buff of the royal soap opera, it will feel like standing at a party having to nod and grin politely while your husband, maybe after a few too many Pimm’s cups, tells one of his favorite tales, that you’ve heard a million times, too fast, to strangers.
Anyone looking for similar revelations in Morton’s new book, however, will be disappointed by his latest effort ... Morton works mostly from his previous books and other published sources, recycling what has long been part of the public record. Even the organization of the material seems informed more by The Crown, for which Morton served as a consultant on the latest season, than by the vagaries of Elizabeth’s life ... The result is a narrative that hits all the plot points but without the shock value ... Morton’s reluctance to probe, though, is not just born of Elizabeth’s stoicism. It’s also a choice ... This cautiousness is most apparent in Morton’s treatment of the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew’s friendship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein ... Morton ought to give Andrew — and all of the royals — more agency, and more responsibility, in this story.
The Queen, a grab bag of anodyne anecdotes and Wikipedia-deep chronologies, doesn’t want to pin her down anyway. Like its subject, it just wants to sell itself ... Morton fires off press-release prose that sounds as if it’s straight from the mouth of the Buckingham comms department ... Occasionally he finds some dirt, but usually acts stunned to hear it ... Morton cannot, or will not, survey the monarchy with the eye for absurdity that it deserves ... Morton twists himself in knots to excuse all but the most paltry defects of her character, a tactic that destroys any chance of his turning the flat image of the waving old lady into a person endowed with innate individuality ... Morton accepts at face value the most ludicrous system of government ... If a woman was this determined to hide herself, it’s the biographer’s job to at least try to rout her out.