When Elizabeth Bowes Lyon married Prince Albert, Duke of York, in 1923, she had little idea that she was destined to become England’s longest living queen and one of the most popular of Britain’s long line of monarchs. In her public and private life she has managed to fuse the old-fashioned, feminine trait of dutiful devotion to family with a singular style and an unfailing sense of the significance of royalty to the British consciousness. Her contribution to reestablishing stability to the monarchy in the tumultuous days following the abdication of Edward VIII helped to bolster the courage needed by the English to survive the Nazi attack in World War II.
Royalty buffs will especially enjoy the book’s many photographs, which catalog the Duchess of York’s transformation from charming young wife and mother to queen. Portraits by celebrated society and fashion photographer Cecil Beaton, who helped the young monarch define her style, capture the aura of regality while recent photos by her former son-in-law, Lord Snowden, especially commissioned for the book, convey the Queen Mother’s timeless charm.
Lacey’s sympathetic text reveals a woman who was reluctant to assume the role of queen after the scandalous abdication of Edward VIII in 1936, but who rose to the demands of a public existence with grace and spirit. Lacey describes her support of her sensitive husband as he struggled to conquer stuttering and nervousness to become the monarch who saw England through World War II. Regrettably, Lacey’s prose becomes a eulogy, making the Queen Mother into something of an icon whom one must treat with awe. Hints of her animosity toward the Duchess of Windsor are never fully developed. One wishes for less hyperbole and for more astute delineation of character. Rather than insight into the life of the woman who as wife and mother has shaped the monarchy in twentieth century England, this account is a rhapsodic, though well-written puff piece.