Young Elizabeth by Kate Williams

young elizabeth

This was on the ‘new books’ shelf at our library last week calling my name. I have had an interest in the monarchy for some time (i.e. ever since the royal wedding) and I have conducted sporadic research expedition into the British Monarchy; mostly for educating myself on the politics and aristocracy of the Edwardian period or the princes and princesses rather than the rulers themselves.

This biography covers the early years of Queen Elizabeth II life until her coronation. As such, I didn’t learn much new from Young Elizabeth, (it contains no ‘new’ material or hitherto unknown tidbits of her Majesty’s life) but I was able to read about her in a cohesive, chronological fashion, doubtless more accurate than whatever Wikipedia has offered. 😛

It begins before the birth of the ‘accidental’ queen, with King George V’s children, particularly his two eldest sons, who would be Edward VIII and George VI. The princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were raised as the children of a royal Duke, but they were never expected to be the children of the King. Even after George VI ascended to the throne Elizabeth was not styled the Princess of Wales. She would not be until her about the time of her marriage to Prince Philip.

Young Elizabeth paints a picture of family life at 145 Piccadilly  in the years before the abdication. Elizabeth and Margaret were adored by the public, and the press often turned to them for some lighter news throughout their early lives, as those were years of political and social unrest.  As princesses, they lived a somewhat sheltered life within Buckingham Palace, and spent the dreary wartime years entirely at Windsor Castle. They lived with their governess, Marion Crawford, whom they called ‘Crawfie’. (She left them to be married after the war and wrote a book entitled ‘The Little Princesses’. This was seen as a betrayal of the girls, as she added her own observations on the family politics, and she was ostracized by her beloved charges and the other royals. Her story was really heartbreaking. I have seen ‘The Little Princesses’ in our church library’s collection, so I may have to pick it up sometime.)

The last third of the book was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth’s marriage, George VI’s health struggles during his last few years and, finally, the coronation. There was some interesting history and behind the scenes looks. For instance, how there was such a lack of coachmen because of the war and carriages falling out of use, that gentry was asked to take part if they could drive a coach. Marion Crawford reportedly read P. G. Wodehouse novels while Princess Elizabeth had her history lesson with Eton’s headmaster, and Queen Elizabeth (later the queen mother) was said to have been trying to get an eyelash out of the King’s eye when Buckingham Palace was first bombed.

It contained more information on Edward’s VIII’s relationships with Wallis Simpson and other women than I was interested in knowing. (That took up about a quarter of the book’s beginning.) Also, Princess Margaret’s relationship with one of her father’s equerries. For all the time which was spent on Group Captain Townsend and Princess Margaret, I do wish a little more information on her actual marriage had been added. It made the end a sight depressing and all in all I thought the two histories were off topic and shouldn’t have taken up so much of the book.

Otherwise, it was an interesting read and I would recommend reservedly to someone who was interested in an all-encompassing read about Queen Elizabeth II.


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