Wednesday, 6 June 2012
The Diamond Queen by Andrew Marr
Although The Diamond Queen is marketed as a very personal account of the life of Queen Elizabeth II, it isn't really. It's a history of her dynasty (the Windsors) and her reign. It covers major world events, her relationships with various Prime Ministers and above all seeks to answer the question of whether monarchy is still relevant in twenty-first century Britain and what the Queen's role actually is. Of course there are mentions of various scandals and her private life is covered, but anyone expecting a gossipy account of relationships should look elsewhere.
On the whole, I enjoyed The Diamond Queen. Marr's writing was simple and easy to follow and his arguments were always explained clearly. He has an interesting spin on events and the writing comes across as if he is in the room talking to you, which makes the book lively to read. I liked the structure of the book; where long chapters on the history of various decades were broken up with 'interludes' about a theme that doesn't depend on time, such as money or travel. This prevented the book from being too dense and it never felt like a struggle to pick it up.
I was particularly interested to learn that lots of things I take for granted about the monarchy were only decided by the Queen's Grandfather, and that the role of the monarch has constantly evolved, even in Elizabeth's reign. For example, Elizabeth's mother was the first 'common' (i.e. non Royal) woman permitted to marry into the Royal Family, before that it was all princes and princesses. There was a section at the end of the book where Marr speculates how the role of monarchy will change again when and if Charles becomes King; will he still be the head of state for Canada and Australia?
As in most non-fiction books, some parts were more interesting than others. I was more engaged in the later sections as I have actually lived through these times and was therefore more familiar with the material. Marr admits in the introduction of the book that he is a pro-monarchy so there is no criticism of the Queen to be found here, although he does sometimes criticise the behaviour of other members of the family, providing some balance. On the whole, it's interesting as a history of the times and as an examination of how the role of the monarch has changed in recent years.
First Published: October 2011
Score: 3.5 out of 5
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I haven't read Andrew Marr, but I do like books by Brits about the end of empire and how their society has changed. This seems like it would be similar to that theme, as experienced by the royal family.ReplyDelete
Yes, I think it would fit the theme. Marr does cover the creation of the Commonwealth and how the Queen has at times struggled to keep it together. I think the Commonwealth will definitely change once Charles becomes King.Delete
I've always been interested in the monarchy...and I would really like to read this! I'm not looking for gossipy content; I really like the history part of things, especially like what you mentioned about Queen Elizabeth's grandmother being the first commoner allowed to marry into the royal family. I didn't know that! I can't wait to check this out!ReplyDelete
I wasn't after gossipy content either, so I was relieved to see this book was more serious. Let me know what you think if you do get a chance to read it.Delete
I have been curious about this book. The monarchy is so interesting to me and there is so much that I don't know. Thank you for the insightful review.ReplyDelete
There's much that I don't know as well, which is why I enjoyed this one.Delete
Ooh.. this looks like one I'll need to pick up. I'll be honest that I don't much about her history, so it'd be perfect considering the festivities that recently occurred. I'm actually contemplating tackling another Massie at the moment, but I'll add this to the library queue.ReplyDelete
To be honest, I didn't know much either Beth, only the scandals! I must try a Massie book soon.Delete
This sounds like an interesting read, especially for us Americans who are not very informed about the monarchy! I didn't know that Elizabeth's mother was the first non-royal. How did little girls dream of becoming a princess before that?!?ReplyDelete
I wasn't that well informed either Lindsey, don't worry! And at least all little girls can dream of becoming princesses now :)Delete
Andrew Marr gives a very clear and interesting account of the Queen's life and reign, with particular emphasis on the immense amount of work she does. it is an excellent book to recommend as reading to any of those tiresome people who say 'the Queen doesn't do anything' or 'what use is the Queen?'. Actually, she is a lot of use, as this book clearly shows. Read this and decide if you could keep up with her for even a day, let alone for 60 years.ReplyDelete
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