Special Feature: The Last Queen: Elizabeth II’s Seventy Year Battle to Save the House of Windsor by Clive Irving

There has been a bright spot in the pandemic, I have finally had an excuse to get caught up on some of my favorite Netflix shows, one of which is The Crown. I absolutely love anything related to the monarchy and I was so excited to finally have some time to catch up on one of my favorite shows!

I have read a lot of fiction based on the Windsor monarchy, but I hadn’t read too many non fiction novels though. In general I am not a big non fiction reader but I have enjoyed some memoirs and other non fiction works, I mean I am a historian after all, which is one of the reasons this book caught my eye.

Today I am thrilled to be bringing you guys not only a little bit about this book, but a special excerpt written but the author as well all about Queen Elizabeth II. If you love The Crown and are looking for a more comprehensive history of the royals, then this might be a book you want to check out!

Summary

Clive Irving’s stunning new narrative biography The Last Queen: Elizabeth II’s Seventy Year Battle to Save the House of Windsor (Pegasus –January 5, 2021), probes the question of the British monarchy’s longevity. In 2020, Queen Elizabeth II finally appears to be at ease in the modern world, helped by the new generation of Windsors. Through Irving’s unique insight there emerges a more fragile institution, whose extraordinarily dutiful matriarch has managed to persevere with dignity.  Yet in doing so made a Faustian pact with the media—something that we’re seeing with the new season of The Crown just about to launch and the introduction of Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher to the narrative.

The Last Queen is not a conventional biography—instead, it follows Elizabeth and her family’s struggle to survive in the face of unprecedented changes within the monarchy and Britain.  As well as the world’s increased fascination with the royal family.  “Royal journalism became the most profitable stream of celebrity journalism, and the royal family assumed the role of a compulsively viewable soap opera.”

Therefore, it became impossible to see the lives of the Queen and her family “clearly and fairly because of the way it was always conveyed in the terms and language of the tabloid circus that now always follows the family.”  Irving masterfully details the truth behind England’s longest reigning monarch with the added perspective of his own first-hand, personal insight as a journalist whose career has paralleled Elizabeth’s reign. 

I hope that you will consider running a review or spotlight on The Last Queen; and author Clive Irving is available for interviews.  Clive recently published this article regarding the truth behind the Queen’s relationship with Margaret Thatcher as being portrayed on this season of The Crown. Please let me know if you would be interested in receiving a PDF or print galley of this book.  Available in hardcover on January 5th, 2021. 

Feature by the Author

Searching for the real Queen Elizabeth II

Three queens rode the arc of British power: Elizabeth I, whose skills made her nation for the first time a united and secure European power; Queen Victoria who oversaw the world’s largest empire; and Elizabeth II who, at the age of 94 and nearly 70 years on the throne, has seen the dissolution of that empire.

In centuries of history dominated by men these three women are extraordinary. The lives of Elizabeth I and Victoria have been explored in many thousands of books. In the case of Elizabeth II, the longest reigning of all British monarchs, we are still seeking to find the actual woman behind the regal public face. She is one of the most famous people in the world, and one of the least known.

The title of my biography of her is The Last Queen because she is certainly likely to be that: the foreseeable heirs are all male and the ultimate fate of the monarchy is impossible to predict.

My biography is not written with academic detachment. It’s told from a deliberately personal viewpoint. It so happens that my career as a journalist has more or less tracked hers as a monarch. Inevitably, events I covered over many decades, as a reporter and an editor, frequently intersected with the Queen’s own journey.

Instead of spanning the Queen’s whole life I have chosen to concentrate on the key crises of her life. Many of these crises have been personal, involving the seemingly endless stresses of the Windsor family. At first, as I reveal, the significance of these crises was concealed from the public gaze. But in the last decades of her reign they became painfully public as the Windsors were swept up into the global media food chain as irresistible headline material.

Now, thanks in large part to the blockbuster Netflix dramatized version of the Queen’s life, The Crown, it has become difficult to separate the real people from those impersonating them on the screen. Indeed, there have been efforts by supporters of the royals to get Netflix to post a kind of health warning at the top of each episode clearly stating that it is dramatized, not a documentary.

Netflix has refused to comply. And it’s an absurd idea: how would you know what was real and what was made up by the show’s creator, Peter Morgan?

This dilemma really goes to the heart of my approach in searching for the real Queen. The idea of the monarchy has always rested on its own unique kind of exceptionalism. To be effective, the monarch was required to abide in a place specially reserved for them – a place separate and above all others.

We call that a mystique. Of course, that mystique cannot be rationally sustained or defended in a modern democracy. It has been the Queen’s fate to try to bridge the divide between the mystique and the realities of a constitutional monarchy – while, at the same time, having to endure the glaring scrutiny of unbridled media attention.

As I describe in my book, the Queen came to the throne when the monarchy enjoyed a level of public deference that would be unimaginable today. Media coverage was, on the whole, respectful and often fawning. Now cut to today, when the Windsors are, on a daily basis, confused with a soap opera family of the same name.

How could any monarch manage such a change in the way she and the institution is followed and regarded?

In an attempt to do this, the Queen has achieved something remarkable. She has removed the sense of elevated separateness and become classless – albeit in a class of her own. She demonstrated this in a television address to the nation on Palm Sunday, as Britain locked down in the first wave of the pandemic.

She evoked her memories of Britain in 1940, its darkest hour of war, and said, “The pride in who we are is not part of our past, it defines our present and our future.” Her gift is to accept that the monarch no longer has any political power but, by making her own values very clear, she has acquired a special kind of authority that embraces her people.

Elizabeth I ended the 45 years of her formidable reign by saying, “I have cause to wish nothing more than to content the subject, which is a duty that I owe.”

Elizabeth II has the same sense of duty, and can say the same of her own reign. Despite the turbulence of her family and the decline in the power of her nation her people know it to be true.

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