The Last Queen: Elizabeth II’s Seventy Year Battle to Save the House of Windsor

Pegasus. Jan. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781643136141. $27.95. BIOG
English journalist Irving (Scandal ‘63: A Study of the Profumo Affair) brings insider experience to this look at the reign of Elizabeth II (b. 1926), exploring the House of Windsor’s relationship to the press through decades of national change and private scandal. A Fleet Street veteran, Irving recounts with firsthand knowledge the evolution of the British press from complicity in guarding the royal family’s secrets to viewing the royals as a commodity to be exploited, a change the monarchy was ill-prepared to handle. The Queen remains an enigma to Irving, displaying none of the vulnerability that the more media-savvy Princess Diana used to win hearts and sympathy: a strategy that Irving contends may have protected her own reign but doomed the monarchy to irrelevance. Though Irving credits the Queen for the House of Windsor’s endurance, she is conspicuously absent for most of the narrative. Instead, Irving reveals a tone-deaf, reactionary monarchy consistently out of step with more dynamic figures including prime ministers such as Winston Churchill, other royals such as Princess Margaret, and the British public itself.
VERDICT A gossipy, yet critical look at the monarchy by a skillful writer who knows his subject well. Fans of The Crown will especially enjoy.
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