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