While most works detailing Queen Elizabeth II focus on her role within the United Kingdom, she also serves as Head of the Commonwealth, a collective of fifty-three sovereign states ranging from Australia to Zambia. In this capacity, while having no direct authority over the states, she regularly flexes her diplomatic soft power. Traveling the world, hosting dinners, receiving guests, her appearance at opportune times alone is sometimes enough to spur negotiations or further an agenda. By visiting over 130 countries throughout her reign, Elizabeth II has become a true Queen of the World.
The best part of this book is Robert Hardman’s access to the Royal Archives as well as individuals close the Queen. This adds authority to the many stories and anecdotes he has amassed, and the sheer heft of the detail he provides feels all-encompassing. It obviously isn’t, considering a rule of over sixty years would be an impossible task. However, readers can walk away with a grasp on what it’s like to navigate as a global diplomat in an ever-changing world.
And what stories he tells.
How do you select gifts for world leaders when one wrong could completely tarnish international relations?
The Royal Yacht Brittannia Yacht Britannia served beyond transportation— acting as a vessel for diplomatic meetings.
Even the Queen’s fashion has its own tales, with her numerous embellishments depending on her mission receiving plenty of attention.
All of this, and more, is described in detail by individuals who were present through it all, and it’s riveting reading about their service in the name of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the Queen herself.
If there is one fault in Hardman’s work, it’s the exceedingly rosy picture he paints of the royal family. He doesn’t necessarily avoid dust-ups and gaffes, but they are brushed aside easily. This was especially the case with the Duke of Edinburgh on his trip to China in 1986 where he made a racist remark to a group of students. Hardman, rather than offering even minor admonishment, instead focuses on the press’s handling of the story, lamenting that it’s a continually repeated whenever writing about the Duke. This is the most extreme example of needless defense, but it’s common. The royals appear to do no wrong, or it’s always someone else’s fault.
Still, the overall portrait of Queen Elizabeth II as a statesman is stunning, if a bit protected. As a piece of archival research alone, this book is an incredible feat—picking a page at random, most will be impressed by the care and attention paid to the subject. Fortunately, Hardman’s readable style keeps this work both endearing and accessible.
Title: Queen of the World
Author: Robert Hardman
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: January 01, 2019
Classification: Nonfiction, History
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.