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The Last Intellectual

Rosemary Hill: The Queen​ Mother’s Letters

6 December 2012
Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen​ Elizabeth,​ the Queen​ Mother 
edited by William Shawcross.
Macmillan, 666 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 0 230 75496 6
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... Every generation gets the queenmother it desires, or deserves (to adapt Jacquetta Hawkes’s remark about Stonehenge). Seemingly impassive as any megalith, she waved and smiled through a century. From blushing bride to reluctant queen to ...
9 July 1992
‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’ and other Laureate Poems 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 64 pp., £12.99, June 1992, 0 571 16605 9
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... or grew strange, there was one constant good:         she did not change. Coming first upon that in the Collected Poems, I took it to be a moving little tribute to a mistress, wife, mother: someone who held the central position in someone’s life – the poet’s? In a sense that was not wrong. The notes state that the verse was commissioned by the Trustees of Queen Square Garden for ...

The Queen​ and I

William Empson and John Haffenden

26 November 1987
... On 27 October 1954 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the University of Sheffield in order to inaugurate its Jubilee Session. No other reigning sovereign had visited the principal university buildings since King Edward ...

Lost Mother

Michael Dobson

17 February 2000
In My End Is My Beginning: A Life of Mary Queen​ of Scots 
by James Mackay.
Mainstream, 320 pp., £20, March 1999, 1 84018 058 7
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Mary Queen​ of Scots: Romance and Nation 
by Jayne Elizabeth Lewis.
Routledge, 259 pp., £14.99, October 1998, 0 415 11481 0
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Ancestry and Narrative in 19th-Century British Literature: Blood Relations from Edgeworth to Hardy 
by Sophie Gilmartin.
Cambridge, 281 pp., £37.50, February 1999, 0 521 56094 2
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... We are proud of the national sentiment in Scotland which is associated with the name of Mary Queen of Scots. A simple chronicle of her sufferings was the first tale of sorrow over which we wept ... In graver manhood we are not ashamed to acknowledge, that we cannot peruse the volumes of her wrongs ...

How to be a queen

David Carpenter: She-Wolves

15 December 2011
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England before Elizabeth 
by Helen Castor.
Faber, 474 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 0 571 23706 7
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... of the careers of four women who ‘ruled England before Elizabeth’. The first of them, Matilda, the daughter of King Henry I, fought for the throne against King Stephen, aspiring to make herself queen-regnant. The other three were all queen-consorts: Eleanor of Aquitaine, who rebelled against her husband, Henry II; Isabella of France, who, with her lover, Roger Mortimer, deposed and murdered her ...

I was Mary Queen​ of Scots

Colm Tóibín: Biographical empathy

21 October 2004
My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen​ of Scots 
by John Guy.
Harper Perennial, 574 pp., £8.99, August 2004, 1 84115 753 8
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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens 
by Jane Dunn.
Harper Perennial, 592 pp., £8.99, March 2004, 9780006531920
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... Waugh on the subject: I used to masturbate whenever I thought about Lady Jane Grey so of course I thought about her constantly and even executed a fine watercolour of her on the scaffold, which my mother still has, framed, and in which Lady Jane and her ladies-in-waiting all wear watches hanging from enamel bows, as my mother did at the time … I still get quite excited when I think of Lady Jane ...

All hail, sage lady

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Crown’

15 December 2016
... I don’t think​ the queen liked me. She’d seen it all before, the snooping anti-monarchist with the new tie, so she simply passed me to her husband, who asked if a novelist wrote books. As often with the duke, his question ...

Only Sleeping

Anne Barton: Variations on Elizabeth I

10 July 2003
England’s Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy 
by Michael Dobson and Nicola J. Watson.
Oxford, 348 pp., £19.99, November 2002, 0 19 818377 1
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... Once upon a time there was a little girl who, at the age of two, had in some fashion to be told that her father had just cut off the head of the beautiful mother who used to lavish affection on her, and pretty clothes. Shortly afterwards the child learned that, although she retained contact with him, she had been officially repudiated as her father’s ...
7 October 1993
Elizabeth’s Glass 
by Marc Shell.
Nebraska, 365 pp., £30.95, July 1993, 0 8032 4216 6
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... The romance of Apollonius of Tyre opens with the classic fairy-tale couple: the king and his daughter. Antiochus is powerful, she is beautiful, and of marriageable age – there is no mother. The difference is that, in this variation, she will not leave home to marry a prince, for her father Antiochus ‘began to love her in a way unsuitable for a father ... Since he could not endure the ...

Don’t blame him

Jenny Wormald

4 August 1994
Elizabeth I 
by Wallance MacCaffrey.
Edward Arnold, 528 pp., £25, September 1993, 9780340561676
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... did nothing to reassure or restore the morale of his new subjects. The inevitable happened. People began to look back to a different past, the one presided over by Gloriana rediviva; and the Queen’s own strenuous self-propaganda in the last years of her reign, unconvincing in her lifetime, became all too potent once she was dead. Ironically, the adulation was encouraged in part by James ...

Little Bastard

Patrick Collinson: Learning to be Queen

6 July 2000
Elizabeth: Apprenticeship 
by David Starkey.
Chatto, 339 pp., £20, April 2000, 0 7011 6939 7
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Elizabeth I: Collected Works 
edited by Leah Marcus and Janel Mueller.
Chicago, 436 pp., £25, September 2000, 0 226 50464 6
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... brains being the last thing the British constitution requires of a monarch. It was not always so. Whatever else has been said about the first Elizabeth (one recalls Sheridan’s ‘no scandal about Queen Elizabeth I hope?’) no one has ever complimented her on being dull. In sending her royal brother Edward VI her youthful likeness, soon to be hidden for ever behind the iconic mask of royalty, she ...

Something about Mary

Diarmaid MacCulloch: The First Queen​ of England

18 October 2007
Mary Tudor: The Tragical History of the First Queen​ of England 
by David Loades.
National Archives, 240 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 1 903365 98 8
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... To understand someone, meet their mother – and so it was with the Tudor princesses. Mary, the daughter of Katherine of Aragon, was straightforward, pious, brave in a crisis, not especially bright. Her whole life was shaped by her mother ...

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett: A Story

8 March 2007
... of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber. ‘Now that I have you to myself,’ said the Queen, smiling to left and right as they glided through the glittering throng, ‘I’ve been longing to ask you about the writer Jean Genet.’ ‘Ah,’ said the president. ‘Oui.’ The ‘Marseillaise ...

It’s Mummie

Jenny Diski

16 December 1993
TheLittle Princesses 
by Marion Crawford, introduced by A.N. Wilson.
Duckworth, 128 pp., £14.99, November 1993, 0 7156 2497 0
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... royalty and impeccability became synonymous, at least for a while. So says Crawfie, and she should know. She spent 25 years governessing her charges, beginning when Lilibet was five and her mother ‘the little Duchess of York’. Read Crawfie and you have to adjust to diminutives. Margaret is still described as a little girl when she’s 17. On the other hand, she’s very helpful on history ...

Paraphernalia

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Tudor Spin

19 November 2009
Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in 16th-Century England 
by Kevin Sharpe.
Yale, 588 pp., £30, April 2009, 978 0 300 14098 9
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... were harbouring. Henry VII’s victory at Bosworth Field was one of the most astonishing political reverses in English history, the culmination of long-term plotting spearheaded by his formidable mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, the most successful politician in 15th-century England. Her role, largely forgotten for centuries and thrillingly rediscovered by Michael Jones and Malcolm Underwood in The ...

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