Gossip Column:
22 February 2018

Amazon just let me know that The Untold Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, by Lady Colin Campbell, is on the way. I’ve already read it, in a Kindle edition — only to find that I had to have the book. There’s a hoot on every page. Either a hoot or a gasp. 

I grew up believing that HRHQEQM was the most benign of sweet old grandmothers. Always smiling, always radiant. According to Lady Colin Campbell, it was a brilliant act. Elizabeth liked to be happy, so she stepped on everything that interfered with her happiness. At the very least, she blithely ignored anything unpleasant. Such as, for example, sex. But every marriage has sex issues; how many wives get to be the architect of an Abdication Crisis? Lady Colin goes all the way with this one. Even the most indulgent reader might stammer, “But it was more complicated than that”; nevertheless, it is fun to shiver with scandal. 

And as for scandal, how’s this: Elizabeth was the cook’s daughter — which is why the Windsors, who found out “the truth” about their antagonist’s parentage, called her “Cookie.” Not since Princess Catherine Radziwill has gossip been powered by such relentless but brilliantly bracing ill-will. And once you’ve read it, you can’t forget it; it’s like what Shakespeare did to Richard III. I downloaded the book after reading Craig Brown’s really rather gentle book about Princess Margaret, and would have bought Hugo Vickers’s biography instead had it been available in Kindle format. Vickers is spicy but respectable. When Lady Colin’s book came out, he commented, “I have to say I think it is complete nonsense.” To which Lady Colin would reply, “Of course he has to, if he ever wants to talk to the Palace again.” 

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