Countess of Longford, Elizabeth Pakenham, was born in London England in 1906. She attended Lady Margaret Hall and Oxford University where she studied classical history and philosophy. She later married Oxford professor and politician, the seventh Earl of Longford in 1931, with whom she had eight children. She worked as a tutor from 1930-36 in the Worker's Educational Association, and was a member of the Paddington and St. Pomcras Rent Tribunal from 1946-51. She was also a Labour party candidate for Cheltenham, and later for the City of Oxford. After both campaigns proved unsuccessful, Longford began her career as a writer in 1954, where she concentrated on the topic of parenting. She later turned her focus to British history, and became recognized for her talent as a biographer. She was awarded the James Tait Memorial Prize for best biography in 1964 for Victoria R.I. Longford claimed the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award twice with Wellington,1969, and The Royal House of Windsor, Winston Churchill in 1974. It is with this same thoroughness and true human interest that she captures the life of England's reigning monarch in The Queen; The Life of Elizabeth II.
Though surveys have revealed that at any one time between 15 and 30% of the English people claim they would prefer a republic, the majority uphold the traditional support of the monarchy, as has been the English custom for over a thousand years. Since 1952 the endeared Queen Elizabeth II has played this role in her country's politics as an important aspect of the modern nation's identity. As she has proved neither conservative nor liberal in her stance, she has so come to symbolize a popular democracy.
It was raining on the sunless April day in 1926 when Elizabeth Bowes- Lyon announced to her husband of three years that it was time. The Duke and Duchess of York were anticipating the birth of their first child. As the doctors were soon to discover, this was not to be a routine delivery. The child was breech and as night fell the decision to perform a cesarean section was made and thus commenced. The operation a success, at 2:40 AM, Wednesday, April 21, a princess was born. As is characteristic of cesarean birth, the first granddaughter of King GeorgeV and Queen Mary was particularly immaculate with a shapely head, fair hair, and pink skin. Her bright blue eyes were framed by long dark lashes. She was christened Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, after her mother, great-grandmother, and grandmother the Queen. Her delighted father wrote to his royal parents to announce the new arrival and express his hope that they would be as satisfied with the birth of a girl as were he and his wife. As she was born third in line of an unlikely succession, a granddaughter was a refreshing delight. As one more of sentiment, the ideal of a little Princess had an immediate public appeal as well.
In the same year of Elizabeth's birth, there were other significant changes within the Commonwealth. The white "colonies" had grown into self- governing "dominions". The Commonwealth would now be comprised of nation-states which were to co-exist in absolute equality with one another and the "mother country". The king was to be the binding force for this partnership of nations as he was to symbolize their common values of patriotism, history, and culture. The Imperial Conference of 1926 would reaffirm these common beliefs of liberty, equality, and unity in the Balfour Report.
The English people were very taken with little Elizabeth. Longford writes, "part of [her] immense appeal was due to her vivacity and comic fervor in doing what was expected of her". Though Elizabeth's childhood was quite sheltered, she found access to the rest of the world through the many nursery toys her parents endowed her with. Miniature delivery vans of bread and garden supplies represented the everyday jobs of the people. A Christmas present of...