The Queen only corrected my spelling, says Shawcross
Biographer insists he had complete freedom to write about the Queen Mother
Saturday 19 September 2009
No one forgets a bad day at the races, not even, it would seem, the Queen.
When Her Majesty asked the royal historian William Shawcross to compile the official biography of her mother she gave him unrestricted access to the Royal archives at Windsor Castle. Six years later, when he presented a copy of the 1,094-page manuscript for her approval, the only corrections she offered were the names of one or two racehorses her mother had taken a misplaced fancy for, and she had patiently bankrolled.
"I had complete access," Shawcross said yesterday at the Independent's Woodstock Literary Festival at Blenheim Palace, near Oxford. "My only obligation was to give a copy of the manuscript to the Queen's private secretary. She had no comments to make; she only offered some factual changes, the names of race horses her mother had backed. The Queen Mother loved her steeple-chasing, and she backed more than 400 winners, but it was never a paying business, and the Queen had to support her tremendously."
The book confirms the Queen's payments to the trainer of her mother's horses, Peter Cazalet, once writing "Oh dear" underneath a particularly large total for the year.
It also reveals the Queen Mother's poems, written for the convalescing soldiers in hospital in Scotland who taught her to play poker.
"She was not a great liberationist," he admitted. "During the general strike, and in the great depression, she was very much concerned that women going to work would take men's jobs. She was very supportive of women working in the fields and in munitions factories during the war, but was adamant that afterwards, they should go back to the home."
Perhaps not her own home however. Clarence House, she claimed, was "too small", Shawcross said.
Elsewhere at the Festival, Duncan Hamilton discussed Harold Larwood, probably the fastest bowler in the history of cricket and the subject of his new book, with former England international Derek Pringle. Larwood terrorised the Australian batsmen in the now infamous "bodyline" Ashes series of 1932, directing every ferocious ball not at the stumps, but at the batsman's body. Could England do with such a tactic now? " It would be a bit drastic," he suggests. "Like killing your wife, just to get out of taking her out for dinner."
The Festival: Highlights
*Tony Parsons talks to Dylan Jones about his new book, Starting Over. Blenheim Palace, 12.30pm
*Victoria Coren on the rise of poker, from seedy, smoke-filled back rooms, to international dominance. The Oxfordshire Museum, 12.30pm
*Ann Leslie, Martin Bell and Robert Fisk discuss the lost art of reportage. Was there a golden age for international correspondents? And were they part of it? Blenheim Palace, 2pm
For David Cameron and Zac Goldsmith podcasts, and to download a brochure, go to independent.co.uk/woodstock
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rice Bucket Challenge: India's take on the Ice Bucket Challenge 'for Indian needs'
- 2 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 Rubble Bucket Challenge: Ice Bucket Challenge adapted in solidarity with Gazans whose homes have been destroyed in conflict
- 5 Car tax disc changes: Make sure you know the new rules from 1 October or risk £1,000 fine
Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love voted Greatest Guitar Riff of all time
Doctor Who lesbian kiss sparks Ofcom complaints over 'weird lesbian-lizard perv trip'
Emmys 2014: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Steven Moffat win big awards for Sherlock
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Beyonce MTV VMAs feminist performance: Twitter reacts to singer's 'double standard'
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
Jeremy Clarkson is a cultural tumour and needs to be removed, says comedian Frankie Boyle
Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading
- < Previous
- Next >