Sisters and their relationship have fascinated people since time began, the Brontë sisters, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor, Jackie Kennedy and Lee Radziwell, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, Serena and Venus Williams. Sisters always share a deep bond, and sometimes, they share an even deeper rivalry. However, when they are royal sisters and ones that have lived during our lifetime, in this case, the Windsor sisters, then it makes it more fascinating. This book, Elizabeth and Margaret by Andrew Morton, is an insight into a life about which we think we know everything, but in all honesty, it is a mystery which is probably its appeal.
Andrew Morton has become a bit of an expert royal biographer, having written that first well-known biography, Diana, Her True Story, and followed this up with biographies on William and Catherine, Meghan, and Wallis, the first outsider to bring the Royal family to their knees. I have only read the one about Diana, which was in her own words, so this time it is the author looking in on the lives of these two women who were born princesses. Whilst much of the book has footnotes to back up the quotes, it is still the author’s view. Having said all of that, I felt that he was sympathetic and had a deep understanding of their lives, what was expected of them and how they each handled it.
Much of it this book covers a time that I was not even alive, and like many young people for the first twenty years of my life, I had no interest in the Royal Family. But, of course, there are two sides to every story and whilst we used to think it was all a bit of a fairy story, more recently, the stories coming out have been chipping away at that facade. This book shows that these dramas have been going on for a very long time, I suppose you could say since the introduction of a monarch in the year 802.
This book is written with great empathy and honesty. The original family of four, King George VI, his wife, Elizabeth and the two princesses, were a tight group, and it was not easy for anyone to break into that group. When Prince Philip joined the family, he was not welcomed by courtiers and politicians. It was much the same for Tony Armstrong-Jones, and then, of course, there was Diana. Andrew Morton does inevitably make comparisons between Princesses Margaret and Diana as they both suffered at the hands of the institution.
It is an insight, and a sad story as whilst Elizabeth found great happiness with Philip, Margaret seems to have always been chasing happiness. However, as sisters, they had their disagreements, fallouts, differences in opinion, and made different life choices, but there was an unbreakable bond that I found quite disarming.
It is a sentence in the last paragraph that summed it all up for me.