Queen Mary, 1867-1953, by James Pope-Hennessy

This library book (published in 1959) has been sitting on my table waiting for me to read it for probably two years! It was recommended to me by a dear friend as the perfect biography and so it seems to be. Upon request it was brought up from the depths of the library stacks (by a librarian in overalls and a mask), fumigated  and then issued to me a week later. Upon collection I realised that I would have to choose carefully the appropriate time to read this book. It is just too heavy to carry with me each day to work or when travelling, so when I knew we’d be going down to Devon by car  a couple of weeks ago I decided to take it with me and to give it a go.

There is something else I should explain; earlier this year I began to take a special interest in Edward, the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor and I will be writing much more about them in future posts. This year really had to be the year to read Queen Mary.

The 685 page volume is divided into 4 books of which Book One: Princess May is by far the longest. I’ve just finished this part. Princess May was born into a family with a great many hyphenated German names – if you can manage to wade through the first couple of chapters then the story becomes much easier to follow. The biggest surprise to me was that she had been engaged in the first place to George’s elder brother Albert Victor and it was only following his death not long after their engagement that she became betrothed to the then future king.

James Pope-Hennessy was approached in 1955 and invited to undertake the writing of Queen Mary’s biography. He was given access to the whole Royal Archive by Her Majesty the Queen. His notes are meticulous but do not impede the flow of the text. Carefully selected photographs are dispersed throughout the book rather than all bunched together in the middle. When you are just reading about someone or some place you turn the page and there is the relevant photograph.

I’m looking forward to reading more about this woman whose son was the only modern monarch to abdicate the British throne.


8 comments on “Queen Mary, 1867-1953, by James Pope-Hennessy

  1. Marie-Noëlle says:

    Can’t wait your posts about the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor…
    (Somehow I feel we are linked by them.)

  2. sherry says:

    You’ve kept a library book for two years?

  3. When first borrowed for 12 weeks the due date stamped was 30 April 2010 (I estimated the two years from memory). As no-one has ever requested the book I can keep renewing as many times as I like every 12 weeks. Before me the last issue was due 20 January 2000.

  4. Lyn says:

    I loved this book Barbara, as I think you know. It was one of the books that started my obsession with royal history. I think it was the book that first made clear to me Queen Victoria’s family tree & then I started reading about & around QV & I’ve been reading ever since. I always love the story about her father walking around chanting “it must be the Tsarevich” after Albert Victor’s funeral, a reference to the fact that Alexandra’s sister, Dagmar had been engaged to the Tsarevich of Russia & when he died she married his brother who became Alexander III.

  5. Lyn, thank you for visiting, and you are quite right about putting Queen Victoria’s family tree into some kind of order in my mind. There are some wonderful Family Trees printed on Bible paper that unfold out of the back of the book and which are very helpful as so many of the names are repeated throughout the family. The stories about the death of her first fiance and Dagmar were unknown to me – my thoughts went to Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, although Katherine was actually married to his brother, Arthur. It’s so heavy I don’t read this book in the Boudoir but propped up on a pillow in bed this means I’m retiring earlier and earlier!

  6. elena says:

    Esiste una versione della biografia della regina Mary in italiano?

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