A personal account of the life and character of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, from the writer who knew her family best.

Gyles Brandreth first met the Queen in 1968, when he was twenty. Over the next fifty years he met her many times, both at public and private events. Through his friendship with the Duke of Edinburgh, he was given privileged access to Elizabeth II.

He kept a record of all those encounters, and his conversations with the Queen over the years, his meetings with her family and friends, and his observations of her at close quarters are what make this very personal account of her extraordinary life uniquely fascinating.

From her childhood in the 1920s to her death at Balmoral, this is both a record of a tumultuous century of royal history and a truly intimate portrait of a remarkable woman.


Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait claims to be different from other biographies in that it focuses on the woman rather than the queen by someone who actually knew her but it misses the mark completely. Brandreth comments often enough that the Queen preferred to keep her thoughts to herself so only those who were very close to her ever knew her intimately and it is obvious Brandreth wasn’t one of them. Most of this book is based on information gathered from her friends and her husband who I suspect Brandreth knew a whole lot better than the Queen.

The book follows Elizabeth from her childhood to her death at Balmoral but the timeline jumps all over the place as Brandreth has a habit of going off on tangents which becomes increasingly annoying. There is a lot of focus on other members of the royal family, mainly Charles and Camilla, who Brandreth seems to be friendly with too but that hardly adds valuable insight into Elizabeth. There are also large chunks of the book about Philip’s thoughts on his wife which would be normal given he probably knew her the best but they feel copied and pasted from Brandreth’s other recent royal release, Philip: The Final Portrait. If you’ve read that, there’s probably no need to read this one too.

The only startling information appears to be the revelation that the Queen had been battling bone cancer before her death but even this is just speculation as no real proof is provided. Brandreth claims to have been told by a close friend of the Queen’s and was given royal approval to put it in his book but maybe he should have adhered to Elizabeth’s sense of privacy and kept it to himself.