James Pope-Hennessy’s Queen Mary (1959) may be the best royal biography ever and The Quest for Queen Mary (Hodder &?Stoughton, £25; Tablet price £22.50), edited by Hugo Vickers from Pope-Hennessy’s diaries and notes, is a masterpiece. Pope-Hennessy regarded his guise as royal biographer as akin to an “ornithologist in quest of a rare species”. Almost every page inspires amusement, whether Queen Mary saying of the abdication: “This might be ROUMANIA!” or Lady Juliet Duff observing that royals are not like “normal human beings, they are faithful and monogamous, Edward VII an exception”.
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