The Queen and Mrs Thatcher: An Inconvenient Relationship
Edited By: Dean Palmer
Format/Source: Hardback courtesy of the author via GoodReads First Reads Programme
This is the remarkable story of how the two most powerful women in Britain at the time met and disliked each other on sight.
For over a decade they quietly waged a war against each other on both a personal and political stage, disagreeing on key issues including sanctions against South Africa, the Miners’ Strike and allowing US planes to bomb Libya using UK military bases.
Elizabeth found the means to snub and undermine her prime minister through petty class put-downs and a series of press leaks.
Margaret attacked her monarch by sidelining her internationally, upstaging her at home and allowing the Murdoch press to crucify the royal family.
This book is a window into the 80s, an era when Britain was changed beyond recognition by a woman who made ‘Thatcherism’ the defining word of the decade.
I thought the premise of this book was really interseting: two of the most powerful women in Britain in the 1980s who disliked each other. How does that work out? From the book blurb above, I had no idea that they disliked each other so much that it would actually play out on the political stage, albeit discreetly (I must’ve missed that part when I read Robin Harris’ Not For Turning (review) some two years ago). I’ve read enough royal biographies and snippets I suppose–not to mention the Thatcher biography I just noted in the previous sentence–to know enough about both women, so I was curious to see how this book highlights the differences–and similarities?–between the two of them. I was surprised to learn that I won a copy of this book through GoodReads and thankful to the author for having sent it. This book became available on 01 June 2015.
I couldn’t put this book down once I started reading it. Setting up the premise of these two women coming from opposite ends of the class spectrum but in positions of power was fascinating and it was interesting to read how their relationship devolved after that fateful first meeting. It’s astonishing to think that, being one of the few women in power and sharing some similar struggles and opinions, they would quite dislike each other and do little to advance the role of women in the public sphere (but as their biographies note, their upbringing and experiences lent little for them to promote the role of women during the 80s). It was also fascinating to read to what extent they actually waged their little war against each other, from old-fashioned snobbery to actively sidelining them publically to enlisting the media for support. It was very strange, really, but the contrasts were also interesting to examine.
It was also interesting to see how similar these two women are, despite coming from different backgrounds and experiencing different experiences that led them to their positions of power and authority. Not to mention how eerily similar their family lives ran and some of the values that were instilled in them when they were growing up. They were the products of the early 20th century, so despite of their differences some of those values remained.
The set-up of the book was devised in a way that allowed the author’s argument points to flow through logically but still in keeping with major events that happened chronologically over the course of the 1980s. There’s a bit of back-and-forth at times, especially when it came to these women’s private lives, and there was a bit of repetition at times that was quite noticeable and almost word-for-word but otherwise it was a very interesting argument to follow. A word on the publication: short as this book was, I wished they had increased the size of the font a wee bit. It’s a little smaller than standard, and while I can read with small font, it does make the text seem overwhelming at times. Additionally, there were a few minor typos here and there–namely with spacing and punctuations–but otherwise it was fine.
The Queen and Mrs. Thatcher overall was an interesting look at the queen and prime minister’s frosty relationship (to put it mildly) over the course of the 1980s and how it played out in the political scene. I learned a lot along the way, perhaps because events were conveyed in a precise manner, about the rise of the media and the unspoken rules when it comes to interacting with the monarchy. Readers of non-fiction who are interested in the British monarchy, British politics, and the current events of the 1980s will want to check out this book.