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INGRID SEWARD : MY MOTHER AND I : A VIVID PORTRAYAL OF A COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP

Royal writers have been rushing to their publishers in the twelve months since the passing of Queen Elizabeth and the coronation of King Charles.  There is a veritable slew of new biographies, each claiming to be more intimate, more accurate, and more revealing than the last.

Veteran royal reporter Ingrid Seward certainly has the runs on the board. She is editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine and has been covering the royal family for more than three decades. And whilst she clearly has tremendous respect for the royals, and understands their wider institutional importance, she is not a starry-eyed hagiographer.

MY MOTHER AND I takes a realistic look at the complex relationship between a mother and son whose destinies were inextricably entwined from birth. Although she was only the 22-year-old Princess Elizabeth when Charles was born it was still inevitable that apart from abdication or incapacity, she would be Queen to her death and he would always be King-in-waiting.  

As we know, the enormous privileges and opportunities of his birth certainly came at a price for Charles, especially as a younger man. The Queen was always monarch first and matriarch second. 

Charles would be forever in the shadow of his mother and would always be compared to the Queen who never complained, at least not in public, and who worked tirelessly. She would indeed be a hard act to follow.There is very little that’s new here, especially if you’re a royal watcher. Seward traverses all of the familiar ground – the lonely and often unhappy childhood; sowing the royal oats; the Diana disaster; and Camilla’s astonishing transformation from the most hated woman in Britain to her status now as a respected and popular Queen.

Some of these key points are revisited in different chapters, perhaps an indication of a rush to the printers, but that’s a minor criticism in a 300-page book of such intimate detail. Seward’s great talent as a royal reporter is the way she adds real colour and humanity to her writing. And whilst there is no suggestion that Charles participated in the book, despite the first person pronoun in its title, Seward is extremely well-connected to those in the inner-most circle. This affords her wonderful insights on almost everything that happens from the people who were actually there. It is these personal anecdotes from Charles’s family and friends that really bring this book to life. 

My Mother and I shows King Charles to be diligent, caring, and concerned about the world; it also reaffirms some of his less positive qualities, especially his self-pity, stubbornness, and impatience. It offers  a multi-layered portrait of a complex man living in a unique situation. This is a highly recommended addition to your royal bookshelf and would be a great Mother’s Day present if your mum is a royal fan. 

Simon & Schuster Australia, rrp $34.99, paperback

ISBN: 9781398529465

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