The Queen will mark 60 years on the throne in February, 2012, and two foreigners—American Sally Bedell Smith and Frenchwoman Isabelle Rivère—are going head to head in an attempt to write her definitive biography by then. Both authors are being quietly helped by Buckingham Palace but this falls well short of access to confidential papers or, of course, the subject herself. The Queen never gives interviews and access to the secret documents and letters of a member of the Royal family is only provided to the official biographer after the subject’s death. Rivère, 42, who has written three previous books, including Charles et Camilla and William d’Angleterre (about Elizabeth’s grandson), is an ardent royalist fluent in English. Bedell Smith is an author, historian and journalist who has appeared on NBC, CBS and Fox News, and is well-connected in Washington political circles. Her book, For Love of Politics. Bill and Hillary Clinton: the White House Years, portrayed Hillary Clinton as the “hidden hand” of power behind the scenes when her husband was president. Her most controversial book was her biography of the late Princess of Wales, Diana: In Search of Herself, which examined her complex character and the turmoil in her private life. Bedell Smith, a former New York Times reporter, concluded that the Princess, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997, may have suffered from mental illness, notably borderline personality disorder. As yet no plans by any British author to write a biography of the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee have been announced.
Jewel in the crown
As Elizabeth II approaches her Diamond Jubilee, competing biographers get to work