READ EXCERPT: 'The Queen Mother'

Photo: Book Cover: The Queen Mother: The Official Biography

For his new book, "The Queen Mother: The Official Biography," William Shawcross was granted unprecedented access to royal documents and chronicled Elizabeth's 101-year life from her teenage years during World War I through her death in 2002.

Read the excerpt below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.


Wednesday 19 July 2000 was the day chosen for the pageant celebrating the hundredth birthday of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. In London, the day did not begin well. There were bomb scares, the controlled explosion of a suspicious bag, and many trains were cancelled. Senior police officers considered whether the whole event should be abandoned. It was not.

The celebration, on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall, had been designed as a joyful tribute to Queen Elizabeth and the hundreds of organizations with which she was connected. In warm afternoon sunshine, as the National Anthem was performed by massed military bands, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a choir of a thousand singers, Queen Elizabeth, dressed in pink, arrived with her grandson the Prince of Wales in a landau escorted by the Household Cavalry.

After she had inspected the troops, she and the Prince sat on a flower-bedecked dais (though she stood much of the time) to watch the parade together. It began with a march-past of the regiments of which she was colonel-in-chief, followed by the King's Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery and the Mounted Bands of the Household Cavalry. One hundred homing doves were released as a young boy sang 'Oh for the Wings of a Dove'.

Then came a cavalcade of the century, a light-hearted look at the hundred years she had lived through; more of a circus than a parade,it included 450 children and adults, with a variety of stars. Among the scenes and players who passed in front of her were soldiers of the First World War, ballroom dancers from the 1920s, a Second World War fire engine and ambulance, Pearly Kings and Queens from the East End of London, and people in 1940s dress celebrating victory in 1945.Then came a series of post-war cars – Enid Blyton's Noddy in his yellow car, the first Mini Minor, James Bond's Aston Martin, an E-type Jaguar. More recent – and perhaps more surprising – twentieth-century memories were recalled by Hell's Angels on their bikes, punk-rock youths in black and the television characters, the Wombles.

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