Our Queen by Robert Hardman
Arrow $29.99

Robert Hardman, a former Fleet St royal correspondent and the man who interviewed Prince Charles in the BBC documentary Charles at 60, has had access to "every level" of the Royal Household, he trumpets in the introduction to this exhaustive study of HRH.

"With exclusive new material for the Diamond Jubilee edition" (the book first came out last year), it opens with an interview with Prince William, who says he has looked at photos of his grandmother when she stepped into the role at age 25 and concludes: "She looks so incredibly natural in the role." All the more remarkable, given what he and his brother were both up to at the same age.

This minutely detailed book - with breathless titles like "Her Achievement", "Her People",
"Her Image" - is for true devotees, but a dilettante's flick through the index provides a little fun. I repeat, a little.

Taylor, Elizabeth 292: The Duke of Edinburgh at a film premiere. "The Duke's eye was unavoidably drawn to to the low-cut dress doing battle with Elizabeth Taylor's cleavage," writes Hardman. "Turning to his Comptroller, the Duke whispered, 'hop in'."


Elizabeth II, Personal Life, Likes & dislikes 47: "horses: good; spicy food: bad, etc. She likes driving fast but hates seatbelts."

"Key, John" gets six mentions. They're pretty bland. Actually, unless you are one of the aforementioned devotees, so is the book.