Independent Queen

May 16, 1997

May I correct Dorothy Thompson on one small but key point in her thoughtful review of my The Oueen: A Biography of Elizabeth II (THES, May 9)?

She describes me as "the official biographer of the Queen": in fact, an "official" royal biography - based on exclusive access to all relevant royal papers during the reign - is only commissioned after the monarch's death. My own book is an entirely non-sanctioned, independent one, written with neither the advantages nor the restraints of an official status.

Buckingham Palace were very helpful. They let me see archival material for the early part of the Queen's life I had not expected to see, and provided me with invaluable letters of introduction. But they did not ask me to do it; and if they had been less welcoming, I would have gone ahead anyway.

Incidentally, I see that elsewhere in the same issue of The THES, Lucy Hodges describes me as "author of a recent unofficial biography of the Queen", and accurately quotes me as saying "I have only ever written unofficial biographies".

Ben Pimlott

Birkbeck College

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