Book Club Questions

1 Do you think an American celebrity is different or just the same as a member of the British royal family? Why?

2 Several of the characters in this book are dealing with the consequences of aging. Who handles it worst? Who handles it best? Why do you think that?

3 At one point in the book Anne tells Shirley that two men whom they like, and who may be beginning a gay relationship, require their approval to survive. Do you think that's true, i.e. that two gay men would need the support of straight women to stick together? Why? Or why not?

4 Do you think Britain would be better off without the monarchy?

5 What do you think the most important thing is that The Queen learns on her journey?

Selected Works

"Pure. Reading. Pleasure. Like cake, only good for you."
"A clever, surprisingly substantial take on the life of Jacqueline Onassis. . . . Both respectful and scintillating."
Kirkus Reviews
"Thereís plenty to admire in this rollicking romp of a biography, which puts the pursuit of pleasure — both Disraeliís and ours — at its heart."
Mail on Sunday
"An engrossing double biography."
—Sunday Times
"A timely contribution to scholarly research on a topic of great interest and fascination."
Journal of Modern History

Buy Mrs Queen Takes The Train

She could recall Nanny taking her on the train to Sandringham all by herself one Christmas. What a treat that was! (Photo by Edward G. Malindine/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images) Copyright: Getty Images

Further Reading

This is the best work of funny fiction about the Queen. It was the inspiration behind my writing MRS QUEEN TAKES THE TRAIN. All of Bennett's other books are good too. He also wrote the screenplay for THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE in the film section below.

This is a biography of Mrs Queen's great grandfather. Jane Ridley is about the best royal biographer writing now.

This is an unusually good book because of the insight it offers on the media context of Diana's life and death. Tina Brown was a media insider throughout Diana's life. She understands the nexus of print and electronic media that contributed to Diana's fame and which, as she began to understand it better, Diana tried to exploit. There's an opera waiting to be written on this subject.

Sarah Bradford's book will soon be 20 years old, but I think it is the best biography of the current Queen out there.

My Favorite Films about the Modern Monarchy

Helen Mirren does a pretty unbeatable job of playing the Queen, but what impressed me even more was how well the film captures the backstairs people who serve in the Household.

If Helen Mirren was the perfect Queen Elizabeth II, Judi Dench in "Mrs Brown" is the perfect Queen Victoria. This film tells the story of the Queen's friendship with her Highland ghillie, or gamekeeper, John Brown. Did they or didn't they have an affair? If you want to email me, I'll tell you what I think, but this film explores the topic fairly accurately from a historical perspective. My one quibble is that the Queen's secretary, Henry Ponsonby, as portrayed here, is more censorious than he was in real life.

This is a film about King George III and the symptoms of madness that started showing up about 1788. His illness has been diagnosed since as porphyria, a medical condition, but at the time it was a kind of frightening insanity. Alan Bennett, who wrote the novella "The Uncommon Reader," also wrote the play on which this film is based.

This is about the current Queen's father, King George VI. He really did have a stutter and he really did consult a speech pathologist to help him get rid of it. He was a nervous man who smoked like a chimney and the family blamed his brother's abdication for further fraying his nerves.