A no-depth biography of Elizabeth and Philip

April 07, 1991|By Sherryl Connelly | Sherryl Connelly,New York Daily News

ELIZABETH AND PHILIP.

Charles Higham

and Roy Moseley.

Doubleday.

516 pages. $22.95.

There, Charles Higham and Roy Moseley have gone and donit. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip may not be intrinsically interesting people, but even a die-hard royalist who actually finishes "Elizabeth and Philip" may be grateful to close the book on the couple.

Rather than a flesh-and-blood Elizabeth and Philip, we are given lifeless, static prose riddled with the "must-haves" (as in "she must have felt . . .") and "no doubts" (as in "no doubt the Prince believed . . .) common to bad biographies of the royals in that no one can get close enough to these particular subjects to find out what she really did feel or what he actually believed.

The authors have taken a different tack in that they attempt to position Elizabeth as a political figure of major influence, which // means readers must endure rehashes of the Suez war, the Profumo scandal and sundry constitutional crises.

Certainly, they illuminate the queen's role in each controversy, but the material is not compelling. The reader has the uneasy feeling that the authors' reach exceeds their grasp when it comes to nailing down proof of the medley of conspiracies they present.

What chiefly daunts the reader, though, is the Higham/Moseley everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach to their subjects.

In one typical passage, we move from a report of an M.I.5 disinformation campaign in 1971 to a discussion of Princess Anne's drivingrecord, followed by a brief on the death of one of the queen's cousins, which segues, without pause, into a demonstration at Stirling University in Scotland, where a student called the queen a very bad name.

Is any of it relevant to an understanding of the royal couple? Well, certainly what is relevant is less than meets the eye in the barrage of travel itineraries and other meaningless factoids the authors have assembled in lieu of a penetrating glimpse beyond the palace gates.

Where they do address interesting personal material, such as the persistent rumors of Philip's dalliances, they retreat to speculation, taking a maybe-he-did, maybe-he-didn't, but-we-believe-he-did approach that doesn't sit well in a supposedly definitive biography.

Most unpleasant, though, is the book's tone, veering from sycophantic gushiness to its viperish determination to disclose every last link Philip's family had to Nazi Germany.

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