Strong, skilful and possessing impeccable manners, the Queen is a remarkable monarch, according to historian and broadcaster Kate Williams.

Elizabeth II will be a difficult act to follow, according to Kate, who will be holding a talk in Worthing this month examining the Queen’s long reign as she celebrates her 90th birthday.

“I want to talk about her childhood and her youth,” says Kate, whose 2012 book Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen is an account of the Queen’s early life. “She is our accidental queen, who ascended to the throne through the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, and then the death of her father, George VI.

“Like Elizabeth II, some of our greatest monarchs were not prepared for their reign: Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Victoria.

“Elizabeth II enjoyed a normal childhood in a normal environment, albeit with privilege, and if you do not know you will be a monarch, there is a certain level of normality that you want to hold on to.

“The impact of the abdication of Edward VIII was tremendous and I want to look at how Elizabeth found her position changed overnight at the age of 11 from a minor princess to heiress to the throne.”

In Young Elizabeth, Kate explores the sheltered upbringing of Elizabeth, with a gentle father and domineering mother, her complicated relationship with her sister, Princess Margaret, and her dependence on her nanny, Marion ‘Crawfie’ Crawford.

Later on, her father refused to allow her to volunteer as a nurse during the Blitz but relented when she was 18 to allow her to work as a mechanic and truck driver for the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service.

Elizabeth’s coronation in 1952 was televised against advice by politicians at the time and, as Kate wrote, her determination to share in the struggles of her people marked her out from a young age.

“I think we have become quite used to her being this wonderful monarch that we do not recognise how difficult it is,” says Kate, who has written biographies of some of history’s most influential women, including Queen Victoria, Josephine Bonaparte, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress of France, and Emma Hamilton, Lord Nelson’s mistress. “She is someone who is difficult to live up to and really has set the bar high.

“We do not realise how much effort, how much work it is. It is estimated that she has met between four and five million people during her reign and it is incredibly impressive how she knows everyone and remembers everyone. She has a mind like a computer.

“She is a strong woman and very skilful in remaining politically neutral, but she has sacrificed an awful lot. Yes, she is a wealthy woman and has a privileged lifestyle but she has been remarkable in her devotion to duty and work.

“It is not much fun to always be there and to always be on duty. Sometimes, I don’t really like going to work because I’m tired or feeling ill, but however the Queen feels, she always has to be interested in people so that when you meet her, it is a really special experience. That takes particular skills and impeccable manners.”

Kate adds, “Britain is a completely different country to the one of 1952, when Elizabeth ascended the throne.

“There were only three million cars on the road, most of us had outside loos and three in four of us were labourers.

“Here we are today, iPadded and centrally heated, in a world no one could have predicted then.

“Britain has decreased in terms of power –will the UK continue to have the same type of monarchy?”

• An Audience with Kate Williams is at the Connaught Theatre, Union Place, Worthing, at 7.30pm on Tuesday June 7. Tickets £20, concs £18, Friends £16, groups 10+ £14. Ages 14+. For details, phone 01903 206206 or visit