In the New York City tabloid game, an apothegm from the 1970s or ’80s used to be passed down reverently from old hack to young buck: “You can say whatever you want about the mafia. They’re not going to hold a press conference to denounce you.” As for the Firm across the Atlantic—the Cosa Windsor—you can say pretty much whatever you please about its members, too. Her Majesty isn’t going to sit down with the BBC to explain what you got wrong.

That Queen Elizabeth II has managed to float above it all for more than sixty years—on September 9 the duration of her reign will surpass that of Victoria—is central to her mystique. But who is Betty Windsor at home? The playwright Peter Morgan provided an appealing...

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