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Sally Bedell Smith

Sally Bedell Smith
SallyBedellSmith Headshot.jpg
Sarah Rowbotham

(1948-05-27) May 27, 1948 (age 71)
Other namesSally Bedell, Sally Smith
EducationB.A. Wheaton College
M.S. Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
EmployerVanity Fair (contributing editor)
AgentAmanda Urban
Notable work
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch (January 2012)
Board member ofDeerfield Academy
The Buckley School
Columbia Journalism Review
Spouse(s)Stephen G. Smith
ChildrenKirk Bedell
Elisabeth Bedell Clive
David Branson Smith
Awards1982 Sigma Delta Chi Award for magazine reporting
1986 fellow at Freedom Forum Media Studies Center
2012 Washington Irving Medal recipient for Literary Excellence
2012 Goodreads Choice Award for Elizabeth the Queen.

Sarah Bedell Smith (born May 27, 1948) is an American historian and author specializing in biographies of American political, cultural, and business leaders, as well as members of the British royal family. She has been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair for over 20 years, and is married to Stephen G. Smith, former editor of U.S. News & World Report and current editor in chief of National Journal Daily. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Early life and education

Sarah Rowbotham was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Ruth (Kirk) and James Howard Rowbotham, a brigadier general and businessman.[4][5][6] She grew up in the nearby town of St. Davids. She graduated from Radnor High School in 1966, and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in November 2008.[7] She received her B.A. from Wheaton College and her M.S. from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she was the winner of the Robert Sherwood Memorial Travel-Study Scholarship and the Women's Press Club of New York Award.


Smith spent her early career working as a reporter for Time, TV Guide, and The New York Times, where she was a lead cultural news reporter specializing in television.

In 1981, Smith published Up The Tube: Prime-time TV and the Silverman Years, an inside look at the American television industry, its ratings wars of the 1970s, and the meteoric career of Fred Silverman, who famously worked as an executive at all of the Big Three TV networks. She won the Sigma Delta Chi Distinguished Service Award in 1982, and became a fellow at the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center in 1986.

Smith's first official biography, In All His Glory, was published in 1990, chronicling the life of William S. Paley, former chairman of CBS. In The New York Times Book Review, Christopher Buckley wrote, "[Smith's] superb and thorough reporting uncovered all the unpleasantness along with the greatness."[8]

In 1996, Smith published Reflected Glory: The Life of Pamela Churchill Harriman. Reviewing the book for The New York Observer, Alex Kuczynski wrote, "Reflected Glory is so painstakingly researched and thoroughly engrossing, it will keep the Itty Bitty Book Lights glowing in Georgetown town houses and Park Avenue aeries into the wee hours, working any readers who may have been on the receiving end of Mrs. Harriman's blunt sword into giddy paroxysms of Schadenfreude."[9] That same year, Smith joined Vanity Fair as contributing editor, where she remains as of August 2016. For the magazine, she has written pieces on such high-profile figures as Jimmy Goldsmith[10] and Gianni Agnelli.[11]

Her 1999 biography of Diana, Princess of Wales, Diana in Search of Herself was included in the best seller list of the following: The New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today Top 50, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Barnes & Noble and Publishers Weekly.

2004 saw the publication of Smith's fourth biography, Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House. In a front-page review for The Los Angeles Times, Gary Indiana said it was, "A gracefully written tell-all that really does tell a story worth reading... Her detailed book is hardly prurient, but it does clock -- and I do mean clock -- JFK's infidelities, which emerge here in a somewhat different light than we've seen them before...Grace and Power is stuffed with resonant names from yesteryear...Smith's portrait of Jackie is irresistible."

In 2007, Smith released For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton in the White House. Reviewing for The Times of London, Gerard Baker wrote, "In her sharply insightful book, For Love of Politics, Sally Bedell Smith dissects the Clinton relationship, and says it is less like a traditional marriage and more like a vast and successful corporation that dominates the business of American politics."[12]

Her 2012 biography of Queen Elizabeth II, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch, also a New York Times bestseller, received the 2012 Goodreads Choice Award for Best History & Biography and the 2012 Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence. The New York Times called the book "an excellent, all-embracing new biography" with "fascinating details...shining a beam onto underlighted corners of the monarch's experience."[13] Smith also served as playwright Peter Morgan's consultant on the London and New York productions of The Audience, his award-winning drama about Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers, starring Helen Mirren.[14]

Smith's biography of Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, was published by Random House on April 4, 2017.[15] In his review for The New York Times Book Review, William Boyd wrote, "What's remarkable about [Smith's] portrait of Prince Charles is that he emerges as a man not deeply tainted by the complacent values of the world in which he was raised. Her Charles is a complex, somewhat troubled, sincere and questioning individual...Smith makes many telling, shrewd points in pursuit of realigning the popular image of Prince Charles."[16] The book has been on the bestseller lists of The Washington Post,[17] The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • Up the Tube: Prime-Time TV and the Silverman Years (Viking, 1981) ISBN 9780812930306
  • William S. Paley: In All His Glory: The Life of William S. Paley: The Legendary Tycoon and His Brilliant Circle (Simon & Schuster, 1990) ISBN 9780671617356)
  • Pamela Churchill Harriman: Reflected Glory: The Life of Pamela Churchill Harriman (Simon & Schuster, 1996) ISBN 9780684809502
  • Diana, Princess of Wales: Diana in Search of Herself: Portrait of a Troubled Princess (Times Books, 1999) ISBN 9780812930306
  • The Kennedys: Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House (Random House, 2004) ISBN 9780375504495
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton: For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton in the White House (Random House, 2007) ISBN 9781400063246
  • Elizabeth II: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch (Random House, 2012) ISBN 9780718158651
  • Charles, Prince of Wales: Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life (Random House, 2017)


  1. ^ "Sally Bedell Smith". Contemporary Authors Online (fee, via Fairfax County Public Library)|format= requires |url= (help). Detroit: Gale. 2007. GALE|H1000113089. Retrieved 2012-01-17. Gale Biography In Context. (subscription required)
  2. ^ Smith, Sally Bedell (December 9, 1990). "In All His Glory: The Life of William Paley". Booknotes (Interview). Interviewed by Brian Lamb. C-SPAN. Retrieved 2012-01-17. I went to Wheaton College in Massachusetts and then got my masters at Columbia Journalism School.
  3. ^ "Society of the Four Arts". Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  4. ^ "Sarah Bedell Wed To Stephen Smith". The New York Times. May 23, 1982.
  5. ^ "Memorial: James H. Rowbotham '32". Princeton Alumni Weekly. 2016-01-21.
  6. ^ "Weddings: Cynthia Drayton, James Rowbotham". The New York Times. December 8, 1996.
  7. ^ "Hall of Fame / 2008 Hall of Fame Inductions". Wayne, PA: Radnor Township School District. Retrieved 2012-01-17.
  8. ^ Buckley, Christopher (4 November 1990). "Success Was Not Enough". The New York Times Book Review. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  9. ^ "".
  10. ^ Smith, Sally Bedell. "Billionaire with a Cause". Retrieved 2016-09-01.
  11. ^ Smith, Sally Bedell. "Gianni and Marella Agnelli Profile". Retrieved 2016-09-01.
  12. ^ "Enough Clinton Incorporated | The Times". Retrieved 2016-09-01.
  13. ^ Schillinger, Liesl (2012-01-22). "BOOKS OF STYLE; Lighting the Shadows Behind the Queen and Her Consort". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-01.
  14. ^ "Helen Mirren, the Queen & The Audience | Royal Oak Foundation". 2015-05-11. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  15. ^ Smith, Sally Bedell (2017-04-04). Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life. NEW YORK: Random House. ISBN 9781400067909.
  16. ^ Boyd, William (2017-05-10). "A Kinder, Gentler Portrait of Prince Charles". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
  17. ^ "Washington Post bestsellers: April 16, 2017". The Washington Post. 2017-04-13. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-06-26.

External links