I’m doing the A to Z Challenge in April, using the theme of the UK & Ireland. For the letter Q, I’m enjoying the many times that British queens have been portrayed in films and television shows.
The two longest-reining monarchs in the history of Britain were women. Add Elizabeth I, and there are three women in the top ten. That’s a pretty high percentage considering that up until 2015, the British practiced male primogeniture in the selection of their monarchs, meaning that the oldest male took the throne ahead of any older sisters. There have been a lot more kings than queens.
- Queen Elizabeth I, 1558-1603, 44 years
- Queen Victoria, 1837-1901, 63 years
- Queen Elizabeth II, 1952-present, 66 years and counting
Longevity and the novelty of a female monarch mean that there are many great stories to tell about these women and their times, irresistible to the makers of movies and shows.
My favorite movie featuring Queen Elizabeth I is Shakespeare in Love. I don’t imagine I’m the only one who shares that opinion.
Of course, there are many films that are more focused on Queen Bess herself.
A year or two ago, I watched Bette Davis in the role, in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, and found her more convincing than I expected. Bette Davis played Elizabeth I a second time in The Virgin Queen — I’ll have to watch that.
I remember watching Cate Blanchett transform herself into the Virgin Queen in Elizabeth (1998) but I’m not sure if I saw her second portrayal in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007). I just added both to my Netflix queue.
I’d also like to see the 2005 mini-series featuring Helen Mirren — it looks like I can stream that from Amazon Prime.
Queen Victoria has been a favorite subject recently in both film and television. I even managed to confuse myself between the film The Young Victoria and the ITV/PBS mini-series Victoria. But, I finally managed to watch both. According to Radio Times, a third season of Victoria has been confirmed with Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes continuing to play Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
In the tradition of playing one queen twice, Judi Dench portrayed Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown (1997) and last year in Victoria and Abdul.
I remain disconcerted that we’re watching stories about Queen Elizabeth II while she’s still living, but that hasn’t stopped me watching The Crown — Season 1 and Season 2. If you’re anxious for Season 3, IndieWire published all the goodies earlier this month. Olivia Colman, who I loved in Broadchurch, will be the older Queen Elizabeth II. They’re predicting a release date of spring 2019.
Helen Mirren played this Queen Elizabeth, too, in the 2006 film The Queen about the difficult days after the death of Princess Diana. The BBC reported that Helen Mirren has already expressed no desire to reprise her role in a later season of The Crown.
Have I missed any portrayals of queens on the screen that you love?