Personality and image of Elizabeth II
The image of Queen Elizabeth II has been generally favourable throughout the years. Conservative in dress, she is well known for her solid-colour overcoats and matching hats which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd. She attends many cultural events as part of her public role. Her main leisure interests include horse racing, photography, and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh corgis. Her views on political issues and other matters are largely subject to conjecture. She has never given a press interview and is otherwise not known to discuss her personal opinions publicly.
- 1 Personality
- 2 Public image
- 3 Personality in diplomacy matters
- 4 Media perception
- 5 Critics
- 6 Fictional portrayals
- 7 Documentaries and television series
- 8 Image on currency
- 9 Patronage of charities
- 10 See also
- 11 References
Much of what is known about Elizabeth's personality and views has been compiled from impressions and descriptions by those she has met. Canadian politician Michael Ignatieff remarked in 2010, after a private audience with the Queen, how he was struck by her "wonderful sense of the absurd" and noted her "sense of humour, that sense of the absurd, that sense of comedy of life has survived 60 years of gruelling public life." After a weekend at Balmoral Castle hosted by the Queen, Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean recounted witnessing a relaxed, informal home life: Elizabeth and her family preparing a meal together—including a salad dressing devised by the Queen—and doing the washing up afterwards. Lady Pamela Hicks, a cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, commented on Elizabeth's personality as "individualistic". Hicks's mother remembers back to when George VI died. Elizabeth was in Kenya with her husband when she found out; "I’m so sorry, but we are going to have to go back to England," she recalled Elizabeth saying.
Opinion polls have regularly shown that Queen Elizabeth II has an excellent approval rating; coinciding with her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen had an approval rate in the United Kingdom of 90% in 2012. According to a YouGov poll in January 2014, the Queen was the most admired person in the United Kingdom with 18.74% of respondents reporting that she was the person they most admired, the highest percentage of all candidates. Internationally she was the 17th most-admired person in the world.
In 2002, the Queen was ranked 24th in the 100 Greatest Britons poll. In 1997, she and other members of the royal family were perceived in the tabloid press as cold and unfeeling when they did not participate in the public outpouring of grief at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Queen ignored precedent to bow to Diana's coffin as it passed Buckingham Palace and also gave a live television broadcast paying tribute to Diana.
Elizabeth's public image has noticeably softened in recent years; although she remains reserved in public, she has been seen laughing and smiling much more than in years past, and has shed tears during emotional occasions such as at Remembrance Day services, the memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral for those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in Normandy, for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, where she addressed the Canadian troops. During most public appearances, she is dressed in solid colours, as this enhances visibility from a distance.
In recent years, Elizabeth has also been portrayed as being a modern grandmother. She is said to have been "addicted" to playing with a Nintendo Wii, which was bought by Kate Middleton for Prince William. She set up her e-mail account and owns both a mobile phone and an iPod. When President Barack Obama visited the Queen and Prince Philip in April 2009, he gave her a personalised iPod, which was pre-loaded with forty "classic" tunes and video footage of her visit to Virginia.
Personality in diplomacy matters
In matters of diplomacy, Elizabeth is known to be quite formal, and royal protocol is generally very strict. Though some of the traditional rules for dealing with the monarch have been relaxed during her reign (bowing is no longer required, for example, although it is still frequently performed), other forms of close personal interaction, such as touching, are discouraged by officials. At least six people are known to have broken this rule, the first being a woman named Alice Frazier, who hugged the Queen in 1991 when Elizabeth visited her residence in a government housing project in Washington, D.C. (accompanied by First Lady Barbara Bush and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp). The second was Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia, when he was photographed with his arm around the Queen in 1992. The third was Canadian cyclist Louis Garneau, who did the same thing ten years later when posing for a photograph with the Queen at Rideau Hall (her official residence in Canada). In 1997 during the Cabot 500 celebrations of Newfoundland and Labrador, the then Premier Brian Tobin placed an arm behind her while walking up a staircase. This was frowned upon in the press, but the Premier said that he placed his arm around her as an effort to help an elderly woman climb the stairs. In 2009, the Queen initiated an affectionate gesture with First Lady Michelle Obama at a palace reception she attended with President Obama. The Queen rested her hand briefly at the small of the First Lady's back, a gesture that Mrs Obama returned. It was remarked at the time as unprecedented and described afterwards by a palace spokeswoman as "a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation between The Queen and Michelle Obama."
The Queen's subtle use of signals to her staff in certain social situations has been described by journalist Hugo Vickers and others. It is said that by twisting her wedding ring she signals that she is ready for the conversation or event to end forthwith. Alternately, placing her handbag onto the table at dinner means that she wants the event to end within the next five minutes and by setting it on the floor she indicates that she is not enjoying the conversation and wants a lady-in-waiting to assist immediately.
Elizabeth has attended many cultural events as part of her public role. She has given an annual Christmas message to the Commonwealth every year, apart from 1969, since she became Queen. The Queen's first television message was aired on Christmas Day 1957. In 2001, the Royal Christmas Message was webcast on the royal website for the first time and, in 2006, it was made available as a podcast. Her first appearance on live television in Canada was in Prescott, Ontario, in 1959 when, as Queen of Canada, she opened the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
The Queen has never done a press interview. In 2018 she engaged in small talk with Alastair Bruce of Crionaich for the television documentary The Coronation. In 2006, the Queen had been filmed having a conversation with the later-disgraced Australian artist and media personality Rolf Harris while he painted her portrait. It ventured little beyond talk of previous portraits of the Queen and royal art history in general, and the Queen's responses to Harris's overtures were notably crisp and monosyllabic. She had a more jovial on-camera exchange with the painter Andrew Festing while sitting for a portrait in the 1992 BBC documentary Elizabeth R, directed by Edward Mirzoeff on the 40th anniversary of her accession, which attracted record audiences for a factual programme.
The BBC, along with RDF Media Group, became the target of Her Majesty's lawyers, Farrer & Co, after the broadcaster aired a documentary trailer for Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (2007), which was edited in such a way as to make it appear as though the Queen had stormed out of a photo shoot with photographer Annie Leibovitz. The BBC had earlier apologised for the misrepresentation, which was fuelled by BBC1 controller Peter Fincham describing the Queen as "losing it a bit and walking out in a huff"; but, the Queen and Buckingham Palace were not satisfied with the results and pushed to sue for breach of contract.
The Queen is the subject of "Her Majesty", featured on the Beatles' 1969 album Abbey Road; McCartney played the song at the Party at the Palace concert during the Elizabeth's golden jubilee in 2002. She is also mentioned in the song "Mean Mr. Mustard" (also featured on Abbey Road), and in the 1967 Lennon and McCartney song "Penny Lane". In 1977, The Sex Pistols issued "God Save the Queen", which became a controversial hit single, inspiring the punk rock movement with its lyrics suggesting "She ain't no human being", and there was "no future" and comparing England to a "fascist regime." The Smiths released the song and album The Queen Is Dead in 1986. The Pet Shop Boys have a track called Dreaming of the Queen. The Queen is the subject of "Elizabeth My Dear", which appears on The Stone Roses' eponymous debut. She is referenced in the Travie McCoy song "Billionaire" where he sings that he wants to be "on the cover of Forbes magazine./ Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen."
The Queen plays detective in the Her Majesty Investigates series of mystery novels by C.C. Benison, which includes Death at Buckingham Palace and Death at Windsor Castle. The Queen is the subject of The Queen and I, and is a character in Queen Camilla, both books written by Sue Townsend. She is also a character in the book The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett.
In 2006, she was portrayed by Helen Mirren in the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-nominated Stephen Frears film The Queen, a fictional account of the immediate events following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The film ended up as the most critically acclaimed film of 2006. Mirren, who had been appointed into the Order of the British Empire in 2003, won the Oscar for her work in the film and, in her acceptance speech, she paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II: "For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle," she said.
In a 2006 book, Who Owns the World: The Hidden Facts Behind Landownership, Kevin Cahill claimed that Queen Elizabeth II holds ownership of one sixth of the land on the Earth's surface, more than any other individual or nation. This amounts to a total of 6,600 million acres (2.7×1013 m2) in 32 countries.
Campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised the Queen for inviting "royal tyrants to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee". The King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is accused of human rights abuses and King of Swaziland Mswati III of living in luxury while his people starve. Saudi Arabia and Kuwaiti royals were also invited and Amnesty International has reported repression in Saudi Arabia against reformists, while Human Rights Watch has criticised Kuwait of the freedom of press. Buckingham Palace said it would not comment.
Elizabeth has been portrayed on screen by:
- Steven Walden in drag in the X-rated short film spoof Tricia's Wedding (1971), said to be the very first portrayal of the Queen on film.
- Huguette Funfrock, a French actress who specialises in playing her, in the spoof Bons baisers de Hong Kong (1975), the comedy Le Bourreau des coeurs (1983), and the Hong Kong film Aces Go Places 3 (1984)
- Jeannette Charles, who specialises in playing the Queen, in numerous film and television appearances, including:
- Angela Thorne voiced the character of Queen Elizabeth in The BFG (1989)
- Carolyn Sadowska in The Duke (1999)
- Margaret Eggleton-Kaye in the comedy The Pooch and the Pauper (1999)
- Rachel Wallis in Her Majesty (2001)
- Jeanette Vane in Ali G Indahouse (2002)
- Prunella Scales in Johnny English (2003), where her abdication, despite having little screen time, is a major plot point
- Neve Campbell in the spoof Churchill: The Hollywood Years (2004)
- Dame Helen Mirren in The Queen (2006), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
- Lesley Staples in the straight-to-video Royal Faceoff (2006)
- Elena Safonova in the Russian comedy film A Hare over the Abyss (2006)
- Hrithik Roshan in a Bollywood Film Dhoom 2, sky-dives and lands on a train carrying the Queen. He steals Elizabeth II's crown by disguising himself as the Queen and escapes. (2006)
- Elizabeth Richard in the disaster movie 2012 (2009). She was shown in a cameo while going to one of the arks to save herself and her dogs; in the straight-to-video comedy Never Say Never Mind: The Swedish Bikini Team (2001); and in the American movie What a Girl Wants (2003)
- Freya Wilson as a child in The King's Speech (2010)
- Sarah Gadon as a young Princess Elizabeth in A Royal Night Out (2015)
- Jennifer Saunders voiced the character of Queen Elizabeth in American animated film Minions (2015)
- Penelope Wilton in The BFG (2016)
- "U Don't Know Me": The Queen is played by a Lookalike and is seen drinking, fighting and fleeing police during a night out in Soho, London
On television, Elizabeth has been played by:
- Jeannette Charles and Huguette Funfrock many times from the 1970s onwards, mostly in comedic roles
- Stanley Baxter in The Stanley Baxter Picture Show (1972)
- Carol Burnett, in various sketches in The Carol Burnett Show (1970s)
- Sheila Steafel in several episodes of the BBC comedy series The Goodies (1975–1977)
- Jo Kendall in an episode of The Goodies entitled "Politics" (1980)
- Margaret Tyzack in the drama Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story (1982)
- Dana Wynter in the drama The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (1982)
- Sally Grace in an episode of the BBC sitcom Never the Twain entitled "The Royal Connection" (1984)
- Mary Reynolds (uncredited) in the Doctor Who story "Silver Nemesis" (1988)
- Prunella Scales in the BBC drama A Question of Attribution (1992), based on the play by Alan Bennett
- Iris Russell in the drama Fergie & Andrew: Behind the Palace Doors (1992)
- Carolyn Sadowska in the drama The Women of Windsor (1992)
- Amanda Walker in the drama Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After (1992)
- Anne Stallybrass in the drama Diana: Her True Story (1993)
- Elizabeth Richard many times, including the comedy dramas Giving Tongue (1996) and Gobble (1997)
- Lisa Daniely in the drama Princess in Love (1996)
- Irm Hermann in the German comedy Willi und die Windzors (1996)
- Beth Boyd in the comedy My Government and I (2000)
- Elisabeth Dermot Walsh in the Carlton Television drama Bertie and Elizabeth (2002)
- Rosemary Leach in the drama Prince William (2002) and the BBC comedy drama Tea with Betty (2006)
- Julia Munrow in the BBC drama Love Again (2003), about Philip Larkin
- Helen Duffy in an episode of the sitcom Hannah Montana entitled "Grandmas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Play Favorites" (2006)
- Dilys Laye in the comedy drama series The Amazing Mrs Pritchard (2006)
- Jessica Martin briefly at the end of the Christmas special of the BBC series Doctor Who entitled "Voyage of the Damned" (2007)
- Rosemary Leach in Margaret (2009)
- Emilia Fox, Samantha Bond, Barbara Flynn, Susan Jameson, and Diana Quick in the docudrama serial The Queen (2009)
- Jane Alexander in William & Catherine: A Royal Romance (2011)
- Emma Thompson in the Playhouse Presents episode "Walking the Dogs" (2012)
- Herself and stunt double Gary Connery in the short film Happy and Glorious co-starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, part of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony (2012)
- June Squibb in 7 Days in Hell (2015)
- Claire Foy in the Netflix series The Crown (2016-2017)
- Roxana Lupu and Christina Richards in the Channel 5 documentary series Inside Windsor Castle (2017)
- Maggie Sullivun in Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance (2018)
- Olivia Colman in the Netflix series The Crown (2019)
Jan Ravens was the voice for a latex puppet caricature of her in Spitting Image (1984–1996), and gave radio and television comedy impressions of her in Dead Ringers. Scott Thompson gave a recurring impression of Queen Elizabeth II on the Canadian sketch comedy show The Kids in the Hall in the early 1990s, as did Luba Goy on Royal Canadian Air Farce. Tracey Ullman's depiction of the Queen was among many roles she played on the television series Tracey Takes On.... The Simpsons portrayed the Queen during the episode "The Regina Monologues" (2003). She was also shown in the SpongeBob SquarePants TV movie Truth or Square. She has been portrayed on Saturday Night Live by, among others, Fred Armisen, Mike Myers, and Kate McKinnon.
Furthermore, a biographical story about the reign of the Queen by Netflix, The Crown, was released globally on November 4, 2016. It is based on an award-winning play, The Audience, and is a biopic drama television series, created and written by Peter Morgan and produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for Netflix. The show received critical accolade and won an Emmy Award in 2017, John Lithgow's for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series.
- Prunella Scales in A Question of Attribution (1988)
- Marion Bailey and Clare Holman in Handbagged (2013)
- Marion Bailey and Lucy Robinson in Handbagged (2014)
- Susie Blake and Emma Handy in Handbagged (2015)
- Helen Mirren in The Audience (2013)
- Kristin Scott Thomas in The Audience (2015)
- Fiona Reid in The Audience (2016)
- Inna Churikova in The Audience (2017)
Documentaries and television series
- The Royal Wedding (Short documentary) (1947)
- Royal Journey (Canada) (1951)
- Royal Heritage (Short documentary) (1952)
- A Queen is Crowned (1953)
- Elizabeth is Queen (Short documentary) (1953)
- Long To Reign Over Us (Short documentary) (1953)
- Royal Destiny (Short documentary) (1953)
- A Queen's World Tour (1954)
- Royal New Zealand Journey (1954)
- The Queen in Australia (Australia) (1954)
- The Sceptre and the Mace (Canada) (Short documentary) (1957)
- Life of a Queen (Short documentary) (1960)
- Queen Elizabeth II in Pakistan (Short documentary) (1961)
- The Queen Returns (Australia) (1963)
- The Royal Tour of the Caribbean (1966)
- Hello Elisabeth! (Finland) (1976)
- Twenty Five Years (1977)
- Queen Elizabeth II: 60 Glorious Years (1986)
- Tribute to Her Majesty (1987)
- Queen Elizabeth II: The Power and Glory (1991)
- From Princess to Queen: Elizabeth II - Childhood to Statehood (1996)
- Queen's Golden Jubilee 2002: Party at the Palace (2002)
- The Queen: Behind the Mask (2007)
- The Queen - A life in Film (2008)
- The Story of Queen Elizabeth II (2011)
- Die Queen - Elizabeth II. (Germany) (2012)
- Elizabeth II - A Diamond Jubilee Celebration (2012)
- Elizabeth II - Le Portrait (Canada) (2012)
- Queen Elizabeth II - Reign Supreme (2012)
- The Queen's Diamond Decades (2012)
- The Majestic Life of Queen Elizabeth II (2013)
- The Queen at 90 (2016)
TV film and series documentaries
- Royal Family (1969)
- The Crown in New Zealand (1970)
- Royal Heritage (1977)
- Jubilee and Beyond (Australia) (1977)
- Elizabeth - The First Thirty Years (1983)
- Canada and the Monarchy (1992)
- Elizabeth R: A Year in the Life of the Queen (1992)
- Days of Majesty (1993)
- The Windsors: A Royal Family PBS (USA) (1994)
- Elizabeth: The Reluctant Monarch (1998)
- Queen & Country BBC (2002)
- The Jubilee Girl (2002)
- The Queen: A Remarkable Life (2002)
- The Royal Jewels (2002)
- An Unforgettable Coronation BBC (2003)
- The Queen's Castle (2005)
- Ten Days that Made the Queen (2006)
- The Girl Who Would Be Queen (2006)
- The Queen at 80 (2006)
- The Queen by Rolf (2006)
- Königin - Ein Job fürs Leben: Queen Elisabeth II. (Germany) (2007)
- Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (2007)
- The Queen's Wedding (2007)
- The Queen's Coronation: Behind Palace Doors (2008)
- The Queen's Palaces BBC (2011)
- A Jubilee Tribute to the Queen by the Prince of Wales BBC (2012)
- Elizabeth: Queen of Scots (2012)
- Elizabeth: Queen, Wife, Mother (TV Movie documentary) (2012)
- The Changing Face of the Queen (2012)
- The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (TV Movie documentary) (2012)
- The Diamond Queen (2012)
- The Queen and Her Prime Ministers (2012)
- The Queen (Arte) (France/Germany) (2012)
- Our Queen ITV (2013)
- In Their Own Words: Queen Elizabeth II PBS (USA) (2015)
- The Queen's Big Night Out Channel 4 (2015)
- The Queen's Longest Reign: Elizabeth and Victoria BBC (2015)
- Elizabeth at 90: A Family Portrait (TV Movie documentary) BBC (2016)
- Our Queen at 90 ITV (2016)
- A Very Royal Wedding ITV (2017)
- Elizabeth & Philip: Love and Duty BBC One (2017)
- Inside Windsor Castle Channel 5 (2017)
- The Royal House of Windsor Channel 4 (2017)
- The Coronation (2018)
- Elizabeth Our Queen Channel 5 (2018)
- The Queen - Her Commonwealth Story BBC (2018)
- The Queen’s Green Planet ITV (2018)
- Elizabeth II, 65 ans de règne et de secrets (France) (2018)
- The Queen's Coronation in Colour ITV (2018)
- The Story Of The Royals ABC (USA) (2018)
- Queen of the World ITV (2018)
Image on currency
The image of Queen Elizabeth has appeared on the banknotes of at least 35 countries, making her the Guinness World Record holder for the "Most Currencies Featuring the Same Individual". Her depictions on these currencies serve as a photo journal of sorts, as they span the range of Elizabeth's life, from youth onward.
Patronage of charities
The Queen is patron of more than 620 charities and organisations including:
- Campaign to Protect Rural England
- Canadian Medical Association
- The Kennel Club
- Royal Architectural Institute of Canada
- Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children
- Royal School of Church Music
- Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge
- Boys' Brigade
- Queens' College, Cambridge
- Visitor of Christ Church, Oxford
- Visitor of Westminster School
- Visitor of Ruthin School
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