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Film / The Queen

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"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."

An award-winning 2006 British drama film directed by Stephen Frears, about how the popular and media reaction to the death of Lady Diana came to shape the relations between The British Royal Family and the Blair government, with the main focus on the developing relationship between Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) and new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen).

Surprisingly low on actual Diana-presence (occasional bits of archive footage only), and generally treats all the characters rather more sympathetically than might have been expected, including such stock figures of media fun as Charles and Philip, and for that matter Tony Blair — Cherie Blair, however, is as smugly derisive as one would expect.

Mirren's performance in the title role was highly praised and earned her multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress.

The same production/writing/director team having made a previous film about Blair starring Sheen, 2003's The Deal (2003), The Queen is now retconned viewed as the second installment in the "Blair Trilogy", which was concluded by The Special Relationship (about Blair and Bill Clinton, with some Blair/Bush towards the end) in 2010. It can also be seen as the first instalment of a Peter Morgan-penned cross-medium "Elizabeth II Trilogy" consisting of The Queen, the 2013 play The Audience (portraying Her Majesty's audiences with her various Prime Ministers over the years), and the 2016-2023 television (well, "television") series The Crown (portraying Elizabeth II's whole reign).

This film contains examples of:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Blair's official residence looks almost shabby, more like the flat-pack furniture home of a busy middle class family than an official residence of a head of government. However, this is apparently true to life, as Blair and his wife were apparently dismayed at the residence and spent nearly £1 million of their own money refurbishing it.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: In-Universe discussion of Diana amongst the Royal Family compared with how the world sees her. To them she was an Attention Whore that had become nothing but a headache. To the world at large she is the beloved "People's Princess".
  • And the Adventure Continues: The film ends with Prime Minister Blair and Queen Elizabeth II discussing education reform as they walk the royal grounds, proving they had both settled into their new roles and are back at work...
  • As You Know: The first scene of the film has Elizabeth's portrait artist bring up to her, "One forgets that as sovereign, you are not entitled to vote." This is common knowledge in the UK, but might be unknown to audiences in other countries.
    • Later, Elizabeth's secretary refers to Tony Blair as the prime minister prior to their first meeting. Elizabeth reminds him Blair is the "prime minister to be" because she hasn't invited him to take the position yet.
    • In another scene, Elizabeth's mother reminds her of her vow to serve the country, and the Queen solemnly quotes it for the audience.
  • Badass Boast: Blair chews out Alistair Campbell when he insults the Queen three times in a row, Blair proudly explaining his admiration for the Queen for her sense of duty and dignity.
  • Based on a True Story - There was serious effort to get all the details of that week correct. Some of the events they couldn't confirm - such as Blair's private discussions with Elizabeth - were based on how the persons were known to say and behave.
    • In fact, their take was so convincing that Blair, who claims not to have seen the movie, quoted from it when describing his first meeting with the Queen in his autobiography. Could it be Popcultural Osmosis? Memetic Mutation? Blatant Lies?
  • Big "NO!": Charles' reaction to the news that Diana has died, followed by several more in a row.
  • Big Red Button: Invoked and hinted at during the first meeting between Blair and the Queen. The first question she asks him during their first meeting is whether he's been shown how to start a nuclear war, and when he answers that he hasn't, goes on to claim that it's always the first thing that new Prime Ministers are taught how to do.
  • Bookends: The brief glimpse of the 36-year old Diana getting into her car shortly before her fatal accident is followed by a slew of archival footage, including that of a 19/20 year old Diana getting into her car, showing that she was hounded by the paparazzi from beginning to end.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: The Windsors are perpetually bewildered by the not-so-traditionally-British ways of the current Brits.
  • Call-Back:
    • Directly after Diana's death, Charles voices his fears over being shot by an enraged Diana supporter. Much later in the film, when the Royal Family finally came out of Balmoral Castle, a motorbike backfires and Charles jumps and looks around in fright.
    • One of the early complaints the traditional Queen and Robin Janvrin have about Blair is the rumor that he will run Downing Street with a First-Name Basis type of atmosphere, which they feel is improper. In the epilogue, Blair tells Janvrin to call him Tony.
  • The Cassandra: Charles is the only member of the Royal Family who seems to understand just how much love and feeling Diana provokes, and how maintaining a Stiff Upper Lip and acting like nothing's happened is only going to backfire on them. He's ignored, but ends up being proven correct.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Blair, lampshaded by the Queen Mother.
  • Cool Old Lady: The Queen and her mum.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Queen, and to some extent (and surprise) Prince Philip and the Queen Mother. Also (on the other side) Cherie Blair and Alastair Campbell.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: The Queen.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The beautiful stag that is sighted, then hunted and stalked by the royal family, until it is chased to a neighboring estate, wounded, and killed. The Queen seems to feel some resonance between its journey and either Diana's, or her own.
    • The Queen's dogs are rambunctious and cute, but also show themselves to be extremely well-trained, immediately responding to her calls and commands to sit or leave, embodying the extreme deference she has become accustomed to. This perhaps explains some of her befuddlement at the British people not behaving as she believes is proper.
  • Everybody Calls Her The Queen: The Queen is always called "Your Majesty", "Ma'am", and Prince Philip calls her "Cabbage" (the real Prince Philip's actual nickname for her) at some point, with only a CNN newsreader referring to her as "Queen Elizabeth".
  • Flanderization: Largely avoided, the Windsors (and the Blairs) are shown as rounded, if dysfunctional, people. If anything, this is probably the most toned-down version of Alastair Campbell's personality and role in politics you'll see (compare The Thick of It, just for starters).
    • The film highlights that Prince Charles of all the Royals had the best sense of how people were going to react to Diana's death, and it shows him as genuinely upset when he visits Diana's coffin.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Well obviously, but try watching the recreation of Diana leaving the Ritz hotel and being chased by photographers on motorbikes without getting a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.
  • Gilligan Cut: The queen insists to Blair yet again that it's only a matter of time before the British public comes to their senses and stops with their hysteria over Diana's death. By the next day, she's sifting through a slew of damning headlines—"Show Us You Care!", etc—and finally realizing how bad her lack of response to the tragedy looks.
  • The Ghost: Diana, Princess of Wales. Subverted with Princes William and Harry, who are seen, but only from behind and/or with blurry, far away shots, and never speak a single line of dialogue.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We never see Diana's accident, nor the specific moment when the Queen and Charles are told of her death, just her secretary approaching her and saying "It's not good news" and Charles declaring "NO!" after having been told by his aide.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The Queen. Also, Prince Charles clearly considers himself this with regards to how the media treats him versus how they treat Diana; at one point he reflects that one silver lining in the whole mess is that his family now have some idea of what he's had to put up with all this time.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Perhaps more of a Historical Jerkass upgrade for Prince Phillip, but only in regards to Diana.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Alistair Campbell for Blair and Robin Janvrin for the Royals. Campbell does lapse slightly when, despite having an excellent pulse on the country, misreads Blair's relationship with the Queen which leads to a good shouting from his boss. Inversely, Janvrin appears at first to be part of the Royals' obliviousness problem, but turns out to have a good understanding of how the Queen thinks and helps mediate between her and Blair.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Blair does it for the Queen after she asks him to form a government. This is a faux pas, since the custom is supposed to be done symbolically, even though it's called "kissing hands".
  • Insistent Terminology: "And remember, it's 'Ma'am' as in 'ham,' not 'Ma'am' as in 'farm.'"
  • Jerkass: On both sides. Prince Phillip doesn't get all the furor and keeps giving his wife the Queen bad advice. Blair has to deal with Alastair constantly making rude remarks about the Royals, leading up to Blair's passionate defense of the Queen.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: A downplayed example; Charles is portrayed as being a bit scheming in trying to position himself ahead of the rest of his family in terms of responding publicly to Diana's death, but he's also the only one who truly seems to understand exactly what's happening and that the old ways of responding are no longer sufficient. Furthermore, having already received more than his fair share of bad press with regards to his ex-wife, he can probably be forgiven for not wanting to have to swallow even more of it.
    • Prince Philip is a grumpy old blowhard, but he says the most challenging line of the film, one his grandsons even agreed with years later.
    Philip: Sleeping in the streets and pulling out their hair for someone they never knew. And they think we're mad!
  • Kick the Dog:
    Charles: Why do they hate us so much?
    The Queen: Not us, dear.
    Charles: What?
    The Queen: Hm?
  • The Mentor: The Queen Mother, to whom The Queen goes for advice when relations with Blair (not to mention the media furor) reach a tipping point.
  • Never Mess with Granny: The Queen herself. Eventually, anyway.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Despite her own less-than-warm feelings towards Diana, the Queen clearly believes in this; when Philip (slightly gloatingly) reports a snide comment Princess Margaret made about Diana to the Queen in private, she sternly replies that he is not to allow his grandsons to hear him make any comments of that nature about Diana.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: The Queen is right to initially insist on doing nothing about Diana's death. Diana was no longer a member of the Royal Family when she died, and the Spencers had already sorted out her funeral plans as a private citizen. However, what the Royal Family fail to take into account is the general public's reaction to Diana's death, and it takes most of the film for the Queen to realise that she had misjudged the situation.
  • Not So Stoic: The Queen.
  • Precision F-Strike - The Queen — yes, Her Britannic Majesty — when she busts an axle in her Range Rover:
    Bugger it.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The House of Windsor, unsurprisingly. But it's mostly presented as them simply being very out of touch with their modern subjects.
  • Royal "We": The Queen uses it occasionally.
  • Rudely Hanging Up: Done by none other than the Queen herself. When the prime minister is desperately trying to persuade her to make a public appearance following the death of Diana, he says "let's keep in touch, shall we?" She replies abruptly "Yes. Let's.", and slams the phone down.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Blair's reaction to yet another royal mis-step screams this.
    Blair: Will someone please save these people from themselves?!
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Used for everyone involved, and for the most part it's pulled off successfully. The only POV we don't get in full is Diana's. From the still photos and interview clips, the film tries to hint that she's unhappy and alone.
  • Travelling at the Speed of Plot: Tony Blair storms out of Downing Street after a row with Alistair Campbell just as the Queen is preparing to give her live speech. He somehow makes it home in time to be sitting on the sofa with Cherie, drinking a mug of tea, just as the Queen goes live on air. Even though the Queen only took a few minutes and Blair’s house isn’t in London.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: From the perspective of the Royal Family at least, Diana; while she's not exactly depicted as such, we're given plenty of scenes with various members grumbling about her in a way that implies that her interactions with them were a lot more complicated (and with plenty of fault on her side) than the simplistic depiction of her in the media as a saintly angel being bullied and tormented by them would suggest.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Played with, since the Queen isn't really the villain; however, her inaction regarding Diana's death publicly leads to the media painting her as one, when it really stems from a well-meaning but somewhat misguided (and somewhat out-of-touch) attempt to shield her grandsons from public scrutiny during a time of grief and to try and take their mind off things.
  • Wrench Wench: The Queen reminds one of her assistants she used to be one during the War.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The public are angered by the bare flagpole atop Buckingham Palace, demanding that the Royal Standard be flown at half-staff, apparently unaware that it has different protocols than other flags. Unlike most instances of this trope, it's not the misinformed public but The Queen herself who eventually learns the error of her ways, and changes the protocol to allows the Union Flag to fly there when not in residence.(more) .