Long Live the Queen!

On New Year’s Day, I went to the theater and saw a wonderful movie – The Young Victoria. Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Sunshine Cleaning) plays Queen Victoria in the early years of her reign. Rupert Friend (Pride & Prejudice, The Boy in Striped Pajamas) is Prince Albert, the man who married her and stood by her side (ruled by her side?) for over 20 years. Not only are the acting and writing superb, the film is truly beautiful. I expect Oscar nominations – perhaps wins -- for Art Direction and Costume Design.

Being an Anglophile, I like movies about the royal families of Great Britain. I have a special affinity for those about the Queens. So seeing The Young Victoria put me in mind of other movies and TV series.

  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) – Bette Davis as Elizabeth I, Errol Flynn as Essex in a movie about the tumultuous relationship between the Queen and the Earl of Essex. Great performance by Davis, who was born to play a queen.
  • Elizabeth R (1971) – This television mini-series was my first dramatic exposure to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Glenda Jackson gives an Emmy award winning performance, playing Elizabeth from young princess to dying monarch. Even as a kid, I was fascinated by the story of this strong, powerful woman.
  • Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth, the Golden Age (2007) – Cate Blanchett caught the attention of the movie-goers everywhere with the first movie, which took Elizabeth I from coronation through the earliest years of her reign. The second movie covers the later years, including the Spanish Armada and confrontations with Mary, Queen of Scots. Blanchett was nominated for the Academy Award for both movies and won the BAFTA and Golden Globe for the first movie.
  • Elizabeth I (2005) – This time Helen Mirren has the title role in a television mini-series about the latter part of the monarch’s reign and the Queen’s relationships with the Earl of Leicester, played by Jeremy Irons, and the Earl of Essex, played by Hugh Dancy. Mirren and Irons won Emmy awards, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild awards for their roles.
  • Victoria and Albert (2001) – Television mini-series about the love story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and how they came to rule together for over twenty years. The emphasis is on their private lives, although politics plays a strong part in their marriage. Victoria Hamilton and Jonathan Firth play the leads in this engaging series, with Diana Rigg and Peter Ustinov in supporting roles.
  • Mrs. Brown (1997) – Judi Dench stars as Queen Victoria in this story of the monarch after the death of her husband. Devastated at losing Albert, the Queen retreats to Balmoral Castle in Scotland where her friendship (and perhaps romance?) with servant John Brown raises eyebrows across the country. Billy Connolly portrays the Scotsman and was nominated BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild awards. Dench was nominated for an Oscar and SAG award and won the BAFTA and Golden Globe.
  • The Queen (2006) – Helen Mirren again, this time as the current queen Elizabeth II. Set in 1997, the film depicts the immediate consequences of Princess Diana’s sudden death. As the royal family try to deal privately with the loss, the public demands a display of mourning by the royals. It’s up to the new Prime Minister Tony Blair, played by Michael Sheen, to advise the very reserved Queen to make a statement. Based on interviews and statements from people involved, this is a moving portrait of the private life of a monarch. Mirren won numerous awards for her performance, including the Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild. Outstanding, touching movie.
  • Honorable mention: Bertie and Elizabeth (2002) – The Queen Mother was one of the most popular members of the royal family in recent years. This TV-movie gives us a picture of Elizabeth’s life, from her early years as Duchess of York to Queen consort of George VI. The King, known to family and friends as Albert or “Bertie,” and his Queen saw Great Britain through World War II – and were the parents of today’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Which royals are your favorites?