Top 10 Most Memorable Portrayals of Queen Elizabeth II in the Popular Culture

Tags: #RoyalFamily ,   #Royal ,   #QueenElizabeth ,   #BritishRoyalFamily

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2022-09-24 18:00:07

Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8th, 2022, at 96, after 70 years on the throne. Therefore, her long reign as the queen is an accomplishment unlikely to be repeated. During her lifetime, the media tried to portray and comprehend the royal, to delve underneath the carefully maintained mask of duty and honor. Pop culture depictions of the Queen have progressed from comedic spoofs and parodies to more somber perspectives striving to understand the humanity beneath the crown. Here are the top of our favorite Queen depictions in popular culture.

10. Jeanette Charles

A portrait mixup led to a whole acting career

Jeanette Charles made a career of impersonating Her Royal Majesty the Queen. When a painting she commissioned of herself was mistaken for one of Elizabeth II's, it sparked a flurry of bids to portray the monarch, notably in print advertisements.

Securing the likeness, she carefully studied the Queen's voice and body. Eventually, she played Elizabeth in many films, primarily comedies. We will mention "National Lampoon's European Vacation," "The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!" and even "Austin Powers in Goldmember." She also frequently mimicked the Queen on television, including on "Saturday Night Live."

9. Prunella Scales

Lady Fawlty proved to be a decent Queen Mother

Prunella Scales is most known for her depiction of Sybil Fawlty, wife of John Cleese's Basil, in the BBC sitcom "Fawlty Towers." Still, she also played the Queen several times. In a lighter part, she was the Queen in the spy comedy "Johnny English," where royal abdication is a crucial story aspect. 

Her most noteworthy performance, however, came in Alan Bennett's "A Question of Attribution." This was a play on infamous British art expert and former Soviet agent Sir Anthony Blunt, which was staged and later adapted for television. Her performance in the 1991 film received a BAFTA nomination.

8. Sarah Gadon

Teenage romance with a young Elizabeth II

If you're an Anglophile looking for a (semi) historically accurate remake of the Disney classic "My Date With the President's Daughter" from the 1990s, look no further than "A Royal Night Out." This romantic comedy set in the 1940s stars Sarah Gadon as the pubescent Queen Elizabeth and Bel Powley as her more defiant sister Margaret. 

On the day that Europe officially declares the end of World War II, Elizabeth and Margaret are allowed to leave the palace and rejoice with the commoners. As they instantly abandon their security detail, they start a succession of misadventures and mix with hunky soldiers. The film is based on actual events, albeit with certain liberties.

7. Jessica Ellerby

No one expected the Queen in a Batman story

You wouldn't expect to see the Queen in a Batman story, would you? However, Kevin Bacon's theory successfully ties the Caped Crusader with Her Royal Majesty. And it just takes one link to connect them! Of course, we're talking about Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's butler and father figure.

"Pennyworth" is the origin story of Bruce Wayne's devoted butler, depicting him as a young man and former British SAS soldier in the midst of establishing his own security firm. In this alternate reality of the 1950s and 1960s Britain, Ellerby plays a younger version of Elizabeth II.

6. Penelope Wilton

A playful version of the beloved Queen in Spielberg's classic

Steven Spielberg made a career by turning his childhood fascinations into blockbusters. However, Spielberg's live-action adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic "The BFG" never quite took off. Still, it does feature a stunning performance from "Downton Abbey" star Penelope Wilton as Elizabeth II. 

As the widowed Isobel Crawley on Downton Abbey, she's excellent at playing a matronly figure who can see right through people. Still, as the monarch, she gets a more playful turn. When the BFG and hero Sophie bring the Queen a nightmare, she recruits soldiers to fight in Giant Country.

5. Claire Foy

Young Queen faced a lot of challenges

Peter Morgan opted to adopt a more all-encompassing approach with this Netflix series, which begins with Elizabeth's ascent as queen regnant. He was dissatisfied with his take on the "Windsors" and Elizabeth II in "The Queen" and "The Audience."

Claire Foy was the first to wear the titular crown, portraying Elizabeth as a young queen striving to find her footing and balance the duties of her role with the needs of her family. Foy received an Emmy nomination for her work in Season 2.

4. Hellen Miren

Oscar-winning performance of Dame Mirren

Peter Morgan penned a biopic about the king in the days following Princess Diana's death before "The Crown" became a streaming success. Helen Mirren triumphed at the Oscars for her portrayal of Elizabeth II in "The Queen," which humanized the monarch during one of her lowest times of rule and popularity. 

It also formed a relationship between Morgan and Mirren, which continued onstage in "The Audience," where Mirren played Elizabeth once more. Outside "The Crown," Dame Mirren's performance would be considered one of the best.

3. Stella Gonet

Scottish theater star embodied the Royal Mother

It's incredible to see once criticized actors make it big with great performances. While Kristen Stewart received praise for her performance as Princess Diana in "Spencer," the rest of the supporting ensemble brought to life her enemies, sometimes even near-captors.

Stella Gonet, a Scottish theater star, played the queen, a significantly more royal part than some of her earlier work, which included playing Ophelia opposite Daniel Day-Lewis' Hamlet. Gonet has also played Margaret Thatcher, completing a cast of female British politicians.

2. Olivia Colman

British master actress was a remarkable Queen

"The Crown" is a show that gathered some of the finest British actors, and they proved their worth big time. Following Claire Foy's two seasons in "The Crown," British acting queen Olivia Colman ascended to the throne. She brought Elizabeth II to life as she entered middle age. 

During certain crises, such as the Cold War, Princess Margaret's divorce, the Troubles in Ireland, and Charles' engagement and marriage to Diana, Colman portrayed the Queen and did it masterfully. For her contribution in season four, she was awarded an Emmy. 

1. Imelda Staunton

Dame Staunton will own the role

Despite everyone remembering her as cruel and strict Dolores Umbridge, Imelda Staunton is a leading actress of her generation. She even won an Oscar for portraying a kind and compassionate Vera Drake.

Imelda Staunton depicts Queen Elizabeth in "The Crown" for the third (and ostensibly final) time. Staunton plays an older Queen who must deal with Princess Diana's passing and a time of intense controversy and public disdain for the monarchy. 

Her royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the most prominent figures in recent history. Her overwhelming influence can be seen in popular culture, especially in the movies and TV shows she was featured on. For over 70 years, Her Majesty was portrayed dozens of times in all imaginable genres, and luckily, many did her justice.

What is your favorite portrayal of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II? Which performances would you add to the list?

Cover photo: minka2507/Pixabay


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Alex Hunters Says:

It is still incredible that she is no longer with us. Her mother and her husband lived even longer.

September 20 at 11:54:53 AM

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