The Queen's starring role in popular culture

·4 min read
Queen Elizabeth received an honorary British Academy Film Award on April 4, 2013,  in recognition of her lifetime's support of British film and television — and for being the most 'memorable Bond girl yet' in her London Olympics opening role.   (Steve Parsons/The Associated Press - image credit)
Queen Elizabeth received an honorary British Academy Film Award on April 4, 2013, in recognition of her lifetime's support of British film and television — and for being the most 'memorable Bond girl yet' in her London Olympics opening role. (Steve Parsons/The Associated Press - image credit)

Queen Elizabeth spent her life living by strict rules and protocol. But her often serious outward appearance and stiff upper lip didn't stop others from using her as inspiration for their artistic endeavours.

While she may not have appreciated all of the depictions, the Queen being the Queen, one would never know for sure.

Here are some of her most memorable pop culture moments.

The London Olympics

The Queen's role in the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games was one for the ages.

Director Danny Boyle convinced her to appear in a film — her beloved corgis in tow — that had James Bond (Daniel Craig) meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace and then escorting her to a helicopter that flew across London to the stadium.

The Queen then "parachuted" under a Union Jack flag-decked canopy into the affair before appearing, with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, plus International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge in the royal box.

Her good-natured performance was universally praised. She even won an honorary British Academy Film Award as the "most memorable Bond girl yet."

The Queen

Helen Mirren received an Oscar as well as praise from Elizabeth herself for her portrayal of the Queen in this 2006 film. Mirren was invited to Buckingham Palace for dinner, but could not attend because of prior filming commitments.

The movie focuses on the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the reaction at the time of the Queen, who believed the family's grief should be private. The news media reflected how the British people saw her behaviour — as cold and uncaring.

The movie offered a sort of behind-the-scenes look at what brought the Queen to change course and speak publicly about Diana's death and the grief being felt by people around the world.

Game of Thrones

Who knew the Queen was a fan?

Well, perhaps she wasn't (we'll never know for sure), but she and Prince Philip did drop by the studios in Northern Ireland where the series was partially filmed, spurring much speculation that they were secretly as addicted to the series as the rest of the world.

Jonathan Porter/Reuters
Jonathan Porter/Reuters

Paddington

The Queen appeared alongside Paddington Bear in a two-and-a-half minute video released in June as part of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

After being offered a marmalade sandwich from the CGI bear's hat, the Queen revealed that she also kept a sandwich on her person, pulling one out of her purse.

"I keep mine here. For later," she said.

The Simpsons

The Queen demands Homer Simpson be executed after he nearly kills her during the 15th season episode, "The Regina Monologues."

During a visit to London, Homer gets the family stuck in a traffic roundabout for hours before finally swerving out, right through the gates of Buckingham Palace and right into the Queen's carriage.

You can watch it play out here:

The Naked Gun

The Queen — as portrayed by actor Jeanette Charles — was a central figure in the late Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen's slapstick 1988 comedy, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

In fact, Nielsen's character spends most of the movie trying to save her from assassination.

Spitting Image

The series featuring life-size puppets and biting satire was a mainstay on British television from 1984 to 1996. No one was off-limits to the creators — including the Queen.

Co-creator Peter Law told the Daily Mail that the Queen never complained about how she was portrayed — but the show did hear from the Royal Family's lawyers after it depicted Prince Andrew as a centrefold playboy.

Reigning Queens

Andy Warhol once said, "I want to be as famous as the Queen of England." And in 1985, he created a series of screen prints called "Reigning Queens," which featured, among others, four depictions of Elizabeth.

The prints went up for auction in 2012 and were acquired by the Royal Collection just in time to be displayed as part of her Golden Jubilee.

They were displayed at Windsor Castle as part of an exhibition entitled The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch.

Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

God Save the Queen

Not exactly a tribute in any way, shape or form, the Sex Pistols released their rant in 1977 to coincide with the Queen's Silver Jubilee. It was banned by the BBC and made the band members targets of angry Britons who found the lyrics disrespectful and insulting.

Her Majesty

At just 23 seconds long, the Beatles tune is decidedly gentler than the Pistols' offering. It appeared as the final track on Abbey Road but was not in the original track listing, prompting some to call it the first example of a hidden track in rock music.

Paul McCartney later told biographer Barry Miles, "It was quite funny because it's basically monarchist, with a mildly disrespectful tone, but it's very tongue-in-cheek. It's almost like a love song to the Queen."

Funko Pop 

Finally, if you're a collectibles fan, you're familiar with Funko Pop dolls. Well, the Queen was immortalized in 2018 with her very own Funko Pop doll.

Funko.com
Funko.com