The omnipresence of the Queen of England in art, music and cinema underlines the place she occupied in popular imagery.
From the Sex Pistols to the Simpsons, via the series The Crown or the James Bond films, the instantly recognizable image of Queen Elizabeth II was used in popular culture throughout her reign.
Some did it fondly, others scratched it, but Her Majesty’s ubiquity in art, music and film underscored her place in popular imagery.
God Save The Queen
The cover of the single God Save The Queen of the Sex Pistols, in 1977, with the queen’s face, eyes and mouth hidden under the title and the name of the group, is one of the most famous images of the punk movement… but also of Elizabeth II .
Artist Jamie Reid also created a version depicting the monarch with a safety pin on her lip and swastikas in place of pupils. Many other songs have been written about the queen, among them Elizabeth My Dear (1989) by alternative rock band The Stone Roses, in which they claimed they “will know no rest until she loses her throne”.
In 2005, British electronic music group Basement Jaxx featured a sassy monarch going out at night in London, visiting a strip club and getting into a fight, in the music video You Do Not Know Me.
The Queen posed for more than 175 portraits during her reign. Artists such as Cecil Beaton, Lucien Freud and Annie Leibovitz have depicted her in her finest attire, at work or with her family.
But the best known are undoubtedly those made by the pop art pope, Andy Warhol, in 1985, as part of a series on the queens reigning at the time. The American artist used an official photograph which he personalized, as he also did for Marilyn Monroe.
Instantly recognizable with her brightly colored outfits, the Queen has been a cartoon character and has also appeared in TV shows and movies. His Majesty thus appeared several times in the American series The simpsonsnotably in an episode where the main character, Homer, stamps his carriage at Buckingham Palace.
In the children’s cartoon Peppa Pig, the monarch jumps in puddles of mud. And in the second part of Carsthe Pixar magicians turned it into an old Rolls-Royce.
Characters inspired by the Queen appear in animated films Minions and Royal Corgi and in schoolboy comedies like The Profs 2, Austin Powers in Goldmember or Is there a cop to save the queen?where she is played by Jeanette Charles, her most famous British look-alike.
The American soft porn movie Tricia’s Wedding, a parody of the marriage of the daughter of American President Richard Nixon released in 1971, features Queen Elizabeth II in the guise of a drag queen from San Francisco. Extracts from this film lasting around thirty minutes are available online.
British comedies often imagined him in whimsical situations. In Ali G, the rapper played by Sacha Baron Cohen licks the queen’s fingers in a very sensual way. Then he falls and inadvertently snatches her dress, and throws at her: “Are you shaved too? Respect!” In Johnny English Rebornthe clumsy spy played by Rowan Atkinson confronts a… female ninja who pretends to be the sovereign.
Conspiracies and suicide
There are also several scenarios imagining plots against the queen. The Hong Kong thriller A Queen’s Ransom (1976) tells in a more serious tone how a group of criminals will try to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II. In Kisses from Hong Kong (1975), the queen is kidnapped by a wealthy American. It is the Troop of Charlots who come to his rescue.
It has also frequently happened to Queen Elizabeth II to die on screen. In 2007, an episode of South Park showing the suicide of the monarch had sparked controversy in the United Kingdom. In 2012, family guy imagine a parody of Diana’s death with the queen dying in a carriage accident in a tunnel.
In the intimacy
While the Queen has rarely granted interviews, her life has been featured in films, plays and TV shows.
In The speech of a king (2010) Oscar-winning film about her father King George VI’s fight to overcome her stuttering, we see her as a child, while in The Queen (2006), Elizabeth II, played by Helen Mirren, faces the wrath of her subjects after the 1997 death of her estranged daughter-in-law, Princess Diana.
But it’s the hit series The Crown from Netflix which has chronicled the life of the Queen and her relationship with her husband Philip in the most detail, featuring marital disputes, scandals and political crises.
In James Bond style
After years of having her image hijacked, the Queen herself took the lead in 2012 by taking part in a skit at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.
We see her surrounded by her beloved corgis at Buckingham Palace where she receives James Bond, played by Daniel Craig. “Good evening, Mr Bond,” she said to him, before the couple pretended to get into a helicopter, fly over London and finally parachute into the Olympic stadium.
In 2016, Elizabeth II also gave the reply to her grandson Prince Harry, in a video featuring former US President Barack Obama, to promote the Invictus Games, an international event created by Harry for wounded soldiers, at the image of Olympic games.
Elizabeth II was also the heroine of a video game, Bush Royal Rampagewhere the player controls both US President George Bush and the Queen of England and must face terrorists invading the city of London.
The queen had reserved a surprise for her subjects in June for the celebrations of the 70 years of her reign, during the platinum jubilee: she had shot a short video where we see her having tea with Paddington bear, clumsy icon of the British children’s literature.
She then beat time with a silver spoon on her porcelain cup, to the rhythm of We will rock you of The Queen, synchronized with the opening of a giant concert opening in front of Buckingham Palace.