Personality and image of Elizabeth II

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Some of Elizabeth II's outfits on display at Hillsborough Castle in 2013

The image of Queen Elizabeth II has been generally favourable throughout the years. Conservative in dress, she is well known for her solid-colour overcoats and matching hats which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd.[1] She attends many cultural events as part of her public role. Her main leisure interests include horse racing, photography, and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh corgis.[2] Her views on political issues and other matters are largely subject to conjecture. She has never given a press interview and is otherwise not known to discuss her personal opinions publicly.


Much of what is known about Elizabeth's personality and views has been compiled from impressions and descriptions by those whom she has met. Canadian politician Michael Ignatieff remarked in 2010, after a private audience with the Queen, how he was struck by her "wonderful sense of the absurd" and noted her "sense of humour, that sense of the absurd, that sense of comedy of life has survived 60 years of gruelling public life."[3] After a weekend at Balmoral Castle hosted by the Queen, Canadian Governor General Michaëlle Jean recounted witnessing a relaxed, informal home life: Elizabeth and her family preparing a meal together — including a salad dressing devised by the Queen — and doing the washing up afterwards.[4] Lady Pamela Hicks, a cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, commented on Elizabeth's personality as "individualistic". Hicks's mother remembers back to when King George VI died. Elizabeth was in Kenya with her husband when she found out; "I’m so sorry, but we are going to have to go back to England," she recalled Elizabeth saying.[5]

Public image[edit]

An Ulster loyalist mural in Belfast depicting the Queen

Opinion polls have regularly shown that Queen Elizabeth II has an excellent approval rating;[6] coinciding with her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen had an approval rate in the United Kingdom of 90% in 2012.[7] According to a YouGov poll in January 2014, the Queen was the most admired person in the United Kingdom with 18.74% of respondents reporting that she was the person they most admired, the highest percentage of all candidates.[8] Internationally she was the 17th most-admired person in the world.[9]

In 2002, the Queen was ranked 24th in the 100 Greatest Britons poll. In 1997, she and other members of the royal family were perceived in the tabloid press as cold and unfeeling when they did not participate in the public outpouring of grief at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.[10] The Queen ignored precedent to bow to Diana's coffin as it passed Buckingham Palace and also gave a live television broadcast paying tribute to Diana.[11]

Elizabeth's public image has noticeably softened in recent years; although she remains reserved in public, she has been seen laughing and smiling much more than in years past, and has shed tears during emotional occasions such as at Remembrance Day services.[12] Henry Ward described his 2016 portrait of the Queen as portraying "a queen of warmth but also of reserve."[13]

Personality in diplomacy matters[edit]

United States President Gerald Ford and Queen Elizabeth dance during the state dinner in honour of the Queen and Prince Philip at the White House, 17 July 1976

In matters of diplomacy, Elizabeth is known to be quite formal, and royal protocol is generally very strict. Though some of the traditional rules for dealing with the monarch have been relaxed during her reign (bowing is no longer required, for example, although it is still frequently performed), other forms of close personal interaction, such as touching, are discouraged by officials. At least six people are known to have broken this rule, the first being a woman named Alice Frazier, who hugged the Queen in 1991 when Elizabeth visited her residence in a government housing project in Washington, D.C. (accompanied by First Lady Barbara Bush and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp).[14][citation needed] The second was Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia, when he was photographed with his arm around the Queen in 1992. The third was Canadian cyclist Louis Garneau, who did the same thing ten years later when posing for a photograph with the Queen at Rideau Hall (her official residence in Canada).[15] In 2009, the Queen initiated an affectionate gesture with First Lady Michelle Obama at a palace reception she attended with President Obama. The Queen rested her hand briefly at the small of the First Lady's back, a gesture that Mrs Obama returned. It was remarked at the time as unprecedented and described afterwards by a palace spokeswoman as "a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation between The Queen and Michelle Obama."[16]

The Queen's subtle use of signals to her staff in certain social situations has been described by journalist Hugo Vickers and others.[17] It is said that by twisting her wedding ring she signals that she is ready for the conversation or event to end forthwith.[18] Alternately, placing her handbag onto the table at dinner means that she wants the event to end within the next five minutes and by setting it on the floor she indicates that she is not enjoying the conversation and wants a lady-in-waiting to assist immediately.[19]

Media perception[edit]

Elizabeth has attended many cultural events as part of her public role. She has given an annual Christmas message to the Commonwealth every year, apart from 1969, since she became Queen. The Queen's first television message was aired on Christmas Day 1957.[20] In 2001, the Royal Christmas Message was webcast on the royal website for the first time and, in 2006, it was made available as a podcast. Her first appearance on live television in Canada was in Prescott, Ontario, in 1959 when, as Queen of Canada, she opened the Saint Lawrence Seaway.[21]

The Queen has never done a press interview. In 2018 she engaged in small talk with Alastair Bruce of Crionaich for the television documentary The Coronation.[22] In 2006, the Queen had been filmed having a conversation with the later-disgraced Australian artist and media personality Rolf Harris while he painted her portrait. It ventured little beyond talk of previous portraits of the Queen and royal art history in general, and the Queen's responses to Harris's overtures were notably crisp and monosyllabic. She had a more jovial on-camera exchange with the painter Andrew Festing while sitting for a portrait in the 1992 BBC documentary Elizabeth R, directed by Edward Mirzoeff on the 40th anniversary of her accession.

The BBC, along with RDF Media Group, became the target of Her Majesty's lawyers, Farrer & Co, after the broadcaster aired a documentary trailer for Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (2007), which was edited in such a way as to make it appear as though the Queen had stormed out of a photo shoot with photographer Annie Leibovitz. The BBC had earlier apologised for the misrepresentation, which was fuelled by BBC1 controller Peter Fincham describing the Queen as "losing it a bit and walking out in a huff"; but, the Queen and Buckingham Palace were not satisfied with the results and pushed to sue for breach of contract.[23]

The Queen is the subject of "Her Majesty", featured on the Beatles' 1969 album Abbey Road; McCartney played the song at the Party at the Palace concert during the Elizabeth's golden jubilee in 2002. She is also mentioned in the song "Mean Mr. Mustard" (also featured on Abbey Road), and in the 1967 Lennon and McCartney song "Penny Lane". In 1977, The Sex Pistols issued "God Save the Queen", which became a controversial hit single, inspiring the punk rock movement with its lyrics suggesting "She ain't no human being", and there was "no future" and comparing England to a "fascist regime."[24] The Smiths released the song and album The Queen Is Dead in 1986. The Pet Shop Boys have a track called Dreaming of the Queen. The Queen is the subject of "Elizabeth My Dear", which appears on The Stone Roses' eponymous debut. She is referenced in the Travie McCoy song "Billionaire" where he sings that he wants to be "on the cover of Forbes magazine./ Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen."

The Queen plays detective in the Her Majesty Investigates series of mystery novels by C.C. Benison, which includes Death at Buckingham Palace and Death at Windsor Castle. The Queen is the subject of The Queen and I, and is a character in Queen Camilla, both books written by Sue Townsend. She is also a character in the book The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett.

In 2006, she was portrayed by Helen Mirren in the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-nominated Stephen Frears film The Queen, a fictional account of the immediate events following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The film ended up as the most critically acclaimed film of 2006.[25] Mirren, who had been appointed into the Order of the British Empire in 2003, won the Oscar for her work in the film and, in her acceptance speech, she paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II: "For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle," she said.[26]

In a 2006 book, Who Owns the World: The Hidden Facts Behind Landownership, Kevin Cahill claimed that Queen Elizabeth II holds ownership of one sixth of the land on the Earth's surface, more than any other individual or nation. This amounts to a total of 6,600 million acres (2.7×1013 m2) in 32 countries.[27]

Private Eye, the British satirical magazine, has given the royal family working-class nicknames, as though they were characters in a soap opera.[28] Queen Elizabeth II's nickname is "Brenda".[28]

The Crown, a biographical story about the reign of the Queen by Netflix was released globally on November 4, 2016.[29][30][31] It is based on an award-winning play, The Audience, and is a biopic drama television series, created and written by Peter Morgan and produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television for Netflix.[32] The show received critical accolade and has won many awards, including that of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards for Claire Foy. [33]


Campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised the Queen for inviting "royal tyrants to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee". The King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is accused of human rights abuses and King of Swaziland Mswati III of living in luxury while his people starve. Saudi Arabia and Kuwaiti royals were also invited and Amnesty International has reported repression in Saudi Arabia against reformists, while Human Rights Watch has criticised Kuwait of the freedom of press. Buckingham Palace said it would not comment.[34]

Fictional portrayals[edit]


Elizabeth has been portrayed on screen by:

Music video[edit]

  • "U Don't Know Me": The Queen is played by a Lookalike and is seen drinking, fighting and fleeing police during a night out in Soho, London


On television, Elizabeth has been played by:

Jan Ravens was the voice for a latex puppet caricature of her in Spitting Image (1984–1996), and gave radio and television comedy impressions of her in Dead Ringers. Scott Thompson gave a recurring impression of Queen Elizabeth II on the Canadian sketch comedy show The Kids in the Hall in the early 1990s, as did Luba Goy on Royal Canadian Air Farce and Cathy Jones in This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Tracey Ullman's depiction of the Queen was among many roles she played on the television series Tracey Takes On.... The Simpsons portrayed the Queen during the episode "The Regina Monologues" (2003). She was also shown in the SpongeBob SquarePants TV movie Truth or Square. She has been portrayed on Saturday Night Live by, among others, Fred Armisen, Mike Myers, and Kate McKinnon.[36]


Documentaries and television series[edit]


  • The Royal Wedding (Short documentary) (1947)
  • Royal Journey (Canada) (1951)
  • Royal Heritage (Short documentary) (1952)
  • A Queen is Crowned (1953)
  • Elizabeth is Queen (Short documentary) (1953)
  • Long To Reign Over Us (Short documentary) (1953)
  • Royal Destiny (Short documentary) (1953)
  • A Queen's World Tour (1954)
  • Royal New Zealand Journey (1954)
  • The Queen in Australia (Australia) (1954)
  • The Sceptre and the Mace (Canada) (Short documentary) (1957)
  • Life of a Queen (Short documentary) (1960)
  • Queen Elizabeth II in Pakistan (Short documentary) (1961)
  • The Queen Returns (Australia) (1963)
  • The Royal Tour of the Caribbean (1966)
  • Hello Elisabeth! (Finland) (1976)
  • Twenty Five Years (1977)
  • Queen Elizabeth II: 60 Glorious Years (1986)
  • Tribute to Her Majesty (1987)
  • Queen Elizabeth II: The Power and Glory (1991)
  • From Princess to Queen: Elizabeth II - Childhood to Statehood (1996)
  • Queen's Golden Jubilee 2002: Party at the Palace (2002)
  • The Queen: Behind the Mask (2007)
  • The Queen - A life in Film (2008)
  • The Story of Queen Elizabeth II (2011)
  • Die Queen - Elizabeth II. (Germany) (2012)
  • Elizabeth II - A Diamond Jubilee Celebration (2012)
  • Elizabeth II - Le Portrait (Canada) (2012)
  • Queen Elizabeth II - Reign Supreme (2012)
  • The Queen's Diamond Decades (2012)
  • The Majestic Life of Queen Elizabeth II (2013)
  • The Queen at 90 (2016)

TV film and series documentaries[edit]

  • Royal Family (1969)
  • The Crown in New Zealand (1970)
  • Royal Heritage (1977)
  • Jubilee and Beyond (Australia) (1977)
  • Elizabeth - The First Thirty Years (1983)
  • Canada and the Monarchy (1992)
  • Elizabeth R: A Year in the Life of the Queen (1992)
  • Days of Majesty (1993)
  • The Windsors: A Royal Family PBS (USA) (1994)
  • Elizabeth: The Reluctant Monarch (1998)
  • Queen & Country BBC (2002)
  • The Jubilee Girl (2002)
  • The Queen: A Remarkable Life (2002)
  • The Royal Jewels (2002)
  • An Unforgettable Coronation BBC (2003)
  • The Queen's Castle (2005)
  • Ten Days that Made the Queen (2006)
  • The Girl Who Would Be Queen (2006)
  • The Queen at 80 (2006)
  • The Queen by Rolf (2006)
  • Königin - Ein Job fürs Leben: Queen Elisabeth II. (Germany) (2007)
  • Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (2007)
  • The Queen's Wedding (2007)
  • The Queen's Coronation: Behind Palace Doors (2008)
  • The Queen's Palaces BBC (2011)
  • A Jubilee Tribute to the Queen by the Prince of Wales BBC (2012)
  • Elizabeth: Queen of Scots (2012)
  • Elizabeth: Queen, Wife, Mother (TV Movie documentary) (2012)
  • The Changing Face of the Queen (2012)
  • The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (TV Movie documentary) (2012)
  • The Diamond Queen (2012)
  • The Queen and Her Prime Ministers (2012)
  • The Queen (Arte) (France/Germany) (2012)
  • Our Queen ITV (2013)
  • In Their Own Words: Queen Elizabeth II PBS (USA) (2015)
  • The Queen's Big Night Out Channel 4 (2015)
  • The Queen's Longest Reign: Elizabeth and Victoria BBC (2015)
  • Elizabeth at 90: A Family Portrait (TV Movie documentary) BBC (2016)
  • Our Queen at 90 ITV (2016)
  • A Very Royal Wedding ITV (2017)
  • Elizabeth & Philip: Love and Duty BBC One (2017)
  • Inside Windsor Castle Channel 5 (2017)
  • The Royal House of Windsor Channel 4 (2017)
  • The Coronation (2018)
  • Elizabeth Our Queen Channel 5 (2018)
  • The Queen - Her Commonwealth Story BBC (2018)
  • The Queen’s Green Planet ITV (2018)
  • Elizabeth II, 65 ans de règne et de secrets (France) (2018)
  • The Queen's Coronation in Colour ITV (2018)
  • The Story Of The Royals ABC (USA) (2018)
  • Queen of the World ITV (2018)
  • Paxman on the Queen’s Children Channel 5 (2019)

Image on currency[edit]

The image of Queen Elizabeth has appeared on the banknotes of at least 35 countries, making her the Guinness World Record holder for the "Most Currencies Featuring the Same Individual".[37] Her depictions on these currencies serve as a photo journal of sorts, as they span the range of Elizabeth's life, from youth onward.[38][39]

Patronage of charities[edit]

The Queen is patron of more than 620 charities and organisations[2] including:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cartner-Morley, Jess (10 May 2007). "Elizabeth II, belated follower of fashion". The Guardian. London. Sec. G2 p. 2. Retrieved 10 May 2007.
  2. ^ a b "80 Facts About The Queen". Royal Household. Retrieved 18 January 2007.
  3. ^ Hume, Michael (2 July 2010). "Queen Elizabeth meets Michael Ignatieff on her 'day off'". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  4. ^ Delacourt, Susan (25 May 2012). "When the Queen is your boss". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  5. ^ Simon Perry. "What Really Happened the Moment Elizabeth Discovered She Was Queen". Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Ipsos MORI - Trend - Monarchy/Royal Family Trends - Satisfaction with the Queen". 11 September 2015. Archived from the original on 19 May 2015. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Satisfaction with the Queen at record high". Ipsos MORI. 15 June 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  8. ^ "The Queen is most admired person in Britain says poll". Royal Central. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  9. ^ William Jordan. "YouGov - Revealed: The most admired person in the world". YouGov: What the world thinks. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  10. ^ Alderson, Andrew (26 September 2009). "Criticism of Queen after death of Diana 'hugely upset' Queen Mother". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  11. ^ Diana Princess of Wales tribute. YouTube. 2 January 2007. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  12. ^ "BBC NEWS - UK - Queen's tears for war dead". Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  13. ^ "Painted secretly in Canada, Queen's new Official Portrait is Unveiled". Montreal Gazette. 14 October 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  14. ^ "Things a Queen Can't Do". New York Times. 17 May 1992. Retrieved 6 August 2006.
  15. ^ "Family snap breaks royal protocol". BBC News. 16 October 2002. Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  16. ^ Low, Valentine (2 April 2009). "Queen and Michelle Obama – the story behind a touching moment". The Times. London. Sec. G2 p. 2. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
  17. ^ Mansour, Author (2 March 2017). "This is how Queen Elizabeth escapes awkward situations". Global News. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  18. ^ Dyball, Rennie (6 January 2006). "How to Tell When The Queen Is Over You". People Celebrity. People.
  19. ^ Ward, Victoria (3 March 2017). "Discrete signals and Clarins lipstick: the secrets of The Queen". The Daily Telegraph. Yahoo!. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  20. ^ "1950s to the present". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  21. ^ Channel, Government of Canada, Service Canada, Citizen Service Branch, Digital Service Directorate, Web; Web, Gouvernement du Canada, Service Canada, Direction générale de service aux citoyens, La Direction du service numérique, Services. "".
  22. ^ Ellen Barry (14 January 2018). "It's the Ultimate TV Prize: An Unscripted Queen Elizabeth". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  23. ^ Alderson, Andrew; Queen sends in lawyers over 'royal rage' film The Telegraph, 12 August 2007
  24. ^ Shone, Tom (13 June 2012). "Queen Elizabeth II as Pop-Culture Target for Warhol, Sex Pistols, and More". Newsweek. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  25. ^ "The Queen" Reviews
  26. ^ "Mirren 'too busy' to meet Queen" BBC News, 10 May 2007
  27. ^ Who Owns The World official website[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ a b Sullivan, Andrew (5 October 1997). "God Help the Queen". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  29. ^ "Matt Smith's Netflix drama 'The Crown' gets a premiere date". 11 April 2016. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  30. ^ "£100m Netflix series recreates royal wedding - Telegraph". 22 March 2016. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-12-27.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  31. ^ "The Crown: all you need to know about Netflix's £100 million series, from the 'shocking' first scene to Matt Smith's topless rowing". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  32. ^ "Netflix plans original UK drama about the Queen". BBC News. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  33. ^ "Claire Foy Dedicates Best Actress in a Drama Win to Future 'The Crown' Stars". Hollywood Reporter. 17 September 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  34. ^ The Queen's lunch for monarchs attracts controversy BBC 18 May 2012
  35. ^ "Queens of the small screen". The Independent, 27 November 2009.
  36. ^ "SNL Archives - Impressions - Queen Elizabeth". Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  37. ^ "Most currencies featuring the same individual". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  38. ^ Cai, Weiyi (8 September 2015). "The evolution of Queen Elizabeth II, as shown by banknotes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  39. ^ 08.06 EDT. "Fifty years of Queen Elizabeth II's portrait on banknotes | Money". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2017.