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Royal FeverThe British Monarchy in Consumer Culture$

Cele C. Otnes and Paulin Maclaran

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520273658

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520273658.001.0001

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Pomp and Popcorn

Pomp and Popcorn

The British Royal Family On Stage and Screen

(p.130) Five Pomp and Popcorn
Royal Fever

Cele C. Otnes

Pauline Maclaran

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews the ways film, television, and theater have portrayed and popularized the royal family. It traces representations of royalty for popular consumption from the Chronicle-History plays of the 1580s and Shakespeare’s plays to present-day movies such as The King’s Speech. Emotional authenticity and relationship development are key in these depictions and often take precedence over strict historical accuracy. The most important factor for success is that the characters resonate with contemporary audiences and appear relevant. These forms of media continually refresh royal characters for new audiences and make important contributions to constructing the RFBC in the popular imagination—contributions that are unlikely to diminish in influence in the foreseeable future.

Keywords:   film, television, theatre, Chronicle-History play, Shakespearean kings, The King’s Speech, media, audiences

As we have already made clear, Margaret Tyler loves everything about the Royal Family and avidly consumes media representations of them, whether flattering or otherwise. The richness of royal images in all their many media guises only serves to make her feel closer to what has now become her extended family. Her Spitting Image slippers of the Queen and Prince Philip nestle on her floor amid more respectful collector’s items (figure 16). They are given equal pride of place despite the fact that this highly popular satirical puppet show relentlessly poked fun at the Royal Family and no doubt contributed much to their soap-opera image during the 1980s and 1990s. Yet Margaret treasures these slippers as a much-loved reference to popular culture, laughing at these images in the gentle way one might tease a friend or family member.

In the last chapter, we explored the power of media images, particularly the press, in relation to Diana. This chapter concentrates on theater, film, and television portrayals of the monarchy more generally, and how these are marketed to and ultimately consumed by the general public. Our media gaze takes us back as far as the time of Shakespeare, as well as exploring contemporary media representations of the Royal Family and their popularization in film and television.

William Shakespeare, regarded by many as “England’s cultural figure-head” and the world’s greatest playwright, is as crucial as the Royal Family to many people’s sense of British heritage.1 Many English tourist trails list both his birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe Theatre, located on London’s South Bank, alongside their descriptions of Buckingham Palace and other key royal sites. But the connections between the two grow stronger when we acknowledge Shakespeare as the first to successfully (p.131)

Pomp and PopcornThe British Royal Family On Stage and Screen

Figure 16. Spitting Image slippers.

Photo by Pauline Maclaran.

dramatize the monarchy for a mass audience. Thanks to Elizabeth I’s enjoyment of dramatic entertainments, as well as the revenues they generated for her government, London’s playhouses and the theater industry they supported were in high demand during the Elizabethan era.2 The Red Lion Theatre in Whitechapel, built in 1567, was the first structure in the city specifically built for that purpose.3 It is estimated that between that time and 1642, when the Puritans closed all the theaters, 50 million paying customers (ten times London’s population during the period) attended performances in the city.4

Historical drama, the main genre to include depictions of royalty, traces its origins to the chronicle-history plays of the 1580s, which portrayed key events during the reign of a particular English monarch. Examples include The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, The Troublesome Raigne of John King of England, and The True Tragedie of Richard III. This type of play resulted from renewed pride in England’s greatness. The war against Spain, culminating with the victory over the Armada in 1588, awakened a sense of national pride among the English citizenry. As a result, people wanted to (p.132) know more about the history of their nation. The chronicle-history play itself evolved from morality plays in the Middle Ages and often sought to fulfill a didactic purpose, with allegorical characters designed to teach subjects obedience to their king. These plays typically portrayed the undesirable consequences of rebelling against the monarch and emphasized the nation’s welfare by highlighting how the past could inform the present. But because it was initially conceived to convey information rather than to engage the audience with its dramatic effect, the chronicle-history play lacked creative characterization or plot development. Overall, it represented a fairly uninspiring theatrical form—until Shakespeare arrived on the scene.

Like other Elizabethan dramatists, Shakespeare drew his source material from two key chronicles of the time, namely Edward Hall’s (1542) The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre & Yorke and the Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande of Raphael Holinshed. It was Shakespeare, however, who turned the chronicle-history play into a more powerful dramatic format. Unlike his fellow playwrights, who conveyed historical fact in disjointed episodic acts, he dared to value artistic integrity over historical literalism. Most significantly, he brought his characters to life by personalizing their struggles and depicting them as individual men and women who experienced emotional conflicts to which his audiences could relate. For example, at the heart of Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 lies the gripping portrayal of an emotionally turbulent father-son relationship.

Despite Shakespeare’s overriding quest for artistic integrity, he was nonetheless mindful of the need to pay homage to Queen Elizabeth I, his patron.5 Thus, his plays paid tribute to the monarchy to gain her favor and included no open criticism. However, he sometimes did take such a position in covert ways, even falling foul of Elizabethan censorship at times. The box office hit Shakespeare in Love highlights this patron-playwright relationship in an otherwise pure fantasy film that speculates on the emotional aspects of Shakespeare’s life, about which little is known. In the film, Elizabeth I (played by Dame Judi Dench) is an ardent admirer of the playwright and frequents the theater to see his plays.

Although in total Shakespeare wrote ten plays on English monarchs, his eight plays depicting the Plantagenet kings have made the greatest impact on British culture: Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Henry V, Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3, and Richard III.* He also wrote two other royal plays, (p.133) King John and Henry VIII, but these are much less widely known, having failed to capture the popular imagination as the other eight have done.6 Shakespeare’s Plantagenet plays are responsible for the ways most of us think about those periods of history and leaders of the time. Shakespearean scholar Peter Saccio notes, “He has etched upon the common memory the graceful fecklessness of Richard II, the exuberant heroism of Henry V, the dazzling villainy of Richard III.”7

In general, people expect Shakespeare’s plays to offer insights into human nature, and his royal portrayals excel in this respect. Shakespearean kings wrestle with many internal conflicts and passions, as well as with external affairs that affect their rule of the country. This emotional realism, juxtaposed as it is with the mystique of the monarchy, explains why the Plantagenet plays have found eager audiences throughout the last four centuries, and why they are still hugely popular today. Furthermore, the many quotes emanating from these plays that have found their way into our language as everyday expressions testify to Shakespeare’s enormous cultural influence on the English-speaking world. Table 3 summarizes the key themes, quotes, film and TV productions, and stars of each Plantagenet play.

Further testifying to the importance and influence of Shakespearean royal portrayals on perceptions of British monarchic heritage is the fact that during World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s government funded the 1944 film production of Henry V, starring Laurence Olivier. It was devised as a propaganda device to boost morale during the crucial war years, because it shows a victorious England against all odds at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The power of this drama continues to engage audiences. Henry V’s latest production featured in the highly publicized 2012 BBC-TV miniseries The Hollow Crown, which also offered renditions of Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, and Richard II.

As we will discuss shortly, even if they prove to be blockbusters, contemporary on-screen royal representations often face criticism for their historical inaccuracies and distortions of past events. But this is not a new phenomenon; Shakespeare frequently used poetic license to collapse time, altering historic facts to create or increase dramatic tension. In so doing, he emphasized emotional authenticity and relationship development, key elements that explain his enduring appeal.

Apart from his quest to encapsulate deeper human desires and drives in his characters, Shakespeare also altered historical fact to avoid contradicting the established accounts of the time. History is usually written by the


Table 3 Shakespeare’s Plantagenet Plays

Key Themes and Quotes

Play Title

Key Themes and Monarchy Portrayals

Famous Quotes

Film and TV Productions/Actor Playing King

Richard II

The nature of kingship. Central theme: whether Richard is deposed by Bolingbroke or is r sponsible for his own fate. Examines the confl ict between legal and divine right to rule, with Richard portrayed as weak and ineff ective. Shakespeare’s most politically controversial play.

  • Old John of Gaunt, timehonoured Lancaster.

  • (Act I, Scene I)

  • Teach thy necessity to reason thus;

  • There is no virtue like necessity.

  • (Act I, Scene III)

  • An Age of Kings (UK, TV, Miniseries 1960)—David William

  • BBC Television Shakespeare: Richard II (TV, UK, 1978)—Derek Jacobi

  • The War of the Roses (English Shakespeare Company): Richard II (UK, 1990)—a direct filming from the stage.

  • Richard II (UK, TV, 1997)—Fiona Shaw

  • Richard the Second (US, film, 2001)—Matte Osian

  • The Hollow Crown: Richard II (UK, TV, BBC2, 2012)—Ben Whishaw

Henry IV, Part 1

  • Approaching the end of his life, Henry experiences guilt over deposing Richard II to become king.

  • Encouraged by the corrupt but charismatic Falstaff, Henry’s son and heir, Hal, the Prince of Wales, leads a dissolute life that fractures the father/son relationship

  • He will give the devil his due.

  • (Act I, Scene II).

  • The better part of valour is discretion.

  • (Act V, Scene IV)

  • An Age of Kings (UK, TV, Miniseries 1960)—Tom Fleming

  • BBC Television Shakespeare: Henry IV, Part 1 (UK, TV, 1979)—Jon Finch

  • The War of the Roses: Henry IV, Part 1 (UK, TV, 1990)—a direct filming from the stage

  • The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part 1 (UK, TV, BBC2, 2012)—Jeremy Irons

Henry IV, Part 2

Themes include old age, loss of human life, and old friends and atonement. Henry IV is anxious and worried for the future. On Henry’s deathbed, his son Hal is crowned Henry V and promises to atone for his misspent youth.

  • He hath eaten me out of house and home.

  • (Act II, Scene I)

  • Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

  • (Act III, Scene I)

  • An Age of Kings (UK, TV, Miniseries 1960)—Tom Fleming as Henry IV

  • The War of the Roses (TV miniseries 1965)

  • BBC Television Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2 (TV, UK, 1979)—Jon Finch

  • The War of the Roses (English Shakespeare Company Henry IV, Part 2 (UK, 1990)—a direct filming from the stage.

  • The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part 2 (UK, TV, BBC2, 2012)—Jeremy Irons

Henry V

  • Dramatizes the English invasion of France and Henry V’s success at the battle of Agincourt (1415). Explores questions of who has the right to rule and why. In contrast to his portrayal in Henry IV (both parts) as well as that of his father, Henry V is a heroic fi gure with strong resolve, who takes the obligations and duties of his kingly role very seriously.

  • Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

  • (Act III, Scene I)

  • Men of few words are the best men

  • (Act III, Scene II)

  • We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother

  • (Act III, Scene III)

  • Henry V (UK, film, 1944)—Laurence Olivier

  • An Age of Kings (UK, TV, Miniseries 1960)—Robert Hardy

  • BBC Television Shakespeare: Henry V (TV, UK, 1979) The War of the Roses (English Shakespeare Company

  • Henry V (UK, 1990)—a direct filming from the stage The Hollow Crown: Henry V (UK, TV, BBC2, 2012)—Tom Hiddleston

  • Henry VI, Part 1

  • The loss of French territories and political events leading up to the War of the Roses (House of Lancaster versus House of York).

  • Henry VI is an upright but weak king. Together, the three plays show the repercussions this type of monarch can have on a nation. It justifi es the subsequent usurpation of the throne by York, legitimating the Tudor dynasty.

  • Delays have dangerous ends.

  • (Act III, Scene II)

  • Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed.

  • (Act V, Scene II)

  • An Age of Kings (UK, TV, Miniseries 1960)—Terry Scully The War of the Roses (TV miniseries 1965)—David Warner BBC Television Shakespeare: Henry VI, Part 1 (TV, UK, 1983)

  • Henry V (UK, 1989)—Kenneth Branagh

  • The War of the Roses (English Shakespeare Company) Henry VI —House of Lancaster (UK, 1990)—a direct filming from the stage

Henry VI,Part 2

The struggle for power during the reign of the young king. His inability to control his querulous nobles, together with the inevitability of war.

  • Small things make base men proud.

  • (Act IV, Scene I)

  • True nobility is exempt from fear.

  • (Act IV, Scene I)

  • An Age of Kings (UK, TV, Miniseries 1960)—Terry Scully The War of the Roses (TV miniseries 1965)—David Warner BBC Television Shakespeare: Henry VI, Part 2 (TV, UK, 1983)

  • Henry VI—House of Lancaster (UK, 1990). A direct filming from the stage of Michael Bogdanov and Michael Pennington’s seven-play sequence, based on Shakespeare’s history plays. This play is formed from Henry VI, Part 1 and from the earlier scenes of Henry VI, Part 2.

  • The War of the Roses (English Shakespeare Company) Henry VI—House of York (UK, 1990)—a direct filming from the stage

Henry VI, Part 3

The horrors of war as Henry VI is deposed by Edward, Duke of York, who becomes Edward IV. Henry VI’s wife leads the fighting, while her weak husband watches from the sidelines until his ultimate death.

  • Having nothing, nothing can he lose.

  • (Act III, Scene III)

  • The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on.

  • (Act II, Scene I)

  • An Age of Kings (UK, TV, Miniseries 1960)—Terry Scully The War of the Roses (TV miniseries 1965)—David Warner BBC Television Shakespeare: Henry VI, Part 3 (TV, UK, 1983)

  • The War of the Roses (English Shakespeare Company) Henry VI—House of York (UK, 1990)—a direct filming from the stage

Richard III

Richard is depicted as the villainous hunchbacked Duke of Gloucester, who gains the throne through a series of dreadful acts. The War of the Roses culminates in the Battle of Bosworth, with Richard defeated by the Duke of Richmond, who becomes Henry VII.

  • Now is the winter of our discontent.

  • (Act I, Scene I)

  • A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

  • (Act V, Scene IV)

  • Off with his head!

  • (Act III, Scene IV)

  • Richard III (US, silent film, 1908)—William Ranous Richard III (UK, film, 1955)—Laurence Olivier An Age of Kings (UK, TV, Miniseries 1960)—Paul Daneman

  • The War of the Roses (UK, TV miniseries, 1965)—Ian Holm

  • BBC Television Shakespeare: Richard III (TV, UK, 1982) The War of the Roses (English Shakespeare Company): Richard III (UK, 1990)—a direct filming from the stage

  • The Animated Shakespeare: King Richard III (TV, Russia and UK, 1994)—Antony Sher as the voice of Richard

  • Richard III (UK, film, 1995)—Ian McKellen

  • Richard III (US, film, 2008)—Scott Anderson

SOURCE: “Shakespeare quotes,” Absolute Shakespeare, http://absoluteshakespeare.com/trivia/quotes/quotes.htm.

(p.135) (p.136)

(p.137) victors, and this was very much the case in Elizabethan England. Elizabeth I’s reign was renowned for propagating the “Tudor Myth,” which sought to justify her grandfather Henry VII’s accession after years of contested claims during the Wars of the Roses. The war culminated with Elizabeth’s grandfather, founding patriarch of the House of Tudor who would be crowned Henry VII, killing the malevolent Richard III in battle.* The Tudors painted Henry VII as a saintly hero divinely chosen to save England from more years of civil war. Thus anyone challenging this myth—including England’s playwrights—faced punishment not only from the royal court but also ostensibly from God.8

The public’s abiding fascination with the Elizabethan age has extended into the present; in fact, two of the most successful royal-themed worldwide global box-office (GBO) hits are Elizabeth (GBO $82.1 million, 1998)9 and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (GBO: $74.2 million, 2007). They join other recent blockbusters that focus on a monarch, to wide acclaim. These include The Queen (GBO $123.3 million, 2006) and The King’s Speech (GBO $414.2 million, 2010).10 Moreover, Shakespeare’s Henry V (1989) earns its place on an additional list of royal films to gross from $9 to $28 million each, and which are noteworthy because of the star power attached to them. These include The Madness of King George (1994), Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (1997), Young Victoria (2009), and Diana (2013).11 Each in its own way continues the Shakespearian tradition of depicting archetypal human struggles rather than conveying accurate historical facts and events, a situation that, according to the prominent historian Robert Rosenstone, may “trouble and disturb professional historians.”12

In personalizing history, however, historical films intensify feelings about events and people, using dramatic effects such as facial close-ups and poignant music to evoke an emotional response from their audiences.13 As a consequence, films invite us to experience the sorrows, joys, and passions they depict. In contrast, written history can typically only make gestures (p.138) toward such depths of feeling. According to Rosenstone, “Film is a postliterate equivalent of the preliterate way of dealing with the past.”14 In other words, the medium behaves more like oral history in the way it passes down stories that may become embellished as they move from generation to generation. Bearing these points in mind, we offer a short overview of a selection of royal films we believe are significant in terms of their emphasis on emotional themes and their influence in shaping perceptions of the RFBC in consumer culture.

The critics typically praise the 1989 film Henry V as one of the best-ever adaptations of Shakespeare’s work. Kenneth Branagh served as both director and star, portraying the passionate warrior king leading his troops against the French (figure 17). The odds are stacked against the English, with the French far outnumbering them. Although Henry is full of self-doubt, he must remain strong for his similarly skeptical troops, who look to him for leadership and inspiration. The climax depicts a spectacular battle scene that conveys the brutal realities of warfare. It follows Henry’s famously moving St. Crispin’s Day speech, which contains the line “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” Although the main theme is leadership, Henry’s romance with Catherine (Emma Thompson), daughter of the defeated King Charles VI of France (Paul Scofield), also features in the plot.

Adapted from a play by Alan Bennett, The Madness of King George (1994) tells the true story of George III’s battle with severe illness and the loyalty of his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Helen Mirren). George undergoes humiliating and agonizing medical treatments at the hands of his personal physicians. Although George III was never portrayed as a popular king, Nigel Hawthorne brings the king’s vulnerability to the fore in his award-winning performance. The film also dramatizes the king’s declining relationship with his first son, the Prince of Wales, who schemes to become regent.* At its heart, however, this film revisits an ancient and compelling myth: the vulnerability and fall of the powerful.

Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (1997) depicts the enigmatic relationship between the bereaved Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her Scottish manservant, John Brown (Billy Connolly). The relationship caused much consternation within the Royal Family, not to mention speculation in Victorian England; it was rumored that Victoria had even secretly married him.15 The (p.139)

Pomp and PopcornThe British Royal Family On Stage and Screen

Figure 17. Kenneth Branagh as Henry V (1989).

Courtesy Roland Grant archives.

film opens with Queen Victoria still in mourning for her beloved Prince Albert. Inconsolable after several years, she refuses to return to court and public life. The plain-speaking John Brown, Prince Albert’s trusted servant, is sent to coax her out of seclusion. A close bond develops between Victoria and her servant; he becomes her friend and confidant and assumes control of her schedule, much to the dismay of her family and her advisers. The value of common friendship and the loneliness of the monarchical role are the film’s overriding themes.

(p.140) Elizabeth (1998) stars Cate Blanchett in the title role, exploring the early years of her reign, and the many threats she faced. As a female monarch, she is perceived to be in a weak position; her nobles and advisers pressure Elizabeth to marry, arranging a continual parade of potential suitors. Rejecting them all, she embarks on an affair with her childhood sweetheart, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. To her anger and chagrin, she eventually discovers that he is already married. With the demise of this passion as its focal point, the film deals with Elizabeth’s transformation from a fun-loving and rather naive girl to a strong, powerful ruler who dominates the men around her. The last scene of the film dramatically captures this transformation; Elizabeth has her hair cut and paints herself with makeup to become the white-faced “Virgin Queen.” This becomes her classic image in historical documentation and portraiture.

The sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), takes place during the latter part of her reign, which includes the threatened invasion by the Spanish Armada. The theme of sacrifice for one’s country continues as Elizabeth once again embarks on an ill-fated romance. This time she falls for Walter Raleigh (played by the darkly handsome and charismatic Clive Owens), but they cannot act on their mutual attraction because of Elizabeth’s role, and her responsibilities to her country. Instead, he falls for her lady-in-waiting Bess, with whom he has a child. Raleigh subsequently plays a leading role in defeating the Spanish, affording Clive Owen the opportunity to heroically command a blazing fire-ship into the oncoming armada. Elizabeth walks along a cliff top overlooking the English Channel to watch the devastated Spanish fleet sink in flames, a scene demonstrating Hollywood at its most sensational and melodramatic. Generally considered by critics as a romantic fantasy that took too many wild liberties with historical fact,* The Golden Age was still a considerable box office success.

Starring Helen Mirren, The Queen (2007) depicts the events immediately following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997. Seen from the perspectives both of the Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair, the drama unfolds around the differing opinions on how to react to the tragedy. In a now-historic moment of tension between the Queen and her public, she conceives of Diana’s death as an occasion for private mourning, although her son Prince Charles and Blair recognize the public’s desire for an official (p.141) expression of grief from her. The film offers a very sympathetic portrayal of Elizabeth II, dramatizing the internal tensions she experiences between being a ruler and being a mother and grandmother.

In contrast to Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, Young Victoria (2009), starring Emily Blunt, dramatizes Victoria’s youth, her ascension to the throne, and the defining romantic relationship of her life, with Prince Albert. After exposing Victoria’s early upbringing as isolated and emotionally deprived, with her mother’s consort attempting to gain control over her, the film portrays a rebellious and fiery Victoria learning the responsibilities of her monarchical role. Essentially a historical romance, its key focus is on Victoria’s courtship with Albert, showing how they eventually developed an enduring love and trust. This film also involved current (or former) Royal Family members in several ways: Sarah Ferguson, the former Duchess of York, was one of its screenwriters, and her daughter Princess Beatrice made a cameo appearance as one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. Yet her grandmother the Queen criticized the historical inaccuracies in the film, as well as some of the costumes.16

Of all the royal films, The King’s Speech (2010), starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter, is without a doubt the most successful in terms of both its worldwide GBO of $414.2 million and the awards it has accumulated. The plot is simple but captivating. The introverted Prince Albert, who would reluctantly accede as George VI after the abdication of his brother Edward VIII, attempts to cure a childhood stammer that makes him awkward and embarrassed at public events. Aided by his wife, Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth, then the Queen Mother), and the unconventional methods of plain-speaking Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush), the King works to overcome his stammer. The drama culminates with the King successfully delivering his first World War II radio broadcast to the nation, as he announces Britain’s declaration of war on Germany. The main focus of the film is on the relationship between George VI and Logue, and a key theme is that effective leaders are not born but taught. Moreover, George VI must recognize his own weaknesses and rely on both the help of others and his own determination to overcome major obstacles and ultimately succeed.

Although universally condemned as superficial, we believe Diana (2013), the most recent royal film released,* deserves discussion due to its GBO of (p.142) $21.7 million. The film was based on Kate Snell’s Diana: Her Last Love, and depicts the last two years of her life. The central narrative focuses on Diana’s love affair with Hasnat Khan and their eventual split, resulting in her turning to Dodi Fayed to make Hasnat jealous. Despite the high-powered casting of Naomi Watts as Princess Diana, critics shared the opinion that she offered a wooden portrayal with little depth or subtlety. In addition, Khan was widely reported to feel angry and betrayed by the film, and allegedly believed it trivialized their romance.

In conjunction with the tenets of successful human and family branding, these contemporary portrayals of royal figures, or of their family members, bring us closer to monarchy by making these people seem “just like us” in a variety of ways. The big screen lays bare the monarchy as composed of human beings with passions, turmoil, and temptations to which everyone can relate, rather than distant, cold, institutional figureheads. Often depicted as having to overcome adversity and face many challenges in life, a monarch shown as vulnerable and flawed helps an audience identify and empathize. Yet significantly and somewhat paradoxically, people also need to know that these figures differ from themselves, to allow the mystery that surrounds the idea of royalty to remain.

In short, members of the RFBC must always be portrayed as existing on a more elevated level than common people, although many films adhere to the narrative that such elevation is not without consequences, often with respect to emotional suffering and loneliness. Thus these films typically emphasize a theme of sacrifice to duty, which puts the welfare of the nation above personal desire (as both Elizabeth films so acutely portray). This sense of sacrifice is what separates “them” from “us,” and affords monarchs the authoritarian power we expect them to possess. In his documentary Monarchy, David Starkey, the esteemed historian and original director of The Six Wives of Henry VIII, identifies a key tension underpinning these portrayals: “On one hand, England required authoritarian might to stand strong against external threats; on the other, it cherished its longstanding tradition of rule by consent of the governed. The dynamic tension between these two impulses enabled the monarchy to survive as the oldest functioning political institution in Europe.”17

This brings us to a third common theme of these films—namely, the democratization of the monarchy and the idea of rule by consent of the governed. As the world’s oldest democracy, since the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, England (and later Great Britain) has treasured its limitations (p.143) on absolute monarchy.18 Thus films that portray the British monarchy continually reinforce the need for a monarch to please the people, particularly in depictions where the people temporarily turn against their ruler (usually their queen, as Young Victoria, Mrs. Brown, and The Queen reveal). In such situations, the monarchs are shown to be especially vulnerable and to require advice. To this end, a trusted, plain-speaking confidant (usually a commoner) often emerges, who gains the monarchs’ respect by virtue of his or her (typically his) knowledge and ability.

Significantly, helper figures hark back to the universal structure of the fairy-tale narrative. Although not all royal films mirror these tales, they often feature people who play vital roles by assisting monarchic heroes or heroines in overcoming obstacles. Elizabeth I has Walter Raleigh to teach her about faraway lands; Queen Victoria has both Lord Melbourne to help her negotiate the ways of government and John Brown to reinvigorate her life after Albert’s death; Elizabeth II has Tony Blair to help her respond emotionally to the death of the “People’s Princess”; and George VI has Lionel Logue to cure his stammer. Even George III can claim Dr. Willis, the abrasive specialist who treats his dementia and who, although not a confidant, engages George with a directness and authority the King never experiences from others around him.

Accordingly, apart from offering advice in adversity, the plain-speaking commoner counterbalances royal rank and remoteness (with titled Lord Melbourne as the obvious exception). In providing a stark contrast to the rigors of royalty, such characters act as agents provocateurs, calling into question the pomp and ceremony that surrounds royalty and the reasons why we elevate the monarchy to a quasi-mythic status.

John Brown in Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown is a prime example of this role. The rugged Scotsman refuses to obey court etiquette and treats Victoria as a fellow human being rather than his queen, calling her “Woman” rather than “Ma’am,” and passing her tipples of whisky from his hip flask when they go out riding. At the same time, he brings out Victoria’s vulnerability and need for friendship and protection, transforming the somewhat starchy and isolated monarch into a warm, feeling being with whom we can empathize. At times he assumes the superior position; when he introduces her to people living on her estate, Brown, rather than Victoria, is in command as he puts the tenants at ease in the company of Her Majesty.

Of course, a major attraction of all these films is that they teem with pomp and pageantry. As a genre, historical film presents rich opportunities (p.144) to select aspects of the past that are visually awesome and emotionally stirring. From the battlefields of Agincourt to the ostentatious splendor of the Elizabethan court, royal historical films make the most of their heavily visual narratives. Film as a medium is particularly effective in portraying public ceremonial events and mass conflicts, conceived as the two primary types of human spectacle.19 Ceremony offers a sense of continuity and stability, where conflicts offer the drama inherent in tumult and change. Both are highly emotive and evoke the power and presence of monarchy, albeit in very different ways.

The historical film is therefore the perfect genre to convey the grandeur of royal ritual, the stateliness of tradition, and the potency of war. Consider the electrifying image of Elizabeth I on horseback, dressed in chain mail, an abundance of red hair flowing down her back, as she addresses the English troops before they go into battle against the armada. Or the magnificent splendor of the delicate teenage Victoria, her bejeweled coronation crown encircling her head, golden orb and scepter in her hands, as she majestically returns the gaze of the crowd that throngs Westminster Abbey. Such momentous media moments reinforce the mystic elements that infuse royalty, while simultaneously asserting pride in national heritage and identity.

Fashion is the other spectacular element of royal historical films—not contemporary fashion, of course, but rather the sartorial splendor that reflects the particular period depicted in each film. Royal historical films thus intersect with another film subgenre, the costume drama, a staple element of British and American cinema since the era of silent films.20 In this respect, royal films provide the perfect opportunity to represent viewers’ indulgences in the (typically historical) luxury aspect of the RFBC, with the characters’ opulent ensembles and accessories set against a backdrop of lavish decor and theatrical settings. Consider that in a list of the ten best costume dramas of all time, three of the films we discuss in this chapter rank alongside classics such as Gone with the Wind and Sense and Sensibility.*21 Further, all eight films that we synopsize received Academy Award or BAFTA nominations or wins for costume design.

From magnificent medieval heraldry emblazoned on the armorial bearings of Henry V and his army, to the somber blackness of Victorian courtly rituals of grief in Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, or the purple splendor of Young Victoria, these films all leave their visual marks by contributing to an over-riding (p.145) sense of royal spectacle. Without a doubt, historical costumes are a major attraction for the (mainly female) audiences of these films. Usually rich and resplendent, they are all arresting in their designs and remarkable for their attention to elaborate detail.*

Nowhere are the excesses of conspicuous consumption more pronounced than in the costumes for the Elizabeth films. This excess is highly appropriate; as we have noted, scholars pinpoint the Elizabethan court as a major catalyst in the birth of consumer culture.22 According to leading anthropologist Grant McCracken, there are two main reasons for this attribution. First, Elizabeth I used lavish consumption to symbolically enhance and reinforce her power as monarch. Furthermore, she strategically leveraged displays of lavish goods and created opulent consumption events to achieve her political ends. In particular, her noblemen engaged in tremendous competition for status within the royal court and often relied on ostentatious displays of their long-established wealth and lineages when vying for Elizabeth’s favor.

Both films about the monarch maximize this infatuation with consumption, particularly with respect to fashion. Although each received acclaim for costume design, critics discussed the wild liberties taken with respect to Elizabeth’s dresses. For one critic posting on the Guardian blog, it was all too much:

The film begins in 1585, with Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) flinging his new cloak over a puddle so Queen Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) need not step in it. Later, he introduces her to tobacco, a potato and two Native Americans brought back from his transatlantic expedition. All this is more or less true, but it’s hard to notice the history because the queen is wearing a giant chrysanthemum on her head. While the first Elizabeth movie faithfully reproduced Elizabeth’s outfits from courtly portraits, The Golden Age kits her out in iridescent lace collars, foot-high plumes of exotic feathers, electric violet and lime green satin, and marquee-sized gauze cloaks suspended from architectural hoops. She looks fabulous, but it’s not so much Nicholas Hilliard as Lady Gaga.23

Traveling away from contemporary royal films, we now offer a closer look at the evolution of the royal historical film genre. As we have already shown (p.146) through our analysis of Shakespearian products, dramas depicting the monarchy are not new. In fact, although the world cinema has seen its share of recent royal blockbusters, the royal film genre is basically as old as the cinema itself. In total, well over sixty royal films exist (see table 4). The first was The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, produced in 1895 by Thomas Edison.* Silent and lasting less than half a minute, this film relies on clever editing for dramatic effect, replacing the actress playing Mary with a dummy, which is then beheaded. As the first movie to employ special effects, it is regarded as a breakthrough in cinematic technology.24

Sixteen years would elapse before another royal film appeared. Henry VIII, produced in 1911, lasted twenty-five minutes and featured five scenes from a London performance of Shakespeare’s play. Ex-salesman William G. Barker, who had made his name as the newsreel photographer for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, conceived of the film as a way for England to enhance its status in the film industry. He achieved this goal by associating film, a medium denigrated and trivialized at that time, with high culture and the arts. Henry VIII was quickly followed by Les amours d’Elisabeth, reine d’Angleterre (The Loves of Queen Elizabeth, Queen of England), a French silent film starring the legendary Sarah Bernhardt, one of the pioneering actresses of the silent screen. She was already sixty-eight years old when she featured in this forty-four-minute drama focusing on Elizabeth I’s love affair with the Earl of Essex.

Bernhardt set the precedent for major stars of their eras to appear in the steady stream of films on the British monarchs that followed. In particular, well-known actors such as Charles Laughton, Merle Oberon, Anna Neagle, Katharine Hepburn, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Bette Davis, and Errol Flynn all portrayed royal figures on film in the 1920s and 1930s.

It is often said that history can teach us more about the present than it can about the past, and when we examine royal films across different eras, support for this argument is evident. Against the background of the Great Depression, productions that portrayed the lusty orange seller turned actress turned royal mistress to Charles II, such as Nell Gywn (1935), as well as films like The Private Lives of Henry VIII (1933), depicting England’s most lascivious monarch, provided some light relief for fun-starved audiences.25 Later in (p.147) the decade, Victoria the Great (1937) and Sixty Glorious Years (1938), both starring Anna Neagle as Queen Victoria, reassured the British people of the monarchy’s stability during the 1938 abdication crisis.26

We mentioned earlier that Olivier’s Henry V was made for propaganda purposes during World War II, but several other royal-related films were also part of this effort to maintain public morale in the lead-up to war and through the ensuing battle years.27 Marking George V’s Silver Jubilee, Royal Cavalcade (1935) depicted the great events of his reign, in both Britain and its empire. It mixed dramatic reenactments with newsreel footage where George V appeared only briefly; most of the time, the director substituted a picture of Buckingham Palace as the King’s stand-in.28 This choice reminded the audience of the institutional longevity and powerful presence of the monarchy rather than dwelling on how the institution is personalized. As we noted earlier, a focus on the individual persona of the monarch is more common in contemporary royal films.

Fire over England (1937) starred Dame Flora Robson in a magisterial portrayal of Elizabeth I as she infused her people with national pride and the courage to defeat the Spanish Armada, celebrating another great English victory. Made at the beginning of the war, London Can Take It (1940) also documented British stoicism in the face of adversity and featured the everyday heroism of Londoners during the German Blitz. Significantly, it featured George VI and his wife, Elizabeth, in a bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace, illustrating how they too shared their people’s plight. Narrated by a top U.S. journalist of the time, Quentin Reynolds, the film was also a hit in America, gaining much support there for a beleaguered Britain. It ends with a closing shot of the statue of Richard I (the Lionheart) outside of the Houses of Parliament, thus evoking another powerful military leader as further testament to the might of Britain and her monarchs. Overall, this series of wartime films, set within the context of a war-torn Europe, emphasized the nation’s power and glory, as well as its many triumphs in adversity. In the process, the films also valorized the role of the monarchy in these victories.

After the end of the war, a more stable period ensued, initiated by Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, ushering in the depiction of more undependable and wayward monarchs. With an all-star cast including Stewart Granger, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov, and Robert Morley, Beau Brummell (1954) tells the story of the nineteenth-century upper-class dandy and his volatile relationship with the Prince of Wales (later George IV). Likewise, the 1956 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III depicts the


Table 4 Royal Film Productions



Country of Production



The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots



Robert Thomae

Mary, Queen of Scots

Henry VIII



Arthur Bourchier, Laura Cowie, Edward O’Neill, Herbert Beerbohm Tree

Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Duke of Suffolk, Cardinal Wolsey

Queen Elizabeth (Les amours de la Reine d’Angleterre)



Sarah Bernhardt, Lou Tellegen, Max Maxudian

Elizabeth I

The Life and Death of King Richard III (Original title: Richard III)


France, USA

Robert Gemp, Frederick Warde, Albert Gardner, Carey Lee

Edward IV, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), Prince Edward of Lancaster, Queen Elizabeth I

Sixty Years a Queen



Blanche Forsythe, Mrs. Henry Litton

Victoria, Prince Albert

Anne de Boleyn



Laura Cowie, Max Maxudian

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII

50,000 Miles with the Prince of Wales



Edward, the Prince of Wales

Edward, the Prince of Wales

Anna Boleyn



Henny Porten, Emil Jannings

Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII

The Virgin Queen



Diana Manners, Carlye Blackwell

Elizabeth I, Lord Robert Dudley

Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall



Mary Pickford, Clare Eames, Estelle Taylor, Courtenay Foote

Dorothy Vernon, Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, Earl of Leicester

Nell Gywn



Dorothy Gish, Randle Ayrton

Nell Gwyn, Charles II

The Private Life of Henry VIII



Charles Laughton, Merle Oberon, Wendy Barrie, Elsa Lanchester

Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves

Nell Gwyn



Anna Neagle, Cedric Hardwicke

Nell Gwyn, Charles II

Mary of Scotland



Katharine Hepburn, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge

Mary Stuart, Elizabeth Tudor

Tudor Rose (U.S. title: Nine Days a Queen)



Cedric Hardwicke, Nora Pilbeam, John Mills

Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey, Lord Guilford Dudley

Fire over England



Laurence Olivier, Flora Robson, Vivien Leigh, Raymond Massey, Leslie Banks

Elizabeth I, Philip II of Spain, Michael Ingolby, Cynthia, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Victoria the Great



Anna Neagle, Anton Walbrook, Walter Rilla

Victoria, Albert, Prince Ernest, Lord Melbourne

Sixty Glorious Years



Anna Neagle, Anton Walbrook, Walter Rilla

Victoria, Albert, Prince Ernest, Sir Robert Peel

Essex and Elizabeth (The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex)



Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Vincent Price

Elizabeth I, the Earl of Essex, Lady Penelope Gray, Sir Walter Raleigh

The Heart of a Queen



Zarah Leander, Maria Koppenhofer

Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I

London Can Take It!



Quentin Reynolds (Commentator)

George VI, Elizabeth (later, the Queen Mother)

The Sea Hawk



Errol Flynn, Brenda Marshall, Claude Rains, Flora Robson, Alan Hale

Geoffrey Th orpe, Dona Maria, Queen Elizabeth I

Listen to Britain



Chesney Allen, Leonard Brockington, Bud Flanagan

Queen Elizabeth (later, the Queen Mother)

Henry V



Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks

Henry V

Forever Amber



Linda Darnell, Cornel Wilde, Richard Greene, George Sanders

Amber St. Clair, Bruce Carlton, Lord Harry Almsbury, Charles II

Royal Wedding



Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford

Tom Bowen, Ellen Bowen, Lord John Brindale

Young Bess



Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Charles Laughton

Young Bess (Elizabeth I), Thomas Seymour, Catherine Parr, Henry VIII

A Queen Is Crowned



Laurence Olivier (Narrator)

Elizabeth II, Philip, Charles, the Queen Mother

Beau Brummell



Stewart Granger, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov, Robert Morley

Beau Brummell, Lady Patricia, Prince of Wales (later, George IV), George III

The Virgin Queen



Bette Davis, Richard Todd, Joan Collins

Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh, Beth Throgmorton

Richard III



Laurence Olivier, Cedric Hardwicke, Nicholas Hannen, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom

Richard III, Edward IV, George, Duke of Clarence, the Lady Anne

The Prince and the Showgirl



Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe, Sybil Thorndike

Charles, the Prince Regent of Carpathia, Elsie Marina, the Queen Dowager




Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud

Thomas Becket, Henry II, Louis VII of France

A Man for All Seasons



Paul Scofi eld, Wendy Hiller, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles, John Hurt

Thomas More, Alice More, Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey

The Lion in Winter



Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, John Castle

Henry II, his wife Eleanor, Richard I, Philip II of Spain

Anne of the Thousand Days



Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, Irene Papas

Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn




Richard Harris, Alec Guinness, Robert Morley, Dorothy Tutin, Timothy Dalton

Oliver Cromwell, Charles I, the Earl of Manchester, Queen Henrietta Maria, Prince Rupert

Mary, Queen of Scots



Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Ian Holm, Timothy Dalton

Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, David Riccio, Henry–Lord Darnley

Lady Caroline Lamb



Sarah Miles, Jon Finch, Richard Chamberlain, John Mills, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson

Lady Caroline Lamb, William Lamb, Lord Byron, George IV, Duke of Wellington

Henry VIII



John Stride, Claire Bloom, Barbara Kellerman, Julian Glover

Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Duke of Buckingham

Lady Jane



Helena Bonham Carter, Cary Elwes, John Wood, Patrick Stewart

Lady Jane Grey, Guilford Dudley, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk

Henry V



Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Simon Shepherd, Ian Holm

Henry V




Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane, Quentin Crisp

Orlando, Shelmerdine, Elizabeth I

The Madness of King George



Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Rupert Graves, Rupert Everett

George III, Queen Charlotte, the Prince of Whales




Robert Downey Jr., Sam Neill, David Thewlis, Ian McKellen, Hugh Grant, Ian McDiarmid, Meg Ryan

Robert Merivel, Charles II

Richard III



Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith

Richard III, Elizabeth I, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, Lord Rivers, Edward IV

Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown



Judi Dench, Billy Connolly, Geoffrey Palmer, Antony Sher, Gerard Butler

Victoria, John Brown




Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Richard Attenborough

Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, Robert Dudley, William Cecil (1st Baron Burghley), Thomas Howard (4th Duke of Norfolk), Phillip II of Spain

Shakespeare in Love



Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench

Shakespeare, Elizabeth I

The Last King (Original title: Charles II : The Power and the Passion)



Rufus Sewell, Rupert Graves, Shirley Henderson, Martin Freeman, Ian McDiarmid, Helen McCroy

Charles II, George Villiers (Duke of Buckingham), Catharine of Braganza, Lord Shaft esbury, Sir Edward Hyde, Barbara Villiers (Countess of Castlemaine)

To Kill a King



Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Olivia Williams, Colin Redgrave, Rupert Everett

Oliver Cromwell, Sir Thomas Fairfax, Lady Anne Fairfax, Charles I

The Libertine



Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton, John Malkovich, Rosamund Pike

John Wilmot (2nd Earl of Rochester), Charles II

The Queen



Helen Mirren, James Cromwell, Michael Sheen

Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Tony Blair

Elizabeth: The Golden Age



Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton

Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, Sir Walter Raleigh, Mary, Queen of Scots, Philip II of Spain

The Other Boleyn Girl



Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Jim Sturgess, Kristin Scott Thomas

Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, Henry VIII, George Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Jane Seymour

The Young Victoria



Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong, Thomas Kretschmann

Victoria, Albert, Lord Melbourne, Duchess of Kent, William IV, King Leopold

The King’s Speech



Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Geoffrey Rush

George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Edward VIII, George V, Winston Churchill, Wallis Simpson, Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Queen Mary, Duke of Gloucester




Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, Rafe Spall, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson

Edward de Vere (17th Earl of Oxford), Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare, William Cecil, Robert Cecil




Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D’Arcy, Oscar Isaac, Richard Coyle, Geoffrey Palmer

Wally Winthrop, Wallis Simpson, Edward, George V, Queen Mary

Hyde Park on Hudson



Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Samuel West, Olivia Colman

Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, George VI, Queen Elizabeth (later, the Queen Mother)




Naomi Watts

Diana, Princess of Wales

A Royal Night Out



Sarah Gordon, Bel Powley, Emma Watson, Rupert Everett

Elizabeth I, Princess Margaret, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (later, the Queen Mother)

(p.149) (p.150) (p.151) (p.152)

(p.153) evil machinations of the King (whom Olivier imbued with much-acclaimed charisma) as he conspires to steal the throne from his brother, Edward IV.

The 1960s were characterized by political and social upheaval, and films like Becket (1964) and A Man for All Seasons (1966) reflected the turbulent times. These interpretations portrayed righteous characters in opposition to monarchical authority, reflecting the rebellious zeitgeist of the decade.29 Feminism was also emerging on the sociological and political agenda, so audiences saw more feisty female characters as well.

Geneviève Bujold’s performance as Henry VIII’s ill-fated second wife, Anne Boleyn, in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), epitomizes such interpretations. In her recent cultural analysis of changing historical representations, feminist philosopher Susan Bordo describes Bujold’s performance as depicting a “sixties rebel girl” and “the first truly iconic Anne.”30 She delivers a magnificent final speech to Henry—albeit one without any historical foundation. Nevertheless, it reinforces Anne’s firebrand image and resonates with newly emergent feminist values: “And remember this: Elizabeth shall be a greater queen than any king of yours! She shall rule a greater England than you could ever have built! Yes—MY Elizabeth SHALL BE QUEEN! And my blood will have been well spent!” Similarly, Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson give passionate performances as the two feuding sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971). In this version, both characters are much more strong-willed and independent than in prior portrayals.

The scandals that beset the Royal Family throughout the 1990s provided a very different context against which productions like The Madness of King George (1994), Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (1997), and Elizabeth (1998) could expose the more salacious and personal aspects of royal lives. Films like these appealed to audiences who no longer regarded figures of royalty as role models and who were much more aware of the discrepancies between the monarchy’s public and private personas.31 Each juxtaposed speculation with historical fact to indulge in imaginative, personalized accounts that can be neither proven nor disproven, including the reasons for George III’s madness, Victoria’s true relationship with John Brown, and Elizabeth I’s relationship with the Earl of Leicester. Together, they eschew the importance of adhering to historical fact in favor of recreating visual accuracy and aesthetically powerful images.

Television has also played its part in changing representations of royalty. The BBC has enjoyed a long-standing reputation for its fastidiously (p.154) researched, world-class historical dramas, many of which revolve around the lives (and frequently the loves) of monarchs. Some of its programs have provided the impetus for major film productions, as was the case with Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown. BBC miniseries such as The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1971) and Elizabeth R (1971) were successfully exported to U.S. television channels.

Although subsequently serialized on BBC2, the most widely popularized royal series in the last decade did not originate with the BBC. Produced in Ardmore Studios, County Wicklow, Ireland, for the American television channel Showtime, The Tudors (2007–2010) was a highly successful historical drama (or fiction, depending on one’s point of view). It was widely panned by historians and television critics alike for taking many liberties with key historical elements, including character names, event timelines, depictions of relationships, costume design, and physical appearances. The New York Times critic Ginia Bellafante accused it of playing “a game of historical hopscotch,”32 and David Starkey panned it as “gratuitously awful,” accusing it of bringing shame on the BBC. He complained bitterly about the twists of history that saw Henry VIII’s sister “Margaret” (whose real name, Mary, was changed by producers so audiences would not confuse her with Henry’s daughter), being sent away to marry the King of Portugal instead of the King of Scotland. He opined, “There’s only one reason for that: so that she can have a bonkorama in a supposed ship’s cabin with the hunk who plays the Duke of Suffolk.”33 Other production choices support Starkey’s suspicion. With ample supplies of sex, passion, scandal, and intrigue, The Tudors is much more about popular entertainment than historical education. As Michel Hirst, the show’s creator and writer, explained, “Showtime commissioned me to write an entertainment, a soap opera, and not history.”34

Casting the big-screen heartthrob Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Bend It Like Beckham, Mission Impossible 3) as Henry VIII certainly enhanced The Tudors’ soap-opera appeal. Without a doubt, however, this choice represents one of the most striking examples of historical misrepresentation in the series. Rhys Meyers’s Henry scarcely ages in the series, apart from the fact that his hair turns gray. More egregiously, he remains slim—in stark contrast to the real Henry, whose looks, mobility, and health were increasingly affected by his weight. In fact, his portrayal is a far cry from that in the 1970 BBC miniseries The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Australian actor Keith Mitchell’s portrayal of the King in that program is widely considered to be (p.155) historically accurate, as he captures his transition from an athletic young prince to an aging and ailing tyrant.

Despite the casting of Rhys Meyers and many other distortions, audiences loved The Tudors. In Britain, the first two series averaged 2.2 million viewers,* although viewership declined considerably for the third.35 The program also exerted a wider impact, restimulating interest in the Tudor period,36 including increased visitors to Hampton Court Palace37 and a rash of new books on such characters as Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.

Indeed, since the advent of The Tudors, Anne’s image has flourished on websites, Facebook pages, and blogs turned into self-published books; T-shirts and mugs also support this renewed interest.38 In her recent cultural timeline, Susan Bordo updated the queen’s image for the Internet era, naming her “viral Anne.” For these reasons, the historian and writer Tracy Borman applauded the series; she believes it brought Henry VIII and his court to life for contemporary audiences, encouraging them to dig further into history and explore the stories for themselves.

Apart from historical drama in all its many rich and imaginative guises, another important contribution of television has been to highlight the more humorous aspects of royalty. As we discussed in Chapter 2, humor and comedy in general play an important role in British culture, dating back to early music hall days and beyond.39 A particularly influential program format within British comedy, popular from the 1960s on, draws heavily on the tradition of group revues at British universities that rely on clever satire and piercing wit.40 The now-iconic Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969–1974) and the sharply satirical Spitting Image (1984–1996) are both good examples of this comic style. They regularly poked fun at all aspects of the establishment, and members of the Royal Family were frequently targets.

Spitting Image mercilessly parodied the Royal Family (see figure 16). The Queen Mother always was seen with a bottle of gin (known as her tipple of choice), and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh carried a blunderbuss. In Britain, this object is understood as symbolizing its owner’s lack of subtlety and precision—reflecting Prince Philip’s renown for making misstatements during royal occasions. Spitting Image portrayed Princess Margaret as always inebriated and Fergie, the Duchess of York, whose battles with her weight were well documented by the tabloid press, as spending her time rooting for (p.156) truffles. Diana was portrayed as the archetypal Sloane Ranger, who never passed up an opportunity for self-promotion.

Another hugely popular British comedy that featured royalty was Blackadder, an infamous series that gained a cult following during (and after) its run on BBC between 1983 and 1989. In the initial series, Rowan Atkinson starred as Edmund Blackadder, son of “Richard IV,” one of the young “Princes in the Tower” imprisoned in 1483. In contrast to what occurred in real life, in the series Richard IV survives his imprisonment. Each of the subsequent three series took place in a different era, with Atkinson playing descendants of the original Blackadder. Three series revolved around his relationship with well-known royal figures: Richard IV, Elizabeth I, and the Prince Regent, Prince George (later George IV, played by Hugh Laurie). The hilarious comic sketches depicted the obsequious Blackadder trying to curry royal favor, assisted by his dense and dirty manservant, Baldrick. The royal characters usually were portrayed as even stupider than Baldrick, and even shallower and more and egocentric than Blackadder. In 2004, the series was voted the second-best British sitcom of all time.41

The antiestablishment ethos of British comedy means there is no escape for royal figures, who have been regarded as appropriate targets since Punch published its satirical “Court Circular,” which reported on John Brown’s supposed lack of official duties at Balmoral.42 Similar to the Bakhtinian notion of carnival as a topsy-turvy space where everyday norms are suspended and the usual order of things reversed, the comic aspects of royalty serve to suspend the deference and respect normally accorded the monarchy (as was true in the portrayals of the monarchs’ commoner confidants in the films described above). But as is also true with carnivals, this situation represents only a temporary suspension of norms. Because this inversion is temporally and spatially contained, and limited to special occasions, it ultimately may help reinforce the status quo. Describing the Royal Family as a great “source of comedy,” Rowan Atkinson, a friend of Prince Charles and a guest at William and Catherine’s wedding, justified his regular mockery of royal figures as “undoubtedly born out of love and respect and wanting them to carry on.”43 He added, “The last thing I would wish is to discredit the British establishment or the monarchy because I need it there—a) as a source of inspiration and b) as a source of comedy.” In fact, Atkinson returned to television as Edmund Blackadder’s descendant during a one-time promotion (p.157)

Pomp and PopcornThe British Royal Family On Stage and Screen

Figure 18. Watching Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Photo by Cele Otnes.

for a series of BBC live-music concerts to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

The three most popular monarchs portrayed on film and television are women: Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II.44 They have been portrayed 106, 85, and 82 times, respectively. The popular male monarchs have been portrayed less often: Henry VIII (79 times), Charles II (55), Richard I (46), Richard III (40), George III (36), and Edward VII (34). Yet even depictions of Henry VIII and Charles II largely focus on their relationships with women. This decision makes sense when we remember that the audience for historical and costume drama is mainly female, coupled with the fact that many of these monarchs’ wives and consorts were strong women in a man’s world.

In terms of film appearances made by the monarchs themselves, Queen Victoria is credited with the largest number of screen appearances and also was the first to appear, starring as herself in the 1897 Diamond Jubilee procession, which reached eager audiences on screens around Britain. Compared to those times when others have portrayed her, however, many of her own appearances were fleeting, often intended to symbolize the solemnity of a moralistic Victorian era and endorse bygone British imperial might. In 2012, an exhibit at Kensington Palace featured film clips of her Diamond Jubilee parade projected onto long white reflective strips, providing visitors with a 360-degree immersion in the broadcast (figure 18).

(p.158) Rose Tapley was the first to portray the monarch, in The Victoria Cross (1912), a silent film about Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War. In 1913, two actresses, Blanche Forsythe and Mrs. Henry Lytton, portrayed Victoria over her lifetime in the now-lost seven-reel film Sixty Years a Queen, which was also released in America. Four years later, Mrs. Lytton depicted her in Disraeli (1916). Both were minor parts, and in a 1929 film by the same name, Victoria appears only at the end, as a remote figure sitting in regal splendor on her throne.45 She has also featured in comedy, with Peter Sellers famously playing her in The Great McGonagall (1974), the story of unemployed Scotsman William McGonagall’s ambition to become poet laureate. McGonagall (played by Spike Milligan) gives a hilarious performance reading his dreadful poetry before a cross-dressing Peter Sellers as Queen Victoria (Prince Albert is dressed like Hitler from the waist up). Testifying to the cultural ubiquity of her image, Victoria even appears in the television series Doctor Who, when the Doctor and his assistant time-travel to nineteenth-century Scotland and defend the monarch from both an attacking werewolf and avenging warrior-monks.

Despite her many superficial appearances, comic or otherwise, cinemagoers have had their choice of many biographical portrayals of Victoria. The first of note was Victoria the Great (1937), by British film producer Herbert Wilcox, who also produced Sixty Glorious Years (1938). Both starred Wilcox’s wife, Anna Neagle, as Victoria, and both were hugely popular, especially with working-class audiences. For the first time, viewers were afforded depictions of the monarch’s private as well as public persona, and were shown some of the tensions that could arise between these two contexts. Yet the thematic emphasis still rested more on politics, especially encouraging patriotism in a prewar audience. It was only in more recent films, such as Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (1997), Victoria and Albert (a 2001 BBC miniseries), and The Young Victoria (2009), that the Queen would be portrayed with any real emotional depth.

This last film was geared toward a post-Diana audience. In the same way Diana became an icon, Victoria is shown to be a victim of tradition, as she utters lines like “Even a palace can be a prison.”46 The film asserts that her rebellious image and freethinking spirit enabled her to transcend this confinement, to become the humane if formidable queen who is well documented. Emily Blunt’s passionate portrayal of the younger queen repositioned the steely monarch’s image for a new generation and spurred a resurgence of interest in Victoria and Albert as a royal couple, in terms of both their romance and their visions for society.

(p.159) Elizabeth I, the second most portrayed monarch in film, featured in over a dozen full-length films about her life. She has been portrayed by more celebrities than any other monarch, including Sarah Bernhardt, Bette Davis, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons, Glenda Jackson, Helen Mirren, and Cate Blanchett. With her brilliantly bejeweled red hair, white makeup, and unique Elizabethan style of power dressing, her image is as distinctive as the elderly Victoria’s sternly plump profile. Both queens are human brands in their own right, inspiring instant recognition and evoking multiple associations.

Like Victoria, Elizabeth conjures up the age named after her, but there can be no doubt that the Elizabethan Golden Age conjures up richer romantic and mythic connections than does the sobriety associated with the Victorian era. Moreover, Elizabeth’s identity as the Virgin Queen allows for infinitely more sexual speculation than does that of Victoria, the archetypal mother figure to both her family and her people. The many political intrigues and threats to Elizabeth’s life, coupled with one of England’s greatest victories in its defeat of the Spanish Armada, explain why her story continues to appeal to new generations.

Sarah Bernhardt offered the first portrayal of Elizabeth in Les amours de la Reine d’Angleterre (1912). On the whole, Bernhardt portrays a rather bland Elizabeth, lacking any real passion either in romance or in anger, an Elizabeth subsumed by Bernhardt’s own personality rather than the reverse.47 Elizabeth’s portrayal in another silent movie, The Virgin Queen (1923), was by the multinamed and titled socialite and actress Lady Diana Olivia Winifred Maud Manners Duff Cooper.* Allegedly close to the Royal Family of the time, it was rumored that she had captured the eye of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII).48 Her performance was generally panned by critics of the time. Somewhat arrogantly, she wrote in her autobiography: “I was cast for Queen Elizabeth and in spite of a red wig and shaved eyebrows my full young face could not give a suggestion of her fleshless aquilinity. … I had little hope or faith or charity for the Virgin Queen with all its gross anachronism, but I delighted in it as an inartistic lark.”49

It was not until Flora Robson’s interpretation of Elizabeth in Fire over England (1937) that any actress succeeded in imbuing convincing depth in the character. Robson read Elizabeth’s history meticulously and often changed her lines in accordance with her research. Never known for her (p.160) beauty, Robson’s powerful portrayal focuses on the queen’s compassion, ambition, and wisdom, rather than on sexual attractiveness or romantic interests. In this respect Robson’s portrayal, often thought to be the most historically realistic,50 is very different from the preceding ones or, indeed, those that followed. Most later portrayals, in fact, constructed their narratives around Elizabeth as a queen in love. This is especially true in Essex and Elizabeth with Bette Davis, and Young Bess with Jean Simmons.

The same criticism can also be levied against contemporary Cate Blanchett depictions of Elizabeth. Blanchett may offer the “sexiest” portrayal of the monarch—a revamp consistent with contemporary third-wave feminism and empowerment through sexual expression—but critics regard her representations as lacking the realism of Robson’s. Similarly, Glenda Jackson’s Elizabeth R (BBC miniseries, 1971) was pathbreaking in its time. It depicted a highly confident, independent Elizabeth who was adept at politics but overly harsh in personality. This interpretation communicated as much about the discourse of sexual politics that was pervasive in the 1970s as it did about Elizabeth’s own character.

Of all the portrayals of Elizabeth Tudor in the history of film and TV, however, Helen Mirren’s performance in Elizabeth I (BBC miniseries, 2005) is considered the most empathetic in terms of her ability to convey the person rather than the icon, the woman beneath the crown.51 A multiple award-winning actress, Mirren has played three British queens to date.* But it is her recent portrayal of Elizabeth II that is most widely known and admired. In that role, she leverages her unique ability to get under the skin of the persona she is playing and absorb herself body and soul into the part. Her poignant performance of the Queen’s painful ordeal during the seven days after Diana’s death reawakened its audience to the monarch’s humanity and vulnerability at a time when she faced the greatest criticism of her reign.

More recently, in 2013, Mirren played the Queen again in a stage play, The Audience, in London’s West End (the production and its star subsequently moved to New York City in 2015, garnering rave reviews). This work charts the Queen’s life through her weekly audiences with most of her prime ministers during her (then) sixty-year reign. Although the Palace reportedly disapproved of this theatrical production (but supposedly not of The Queen), Mirren received much critical acclaim and was credited with bringing “an air (p.161) of dignified solitude”52 to the role, as well as “compassion, grace, affection, and humour.”53 Mirren’s performances as the current monarch also seem to have sparked new interest in the unofficial persona. In 2014, the West End featured another stage play, this time focusing on the Queen’s relationship with Margaret Thatcher. Aptly titled Handbagged to reflect both women’s penchant for carrying their purses on their arms, the comedy speculates on the two powerful women’s often-conflicting ideas of Britain’s role in the world. Two different actresses each play the Queen and Thatcher, with much of the comic effect stemming from their older selves conversing with their younger ones. Other portrayals of the present Queen are few and far between, probably because writers perceive that there is less room for speculation about her private life while she is still alive. Thus, she herself has made most of her screen appearances, mainly in documentaries to commemorate various milestones, such as her coronation. These include the 1953 A Queen Is Crowned, narrated by Laurence Olivier, and a recent film that commemorates her jubilee year, The Diamond Queen (2012), presented by Andrew Marr. This film highlights personal aspects of her life, as well as numerous state visits and other official events. One exception to her lack of characterization is The Queen (2009), a British television docudrama that comprises five episodes, each focusing on a key event or crisis of her reign. Each features a different actress playing the Queen, none particularly well known.*

Nor should we forget Royal Family (1969), a two-hour film commissioned by the Queen and Prince Philip that documents a year in the life of the Queen, her husband, and their children. The film portrays her “orchestrating a family barbecue at Loch Muick with Philip, Charles, Anne, Andrew, Edward and the corgis; laughing with her children at an American sitcom … trading stories around the table at lunch [and] decorating a Christmas tree.”54 Watched by three-quarters of the British public across its five airings—and an estimated 400 million in 130 countries—it gave its audiences a chance to view the informal side of royal life in tandem with the Queen’s busy schedule.55 However, many viewers said it just made the Royal Family seem too ordinary and risked diluting the monarchy’s mystique.56 Even the BBC’s David Attenborough, one of its producers, noted that the monarchy “depends on mystique and the tribal chief in his hut. If any member of the tribe ever sees inside the hut, then the whole system … is damaged and the tribe eventually disintegrates.”57 Since the initial airings, it has not been (p.162) rebroadcast until recently, when the National Portrait Gallery included a small segment in its Diamond Jubilee exhibit, The Queen: Art & Image. It is generally believed that she now regrets doing this film.58

Apart from Mirren, the actress most associated with playing Elizabeth II is Jeannette Charles, the Queen’s lookalike, who has been cast in numerous television comedy programs and shows. Her career reflects the fact that portrayals of the present monarch, heavily influenced by the irreverent spirit of the 1960s, are often humorous. The Queen’s doppelgänger has made regular appearances in Spike Milligan’s Q, a BBC series of quirky comedy sketches (1969–1982), and even surprised one contestant on Channel 4’s Big Brother, who thought he was meeting the real Queen! She also played the monarch during an assassination attempt in 1988’s raucously comic The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!

As contemporary celebrity culture becomes ever more pervasive, media representations of royal figures exert concomitantly more influence on our perceptions of royalty. Just as Emily Blunt offered us a more sensual, softer Victoria, and Cate Blanchett a more winsome and intriguing Elizabeth I, so too Helen Mirren contributed new understandings of the current queen, revealing her humorous and affectionate sides. Celebrity endorsers’ potential impact on a brand image is well known, as their own personal attributes and history can act as an endorsement of sorts. The same could be said for the celebrities who are cast in iconic roles; their own heritage within the industry and popular culture and the quality of their performances become ingrained within the larger narratives of the RFBC. Furthermore, any special attributes a celebrity may possess likewise imbue the brand with new meanings it may have lacked.59 In the case of these three formidable queens, each a powerful brand in her own right, association with such celebrated actresses lends a touch of glamour, together with an accessibility that makes them much more “real” for present-day audiences.

Even with so many new forms of entertainment, the film industry still relies on new or little-known narratives about the Royal Family to help achieve success at the box office. A Royal Night Out, for example, was released on May 8, 2015—the seventieth anniversary of Victory Day in Europe (VE Day). It depicts the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret on that evening in 1945, escaping from the confines of Buckingham Palace to mix with the celebrating crowds and find adventure. Likewise, 2015 also saw the anticipated release of the first original series for the E! Network—a one-hour weekly drama titled The Royals, about a contemporary British (p.163) royal family. Following the plot formula that proved so successful for The Tudors, the program offers what its star, Elizabeth Hurley, describes as an “extreme, sexy adventure into royalty.”60 Finally, for those who wish to focus on Hilary Mantel’s recent literary interpretations of Henry VIII’s court, both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies have already been adapted for the theater and are being filmed to air on BBC Two in 2015. Award-winning actor Damian Lewis, acclaimed for his recent role in the drama Homeland, portrays Henry VIII.

As this chapter shows, media such as film, television, and theater make important contributions to constructing the RFBC in the popular imagination, and they are unlikely to diminish in influence in the foreseeable future. Most certainly, many other actresses, actors, directors, and producers will take their turn at interpreting members of the past, present, and future Royal Family, as the media once again revitalize images of royalty for new audiences in new times.


(1.) Dan Falk, “William Shakespeare, the ‘King of Infinite Space,’” Telegraph, Jan. 27, 2014.

(2.) Bill Bryson, Shakespeare: The World as Stage (New York: Atlas Books, 2007), 73.

(3.) Julian Bowsher and Pat Miller, The Rose and the Globe—Playhouses of Shakespeare’s Bankside, Southwark (London: Museum of London, 2010), 19.

(5.) Edwin Wilson Alvin Goldfarb, Living Theater: A History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000), 185.

(*) We list these here in chronological order of the kings’ reigns, rather than in the order in which Shakespeare wrote them.

(6.) Saccio, Shakespeare’s English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 6.

(7.) Ibid., 4.

(*) Shakespeare’s famous depiction of Richard III as a villain reinforced this myth, probably very deliberately, given Elizabeth I’s patronage.

(8.) Michael Best, “The Tudor Myth,” Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria, http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/history/the%20histories/tudormyth.html.

(9.) All GBO figures are from Box Office Mojo (www.boxofficemojo.com) and include worldwide totals where given.

() Two TV miniseries about Elizabeth I were released between these films, both in 2005. One starred Helen Mirren and other Anne-Marie Duff.Theodore Harvey notes that Duff’s version was especially careful to portray an aging monarch over the thirty-five-year story arc.

(10.) We could also have included The Other Boleyn Girl (GBO $77.7 million, 2008), but omitted it because the Boleyns, rather than Henry VIII, are its main stars.

() A satiric moniker for Queen Victoria, reflecting the fairly widespread belief that she and John Brown were involved in a romantic relationship. It was also released as Mrs. Brown.

(11.) Likewise we omitted The Libertine (2004), starring Johnny Depp, as it focuses on the Earl of Rochester rather than Charles II.

(12.) Robert A. Rosenstone, “The Historical Film: Looking at the Past in a Post-literate Age,” in The Historical Film: History and Memory in Media, ed. Marcia Landy (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001), 50.

(13.) Ibid., 53.

(14.) Ibid., 65.

(*) Regent is a title for a monarch acting in a temporary capacity; due to his father’s illness, George IV was in fact Prince Regent from 1811 to 1820.

(15.) Brown was featured in the June 30, 1866, edition of the satirical magazine Punch.

(*) For example, in the film, Raleigh replaces Francis Drake as the leading figure in the fight against the armada. However, Raleigh was never actually there!

(16.) Alistair Jamieson, “Queen Not Amused by ‘Inaccuracies’ in The Young Victoria film,” Telegraph, March 15, 2009.

(*) As of December 2014.

(17.) Monarchy, a Channel 4 British TV series by British academic David Starkey that first aired in 2004–2006, charted the political and ideological history of the English monarchy from the Saxon period to modern times.

(18.) Nicholas Vincent, Magna Carta: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

(19.) Leger Grindon, “Drama and Spectacle as Historical Explanation in the Historical Fiction Film,” Film and History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies 17, no. 4 (1987): 74–80.

(20.) Margaret Butler, “Costume Drama,” BFIScreenonline, www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/570755/.

(*) Namely, Elizabeth, Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, and Young Victoria.

(21.) Lara Stewart, “10 Best Costume Drama Movies,” Screenjunkies, March 16, 2014.

(*) Victoria’s mourning attire, while not necessary resplendent, was made of expensive crepe fabric and accessorized with specific jewelry.

(p.319) (22.) Grant McCracken, Culture and Consumption (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 11–15.

() Kevin Sharpe, in Selling the Tudor Monarchy, supports this point with a plethora of evidence.

() An English goldsmith and limner, best known for his portrait miniatures of the court members of Elizabeth I and James I of England/James VI of Scotland.

(23.) Alex von Tunzelmann, “Wild Liberties Take the Shine off Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” Guardian film blog, Sept. 29, 2011.

(*) The footage depicting Mary’s death in this film can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIOLsH93U1Q.

(24.) Richard Rickett, Special Effects: The History and Technique, 2d ed. (New York: Billboard Books, 2007), 10.

() Also known as La Reine Elisabeth (Queen Elizabeth).

(25.) Kara McKechnie, “Taking Liberties with the Monarch: The Royal Bio-Pic in the 1990s,” in British Historical Cinema, ed. Claire Monk and Amy Sargeant (London: Routledge, 2002), 220.

(27.) Ibid., 218.

(28.) Martin Stollery, “London Can Take It (1940),” BFIScreenonline, www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/443913/index.html.

(30.) Susan Bordo, The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2013).

(32.) Ginia Bellafante, “Nasty but Not So Brutish and Short,” New York Times, March 28, 2008.

(33.) Nicole Martin, “BBC Period Drama The Tudors Is ‘Gratuitously Awful’ Says Dr. David Starkey,” Telegraph, Oct. 16, 2008.

(34.) Angela Mullin, “James Flyn Talks ‘The Tudors,’” IFTN, Sept. 27, 2007.

(*) In American English, “season.”

(35.) John Plunkett, “TV Ratings: The Tudors Ends Reign with 1.4m,” Guardian, Sept. 28, 2009.

(36.) Maria Puente, “The Tudors’ Popularity Endures Past Showtime’s Final Season,” USA Today, Sept. 4, 2010.

(37.) Tracy Borman, “The Truth behind The Tudors,” BBC History Magazine, Aug. 27, 2009.

(38.) Susan Bordo, “Anne Boleyn: A Cultural Timeline,” The Creation of Anne Boleyn, https://thecreationofanneboleyn.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/anne-boleyn-a-cultural-timeline/.

(39.) Richard Alexander, Aspects of Verbal Humour in English (Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto, 1997), 133.

() A short-barreled firearm.

(41.) British Comedy Guide, “Blackadder,” www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/blackadder/.

(42.) “John Brown,” Undiscovered Scotland: The Ultimate Online Guide, www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/b/johnbrown.html.

(43.) Independent Online, “UK Royal Family Source of Comedy,” Tonight, Sept. 25, 2011, www.iol.co.za/tonight/uk-royal-family-source-of-comedy-1.1144090.

(44.) Steven Felding, “Victoria on Screen: The Heart of a Heartless Political World?” paper presented at the Making of the Monarchy for a Modern World Conference, Kensington Palace, June 2012.

(p.320) (46.) Ibid.

(47.) Bethany Latham, Elizabeth I in Film and Television (London: McFarland, 2011), 32.

(*) She received all of these names at birth, except her surname, Duff Cooper, which she acquired upon marriage.

(48.) Ibid., 34.

(49.) Ibid., 39.

(50.) Ibid., 270.

(51.) Ibid., 271.

(*) Queen Charlotte in The Madness of King George (1994), Elizabeth I (2005), and Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006).

(52.) Henry Hitchings, “The Audience, Gielgud Theatre, Theatre Review,” Evening Standard, March 6, 2013.

(53.) Charles Spencer, “The Audience, Gielgud Theatre, Review,” Telegraph, March 6, 2013.

(*) Emilia Fox, Samantha Bond, Susan Jameson, Barbara Flynn, and Diana Quick.

(55.) Ibid., 220.

(56.) Anita Singh, “Royal Family Documentary Revived Four Decades On,” Telegraph, Jan. 13, 2011.

(58.) Richard Tomlinson, “Trying to Be Useful,” Independent, June 19, 2014.

(59.) Grant McCracken, “Who Is the Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process,” Journal of Consumer Research 16, no. 3 (1989): 310–21.

(60.) Randee Dawn, “Elizabeth Hurley: New ‘Royals’ Series an ‘Extreme, Sexy Adventure into Royalty,’” Today, Aug. 20, 2104, www.today.com/popculture/elizabeth-hurley-royals-extreme-sexy-adventure-royalty-1D80088359.