Elizabeth II is one of the most popular objects of creative speculations

The character of Queen Elizabeth II repeatedly appeared in cinema and literature. Directors and writers tried to under their works who she was in fact

Elizabeth II is one of the most popular objects of creative speculations
Photo: Nikita Konovaltsev

Elizabeth II is the most inaccessible and mysterious celebrity. She is like a silent cinema star who became popular in the TikTok world. Nobody except for her inner circle didn’t know what she was like in reality. This is what Queen Elizabeth herself wanted.

Her emotional closed nature and unbiased statements about high-profile scandals in the royal family created an image people depicted how they wanted. Including directors, scriptwriters, writers and biographers chose Elizabeth as the main character in their works.

Elizabeth II died at 96, for the last 70 years of them she ruled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Commonwealth countries. During all this time, amid socio-economic changes and family scandals, she tried to stick to rituals of her role.

Coronation as first cinematographic project

Elizabeth’s coronation was on 2 June 1953, a year after she ascended the throne. Her coronation became the first event of its kind that was almost fully transmitted on television. It is a sign of changes that accompanied the queen during her rule. The changes that became plots for Hollywood films and series. And the events inside the royal family became endless reasons for discussion on social media. The changes occurred not only inside the family but also around the world. The British people’s undoubted respect for the crown drove out a slew of emotions: from loyalty and tolerance to frank enmity. During Elizabeth’s rule, the monarchy had to justify its existence to the public more than ever before.

However, the queen remained isolated and maintained formality in her communication manner, thus keeping some mysticism around the monarchic family.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Elizabeth together with her spouse Philip left the Buckingham Palace at the heart of London and self-isolated to the Windsor Castle. The Windsor wasn’t chosen accidentally. Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret were sent there in 1939 to hide from German bombing. It is where she appeared on the air at the age of 14 for the first with an address to Washington and British children who were evacuated to North America.

“My sister, Margaret Rose and I, feel so much for you as we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all.”

In 2020, she also tried to level her status to the status of her subjects. In her address to the national, the queen offered to look for new ways of staying in touch with each other and care about their beloved one’s safety. In this speech, Elizabeth cited the radio address made in 1940 and urged the British to tackle the virus with as much tenacity as possible like it was during World War II.

Prince Philip and life after him

In 2017, the queen celebrated the 70th wedding anniversary with Prince Philip. They met in Dartmouth in 1934 where Philip studied. In July 1939, Elizabeth fell in love with him. Philip paid attention to the princess during the war, then they started to exchange letters.

Philip had an unusual role through his death. He was in shadow and always was two steps behind his wife being as continuous support.

At the beginning of their relations, Elizabeth received numerous messages about Philip’s “wrong actions” that were successfully hidden from the public thanks to links with media tycoons. Despite this, the spouses managed to conserve firm relations. Last April, their second son, Prince Andrew, said that Philip’s death “left a huge void” in his mother’s life.

Many researchers of the royal family assumed that Elizabeth would go into shadow after her husband’s death like Queen Victoria did after Prince Albert’s demise. But Elizabeth surprised everybody again when she entertained world leaders at a summit in Cornwall in June 2021 and received Bill Gates and other businesspeople after a climate change conference.

“A scandalous family”

But Elizabeth and Philip’s children turned out to be less stable to family catastrophes. In 1992, Prince Anna divorced her husband, Captain Mark Philips after 19 years of marriage. During the same year, Prince Charles and his extremely popular wife Diana decided to break up. They were followed by Prince Andrew and his spouse Sara Ferguson. However, they still live and travel together. Both couples registered the divorce in 1996. Together with other turbulences, the queen called 1992 her annus horribilis.

But then it got only worse.

In 1997, Princess Diana died in a car accident in Paris, and one of the dark chapters in the queen’s rule started. Whereas the public mourned for the “popular princess,” Elizabeth looked cold and emotionally alienated. The monarchy seemed to collapse them. But it withstood.

However, the 21st century brought new problems. In 2019, Prince Andrew was involved into a scandal because of his friendship with American financier Jeffrey Epstein who was pleaded guilty in human trafficking and procuring minors for prostitution. In November 2019, Andrew had to leave the public life. Then he himself was accused of sexual rape. After that, the Buckingham Palace suspended his official public duties, almost making him an outcast.

In her annual Christmas address to the nation, the queen described 2019 as “bumpy.”

In 2020, a surprise was presented by Elizabeth’s grandson. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle shocked the whole family when they announced their plans for exiting from royal duties. Many compared this step with the decision of King Eduard VIII, Elizabeth’s uncle, to refuse the throne in 1936 to marry a divorced American Wallis Simpson. As a result, Harry and Meghan rejected all royal titles and public financing and returned $3 million spent on the repair of the Frogmore to the treasury.

The young couple’s two-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey added fuel to the fire. The couple accused one of the family members of racisms. The name was not revealed, but after the interview Winfrey said that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle didn’t mean the queen and Prince Philip. Meghan also claimed that she felt so lonely and isolated that seriously considered committing a suicide.

The Buckingham Palace briefly replied saying that the royal family “is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”

Photos of royal family members coming up in the tabloid press from time to time caused fewer problems but also made noise. After a breakup with Prince Andrew in 1992, the paparazzi took a topless photo of Sara Ferguson hugging an American businessman. Later, photos of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless appeared in a French magazine. In 2012, Prince Harry was photographed naked at a party in Los Angeles. Earlier, he had been seen in a Nazi uniform at a costume party.

Virgin Mary’s birthday was celebrated in one of the churches in Manhattan on the day Elizabeth II died. During the service, the priest compared the queen with Virgin Mary and said she was also devoted to her service.

What to read to understand Elizabeth II

Maria Erton Elizabeth II — Queen of Great Britain

This biography depicts key moments of Elizabeth’s life. The reader sees her as a little girl, a bride, a loyal wife, then a monarch, a caring grandma, a politician and an influential leader. During her rule, the world survived a lot of different crises as well as British monarchy itself. The rule of Queen Elizabeth is not only a story of a wise woman, it is a story of an era.

Arina Polyakova, Her Majesty Queen of Great Britain Elizabeth II. An Outlook on Contemporary British Monarchy

Arina Polyakova wrote this book after a trip to Great Britain to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. The Britons’ attitude to the royal family astonished her. They are ready to live with their kids in tents near the Buckingham Palace only to see a passing by cortege with a royal family member. Polyakova says that Great Britain and monarchy was inseparable. This is what unites the nation and gives it a feeling of belonging to one family chaired by the queen.

Ingrid Seward The Queen’s Speech

In this book, there are two main characters. It is Queen Elizabeth II and Great Britain. They are inseparable from each other. The way the country changed throughout the 20th century also reflects how its queen changed. The Queen’s Speech is a detailed biography with a huge number of rare photos. The reader gets acquainted with little Lilibeth who worked as a driver of an ambulance car during World War II, a princess who put on the crown in 1953 and the queen who wakes up at 8 every morning, reads The Times at breakfast and rules Great Britain.

Robert Hardman Queen of the World: Elizabeth II: Sovereign and Stateswoman

Robert Hardman has studying the British royal family for more than 20 years. He also produced the film Monarchy: The Royal Family At Work. In this book, the author tries to poke inside the Buckingham Palace and tell us about the noisiest trips of the queen, intricacies of the royal etiquette, dramas, intrigues and exotic episodes from the queen’s life and Elizabeth II’s relations with British prime ministers, leaders of other countries and members of her own family.

Jennifer Robson The Gown

It is a historical novel about womn who created the most famous wedding dress of the 20th century. The book has two plots. One immerses the reader into the atmosphere of post-war Great Britain when the national learnt about the upcoming wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The second plot unfolds in Toronto nowadays when Heather McKenzie finds an exquisite embroidery among her grandma’s things that is very similar to the one on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding dress.

S. J. Bennett The Windsor Knot

This is a classical English detective. According to the plot, the corpse of a pianist from Russia is found after a reception in the Windsor Palace. All the guests are under suspicion — English politicians, world stars and Russian oligarchs. It is not easy to interrogate them, this is why the guardian of traditions and rituals, Queen Elizabeth II herself decided to do it. The reader will see not only a twisted detective plot but also learn the secrets of one of the most renowned families of the world.

Sew Townsend The Queen and I

How to destroy the monarchy? Sew Townsend who rehoused the royal family from the Buckingham Palace to a ramshackle district certainly knows it. Their shaky house is full of cockroaches, the walls are covered with mould, the ceiling is coated with tar. Now the family has to learn how to make a soup, turn on gas and even tie the laces. Neighbours meet the queen in a queue to a store, Prince Charles is often seen with prison inmates, while Princess Anna is seen in company of a belly taxi driver.

Stephen Clark Queen of Laughs

Stephen Clark is a British writer who writes mainly about France. Though he has several books taking place in Great Britain. His book Queen of Laughs stands out in his art. In the book, he examines Elizabeth II’s sense of humour, tells stories and describes the funniest situations from the royal family’s life.

Yekaterina Petrova. Illustrations: Nikita Konovaltsev

Yekaterina Petrova is the founder of Makulatura book club and author of Poppy Seed Muffins telegram channel.