Personality and image of Queen Elizabeth II

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Elizabeth II in 2007

Queen Elizabeth II has never given a press interview. Her views on political issues are therefore largely unknown except to those few heads of government in her confidence. Conservative in dress, she is well known for her solid-colour overcoats and matching hats which allow her to be seen easily in a crowd.[1] She attends many cultural events as part of her public role. Her main leisure interests include horse racing, photography, and dogs, especially her Pembroke Welsh corgis.[2]


What is generally known about Elizabeth's personality is compiled from impressions and descriptions by those she has met. Michael Ignatieff remarked in 2010, after a private audience with the Queen, how he was struck by her "wonderful sense of the absurd" and noted her "sense of humour, that sense of the absurd, that sense of comedy of life has survived 60 years of gruelling public life."[3] After a weekend at Balmoral Castle hosted by the Queen, Michaëlle Jean recounted witnessing a relaxed, informal home life; Elizabeth and her family preparing a meal together—including a salad dressing devised by the Queen—and doing the washing up afterwards.[4]

Public image

Opinion polls have regularly shown that Queen Elizabeth II has an excellent approval rating;[5] coinciding with her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen experienced an approval rate in the United Kingdom of 90% in 2012.[6] According to a YouGov poll in January 2014, the Queen was the most admired person in the United Kingdom with 18.74%. Internationally she was the 17th most-admired person in the world.[7][8]

Since she uses little political power in the day-to-day running of her countries outside of her advisory duties, she is, as a result, unlikely to be held responsible for unpopular policies followed by elected politicians. Her weekly meetings with the Prime Minister of the UK, other meetings with her other prime ministers, and the images of her working at her desk reading government documents demonstrate she is in touch with her nations. In 2002, the Queen was ranked 24th in the 100 Greatest Britons poll. In 1997, she and other members of the royal family were perceived in the tabloid press as cold and unfeeling when they did not participate in the public outpouring of grief at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.[9] The Queen ignored precedent to bow to Diana's coffin as it passed Buckingham Palace and also gave a live television broadcast paying tribute to Diana.[10]

Elizabeth's public image has noticeably softened in recent years; although she remains reserved in public, she has been seen laughing and smiling much more than in years past, and has shed tears during emotional occasions such as at Remembrance Day services,[11] the memorial service at St Paul's Cathedral for those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks, and in Normandy, for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, where she addressed the Canadian troops. During most public appearances, she is dressed in solid colours, as this enhances visibility from a distance.

In recent years, Elizabeth has also been portrayed as being a modern grandmother. She is said to have been "addicted" to playing with a Nintendo Wii, which was bought by Kate Middleton for Prince William. She set up her e-mail account and owns both a mobile phone and an iPod.[12] When President Barack Obama visited the Queen and Prince Philip in April 2009, he gave her a personalised iPod, which was pre-loaded with forty "classic" tunes and video footage of her visit to Virginia.[13]

Personality in diplomacy matters

File:President Ford and Queen Elizabeth dance - NARA - 6923701.jpg
United States President Gerald Ford and Queen Elizabeth dance during the state dinner in honor of the Queen and Prince Philip at the White House, 17 July 1976

In matters of diplomacy, Elizabeth is formal, and royal protocol is generally very strict. Though some of the traditional rules for dealing with the monarch have been relaxed during her reign (bowing is no longer required, for example, although it is still frequently performed), other forms of close personal interaction, such as touching, are discouraged by officials. At least six people are known to have broken this rule, the first being a woman named Alice Frazier, who hugged the Queen in 1991 when Elizabeth visited her residence in a government housing project in Washington, D.C. (accompanied by the First Lady Barbara Bush and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp).[14][citation needed] The second was Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia, when he was photographed with his arm around the Queen in 1992. The third was the Canadian cyclist Louis Garneau, who did the same thing ten years later when posing for a photograph with the Queen at Rideau Hall (her official residence in Canada).[15] In 1997 during the Cabot 500 celebrations of Newfoundland and Labrador, the then Premier Brian Tobin placed an arm behind her while walking up a staircase. This was frowned upon in the news regarding to Tobin breaking the royal rule, but the Premier said that he placed his arm around her as an effort to help an elderly woman climb the stairs.[citation needed] In 2009, the Queen initiated an affectionate gesture with First Lady Michelle Obama at a palace reception she attended with President Obama. The Queen rested her hand briefly at the small of the First Lady's back, a gesture that Mrs. Obama returned. It was remarked at the time as unprecedented and described afterwards by a palace spokeswoman as "a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation between The Queen and Michelle Obama."[16]

Media perception

Elizabeth has attended many cultural events as part of her public role. She has given an annual Christmas message to the Commonwealth every year, apart from 1969, since she became Queen. The Queen's first television message was aired on Christmas Day 1957.[17] In 2001, the Royal Christmas Message was webcast on the royal website for the first time and, in 2006, it was made available as a podcast. Her first appearance on live television in Canada was in Prescott, Ontario, in 1959 when, as Queen of Canada, she opened the Saint Lawrence Seaway.[18]

The journalist and BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys has long stated that his career ambition is to get the first full interview with the Queen. In 2006, the Queen came close to an orthodox interview when she agreed to be portrait-painted by the later-disgraced Australian artist and personality Rolf Harris, who engaged in small talk with her, on film, and with palace permission. It was shown on the BBC, CBC, and ABC. Their conversation ventured little beyond previous portraits of the Queen and royal art history in general, and the Queen's responses to Harris's conversational overtures were notably crisp and monosyllabic. The 1992 BBC documentary on the Queen, Elizabeth R, directed by Edward Mirzoeff on the fortieth anniversary of her accession, attracted record audiences for a factual programme.

The BBC, along with RDF Media Group, became the target of Her Majesty's lawyers, Farrer & Co, after the broadcaster aired a documentary trailer for Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work, which was edited in such a way as to make it appear as though the Queen had stormed out of a photo shoot with photographer Annie Leibovitz. The BBC had earlier apologised for the misrepresentation, which was fuelled by BBC1 controller Peter Fincham describing the Queen as "losing it a bit and walking out in a huff"; but, the Queen and Buckingham Palace were not satisfied with the results and pushed to sue for breach of contract.[19]

The Queen is the subject of "Her Majesty", written by Paul McCartney and featured on the Beatles' 1969 album Abbey Road; McCartney played the song at the Party at the Palace concert during the Elizabeth's golden jubilee in 2002. She had previously also been mentioned in the 1967 Lennon and McCartney song "Penny Lane". In 1977, The Sex Pistols issued "God Save the Queen", which became a controversial hit single, inspiring the punk rock movement with its lyrics suggesting "She ain't no human being", there was "no future" and comparing England to a "fascist regime."[20] The Smiths released the song and album The Queen Is Dead in 1986. The Pet Shop Boys have a track called Dreaming of the Queen. The Queen is the subject of "Elizabeth My Dear", which appears on The Stone Roses' eponymous debut. The Queen also plays detective in the Her Majesty Investigates series of mystery novels by C.C. Benison, which includes Death at Buckingham Palace and Death at Windsor Castle. The Queen is the subject of The Queen and I, written by Sue Townsend. She is referenced in the Travie McCoy song "Billionaire" where he sings that he wants to be "on the cover of Forbes magazine./ Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen."

In 2006, she was portrayed by Helen Mirren in the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-nominated Stephen Frears film The Queen, a fictional account of the immediate events following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The film ended up as the most critically acclaimed film of 2006.[21] Mirren, who had been appointed into the Order of the British Empire in 2003, won the Oscar for her work in the film and, in her acceptance speech, she paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II: "For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle," she said.[22]

In a 2006 book, Who Owns the World: The Hidden Facts Behind Landownership, Kevin Cahill claimed that Queen Elizabeth II holds ownership of one sixth of the land on the Earth's surface, more than any other individual or nation. This amounts to a total of 6,600 million acres (2.7×1013 m2) in 32 countries.[23]

Private Eye, the British satirical magazine, has given the royal family working-class nicknames, as though they were characters in a soap opera.[24] Queen Elizabeth II's nickname is "Brenda".[24]


Campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised the Queen for inviting "royal tyrants to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee". The King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is accused of human rights abuses and King of Swaziland Mswati III of living in luxury while his people starve. Saudi Arabia and Kuwaiti royals were also invited and Amnesty International has reported repression in Saudi Arabia against reformists, while Human Rights Watch has criticised Kuwait of the freedom of press. Buckingham Palace said it would not comment.[25]

Fictional portrayals


Elizabeth has been portrayed on screen by:


On television, Elizabeth has been played by:

Jan Ravens was the voice for a latex puppet caricature of her in Spitting Image (1984–1996), and gave radio and television comedy impressions of her in Dead Ringers. Scott Thompson gave a recurring impression of Queen Elizabeth II on the Canadian sketch comedy show The Kids in the Hall in the early 1990s, as did Luba Goy on Royal Canadian Air Farce. Tracey Ullman's depiction of the Queen was among many roles she played on the television series Tracey Takes On.... The Simpsons portrayed the Queen during the episode "The Regina Monologues" (2003). She was also shown in the SpongeBob SquarePants TV movie Truth or Square. She has been portrayed on Saturday Night Live by both Fred Armisen and Mike Myers. She will be portrayed on the Netflix drama series The Crown, which is scheduled to be released in 2016,[dated info] by actress Claire Foy.


Documentaries and TV Series


  • The Royal Wedding Presents (Short documentary) (1948)
  • Royal Journey (Canada) (1951)
  • Royal Heritage (Short documentary) (1952)
  • A Queen is Crowned (1953)
  • Elizabeth is Queen (Short documentary) (1953)
  • Long To Reign Over Us (Short documentary) (1953)
  • Royal Destiny (Short documentary) (1953)
  • A Queen's World Tour (1954)
  • Royal New Zealand Journey (1954)
  • The Queen in Australia (Australia) (1954)
  • The Sceptre and the Mace (Canada) (Short documentary) (1958)
  • Life of a Queen (Short documentary) (1960)
  • The Queen Returns (Australia) (1963)
  • Queen Elizabeth II: 60 Glorious Years (1986)
  • Queen Elizabeth II: The Power and Glory (1991)
  • From Princess to Queen: Elizabeth II - Childhood to Statehood (1996)
  • The Queen - A life in Film (2008)
  • Die Queen - Elizabeth II. (Germany) (2012)
  • The Queen's Diamond Decades (2012)
  • The Majestic Life of Queen Elizabeth II (2013)
  • The Queen at 90 (2016)

TV films and series

  • Royal Family (1969)
  • Royal Heritage (1977)
  • Elizabeth - The First Thirty Years (1983)
  • Canada and the Monarchy (1992)
  • Elizabeth R: A Year in the Life of the Queen (1992)
  • Days of Majesty (1993)
  • The Windsors: A Royal Family (USA) (1994)
  • The Queen's Golden Jubilee 2002: Party at the Palace (2002)
  • The Girl Who Would Be Queen (2006)
  • The Queen at 80 (2006)
  • Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (2007)
  • A Jubilee Tribute to the Queen by the Prince of Wales (TV Movie documentary) (2012)
  • Ballade Pour Une Reine (France/Japan) (2012)
  • Elizabeth: Queen, Wife, Mother (TV Movie documentary) (2012)
  • The Changing Face of the Queen (2012)
  • The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (TV Movie documentary) (2012)
  • The Diamond Queen (2012)
  • The Queen and Her Prime Ministers (TV Movie documentary) (2012)
  • Our Queen (2013)

Patronage of charities

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

See also

Elizabeth II's jewels


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