Skip to main content

The Queen Movie Starring Helen Mirren: A Chronicle of Events After Diana's Death

Athlyn Green enjoys good movies and discusses these with readers who may be looking to add to their home libraries.

Diana's death rocked the House of Windsor and the rest of the world. The movie, The Queen, recounts events as they unfolded, in the minutes, hours, days and months after the tragedy.


The Fairy Tale Ends and Camelot Comes Crashing Down

We all remember where we were and what we were doing when news of that car crash touched us. Many, upon hearing of the wreck, suspected foul play and waited to see if grimmer news was soon to come. Indeed it was.

Diana's tragic death sent shock waves around the globe and was met with a huge outpouring of grief. The world reacted and mobilized.

The fairy tale had ended and Camelot had come crashing down, replaced by cold and harsh reality.

It is perhaps not surprising that the movie, the Queen, was produced in the wake of an event that played out for months afterwards, had such heavy media coverage, and that created a storm of controversy.

The movie, starring Helen Mirren, chronicles the events that unfolded in the days and weeks after Diana's death and it shines a spotlight on how tradition and protocol came smack up against a modern world and how the Queen ultimately rose to the challenge.

Queen Elizabeth II


Movie Timeline

  • 1997 Tony Blaire Becomes Britain's Labour Prime Minister.
  • Three months later, Diana dies in a car crash in the Alma Bridge Tunnel in Paris.
  • Blair gives a speech and uses "the People's Princess" which catches on.
  • Millions of people in London express their grief and throng Buckingham and Kensington Palaces.
  • Diana's death sparks divisions as to how the funeral should be publicly handled.
  • The Queen authorizes the Royal Air Force to bring Diana's remains back to Britain.
  • Flowers blanket public areas.
  • Tabloids call attention to the lack of a statement from the Royal Family.
  • The Monarchy suffers and public sentiment turns against the Royals.
  • Tony Blair denounces the anti-monarchical disdain of his Labour Party advisors and calls the Queen at Balmoral, recommending three strong measures to regain and rebuild public confidence.
  • The Queen considers abdicating.
  • She decides to follow Blaire's recommendations.
  • She later follows Blair's advice to make a public statement on live television, where she speaks about the life and legacy of Diana and describes her in glowing terms.

Royal Family Inspects Flowers Left to Honor Diana


The Royal Family Struggles With Protocol and a Public That Demands an Official Show of Grief

Mirren offers a brilliant performance as Queen Elizabeth II, demonstrating the difficulties inherent in living in the spotlight.

As The Queen gets underway, newly appointed Prime Minister, Tony Blair, finds his new position tested by the death of Diana, the Princess of Wales, after the fateful car crash in the Alma Bridge in Paris. Blair gives a speech describing Diana as "the people's princess" and the saying catches on.

As the days pass, millions of people in London and around the world appear at Buckingham and Kensington Palaces.

The Royal Family is in Aberdeenshire, at their summer estate at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Matters are far from straight-forward because Diana, while loved by the masses, is no longer considered part of the Royal family, having divorced Charles a year earlier. The Royals feel that Diana's funeral arrangements are best left to her family to attend to.

Prince Charles, along with Tony Blair, has a different viewpoint, feeling that the mother of the future king of England deserves more than a private funeral. And the public agrees.

British tabloids highlight the lack of a show of sentiment from the Royal Family and Public opinion turns against the Royal Family, while at the same time, Blair's popularity rises. In the midst of frenzy, Blair takes a moderate, reasoned approach and, while he feels the Queen's actions and attitudes are outmoded, he develops an admiration for the woman who is queen, gaining an understanding of the forces that have shaped the present-day Monarchy.

Blair does not get caught in the current of anti-Royal disdain shown by his Labour Party, instead, he contacts the Queen at Balmoral and makes specific recommendations aimed at recapturing flagging loyalty and instilling public confidence for the Monarchy. His recommendations include a public funeral at Westminster Abbey, flying the Union Flag at half mast, and a televised speech given to the nation, honoring Diana.

Scroll to Continue

Blaire's recommendations are not well-received by certain conservative factions and members of the Royal family struggle to find a happy medium between long-established protocol and the needs of an adoring public who demand an official expression of grief.

The Queen sees the need to make changes to not only honor Diana but that bolster the Monarchy.

Diana's Memorial at Althorp


A Poignant Moment

A touching part of the film is a scene where the Queen comes face to face with a stag and... with her own feelings about Diana's death. She shoos the magnificent animal to safety and is later devastated to learn of its death. Viewers can't help making a comparison between the death of the deer and the death of Diana.

Scene With Stag

The Queen Honors Diana

In spite of opposition, The queen recognizes that times have changed and to keep pace, the Monarchy must modernize. Proving herself a true leader, Queen Elizabeth takes a stand and delivers a speech honoring Diana. When the public sees this, the tide turns.

Mirren's Portrayal

Mirren did not rely on makeup for her convincing portrayal of Elizabeth II, instead she captured the Queen through how she held her head, how she set her mouth, and by using similar expressions.

Mirren was a careful student and watched how the Queen moved and other small details, so as to perfectly express the Queen's physicality.

Mirren was honored to have tea with Queen Elizabeth, which also helped her in her later portrayal. And the actress related that she saw a less formal side of Elizabeth that is not normally evident when the Queen is in public view.

The film received a high level of attention in England.

Helen Mirren Talks About the Movie

Mirren Awards

  • Academy Award--Best Actress
  • Golden Globe--Best Actress
  • BAFTA Award--Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • European Film Award--Best Actress
  • Screen Actors Guild Award--Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association Award--Best Actress
  • National Society of Film Critics Award--Best Actress

Film Awards

  • Satellite Award-Best Original Screenplay
  • Golden Glob-Best Screenplay
  • BAFTA-Best Film
  • Goya-Best European Film
  • European Award-Best Composer

A Production Done Well

The most critically acclaimed film of 2006, The Queen exceeded box office expectations. Mirren became the most acclaimed actress of the year.

A thought-provoking movie and if you are interested in the Royal Family, a good movie for the home library.

While slower-paced, I enjoyed this movie as a behind-the-scenes look at the Royal Family and as a reflection of a historic moment in time. One that all of us were part of.

© 2008 Athlyn Green

Related Articles