Queen Elizabeth II onscreen: The best ‘queen’ cameos in movies and TV

Claire Foy takes the throne as Queen Elizabeth in 'The Crown.'. Netflix

As the world mourns the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we are reminded of the numerous movies and TV shows about her life that have entertained international audiences over the last several decades.

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history and Canada’s head of state, died on Thursday in her Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle. She was 96 years old.

Since her assentation to the throne at only 25 years old, the world has been utterly fascinated with the queen. Time and time again, audiences have proved hungry for media about the queen’s long life, family and her role in global political relations.

Whether it be a big-budget production like Netflix’s The Crown or a cameo as herself during a video shown during the 2012 Olympic Games, the queen has been immortalized in popular media. Here are just some of the most iconic “queens” seen on the big and small screens.

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The Crown Claire Foy

Claire Foy portrayed a young, sensitive Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix hit series The Crown. Foy was in the role for the first two seasons of The Crown, where she elegantly highlighted the queen’s intense sense of duty to her role as monarch.

Foy led audiences through recreations of several important and emotional moments in the queen’s life, including her wedding to the late Prince Phillip in 1947 and her coronation in 1953.

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, in ‘Smoke & Mirrors,’ Season 1, ep. 105,  of ‘The Crown,’ aired Nov. 4, 2016. CP / Everett Collection

In 2016, Foy told Vogue that she hoped the show would “shed some light” on the queen’s personality and early life.

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“She’s the most famous person in the world and she has never displayed any emotion, apart from a couple of Remembrance Sundays where she had a tear in her eye,” Foy said.

“That doesn’t mean that she’s cold. What that means, what’s going on that we don’t see, is not that she doesn’t feel pain or happiness or misery or joy or any of those things, it’s just that we don’t get to see any of that.”

Foy received critical acclaim for her portrayal of the queen. She won a Golden Globe in 2017 and two Emmy Awards in 2018 and 2021 for her work in The Crown. 

The Crown Olivia Colman

Following Foy’s departure from The Crown — and a time jump in Netflix’s version of the queen’s life — Olivia Colman took on the role to play an older, wiser queen.

At a digital conversation staged by Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in 2020, Colman said it was a great challenge to play the monarch accurately on screen “because behind closed doors, we don’t know what she’s like.”

Still, Colman has said the queen is “no shrinking violet.”

Olivia Coleman in The Crown.
Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in ‘The Crown.’. Courtesy of Netflix

“The more I researched for this part, the more I started respecting her,” Colman told The List in 2019. “She fixed cars in the Second World War. She insisted on driving a king who came from a country where women weren’t allowed to drive.”

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“She has gone through so much. It is really amazing,” she continued.

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Colman won a Golden Globe in 2020 and two Emmy Awards for The Crown in 2020 and 2021.

The Queen — Helen Mirren

Perhaps one of the most iconic on-screen portrayals of Queen Elizabeth II is by Helen Mirren in The Queen.

In the film, Mirren’s queen is struggling to cope with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. Mirren’s queen navigates incredibly real, complicated feelings of grief throughout the movie, all the while handling the public’s outrage at Diana’s death.

On Thursday, following news of the queen’s death, Mirren shared a photo of the monarch on Instagram.

“I am proud to be an Elizabethan,” Mirren wrote. “We mourn a woman, who, with or without the crown, was the epitome of nobility.”

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Mirren won an Oscar for The Queen in 2007. She later played the queen again in the play The Audience.

Spencer Stella Gonet

Though Stella Gonet’s queen in Spencer is hardly a leading character, she is still a force to be reckoned with.

Centred around Princess Diana’s personal crisis during Christmas 1991, Spencer paints the Royal Family as a looming, invasive presence. As the “People’s Princess” grapples with whether to divorce her husband then-Prince Charles, Gonet shows audiences an intense, rigid queen whose sense of duty is paramount.

Stella Gonet as Queen Elizabeth II in ‘Spencer,’ 2021. CP / Everett Collection

In September, Gonet wrote an article for The Guardian and claimed people “totally changed” when she put her costume and wig on.

“There was just immediate respect,” she said. “I might not be a royalist but I was a huge fan of the Queen. It was an honour to play her.”

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Various films Jeanette Charles

For many years, Jeanette Charles was the go-to impersonator of the queen.

Be it Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, National Lampoon’s European Vacation or otherwise, Charles has portrayed the queen in a number of whacky scenarios.

Charles told The Guardian in May that her career impersonating the queen began when she sat for a portrait that was later mistakenly identified as the monarch.

Jeanette Charles, 46, an Essex model, who is in demand for television because of her resemblance to Queen Elizabeth II, is appearing at the Intimate Theatre in Palmers Green, London, where she plays Florrie Ford, a one-time ‘queen’ of music hall. Getty Images

“The Queen and I were born only 18 months apart, and as we grew older our looks remained similar — though I’m slightly shorter,” Charles wrote for The Guardian.

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Charles retired from acting in 2014.

“Like the Queen, I’ve had to rein in my public appearances recently — if it wasn’t for my arthritis, I’d still be working,” she wrote.

2012 Olympic Games — Queen Elizabeth II

During the 2012 Olympic Games, the world was focused on host city London.

To commemorate the opening of the Games, the queen made a cameo as herself in a short film also starring Daniel Craig as the iconic Secret Service agent James Bond.

In the short, Craig, flanked by two of the queen’s beloved corgis, meets with the monarch. The pair board and later jump from a helicopter to parachute into the Olympic stadium.

When the queen’s death was announced on Thursday, Craig released a public statement through the news agency PA.

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“I, like so many, was deeply saddened by the news today and my thoughts are with the royal family, those she loved and all those who loved her,” he said. “She leaves an incomparable legacy and will be profoundly missed.”

Paddington Bear sketch — Queen Elizabeth II

During Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, the BBC aired a special two-minute short film featuring the queen and Paddington Bear.

In the short, the queen (who is playing herself) has tea with the animated Paddington in Buckingham Palace. After Paddington drinks all of the tea at the table, he offers to share a marmalade sandwich that he keeps under his hat “for emergencies.”

With a smile, the queen tells Paddington she also keeps emergency marmalade sandwiches on hand, and pulls one from her purse.

Paddington wishes the queen a happy Jubilee, and in a now-iconic moment, says, “Thank you, for everything.”

Following the announcement of the queen’s death, the official Paddington Twitter account again repeated the bear’s sentiment.

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“Thank you Ma’am, for everything,” Paddington tweeted.

— with files from Global News’ Chris Jancelewicz and Aaron D’Andrea. 

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