Frock Flicks Guide to Lesser English/British Queens on Film: Renaissance through 19th Century

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I admit it, I am totally a (historical) royals geek. Of course, I understand that royalty are just people, some of whom aren’t very interesting or nice. But especially when I was younger, I read numerous “Queens of England” books and biographies of various queens. I always think about doing social media theme days with images of different queens, then get disappointed when I realize that there aren’t enough movies/TV series to make it worthwhile. So instead, I’m compiling a bunch of the lesser known/depicted queens into a series of three posts, focusing on the medieval era, then the Renaissance through the 19th century, and finally the 20th century.

BEFORE YOU FREAK OUT, I am consciously skipping these people who are worthy of (or already have) their own posts:

I’m mostly working with Wikipedia data here, so if you know of a movie or TV series that has included any of English/British queens, please feel free to add it in the comments! If they’re not listed here, it’s because I can’t find any onscreen portrayals. Also, I don’t wanna hear any bitching about the term “lesser.” I mean “less frequently depicted.” Breathe.

Here’s my post about medieval English queens. Onwards!

Daughter of Frederick II of Denmark, she married James VI of Scotland and I of England. She was involved in political factionalism in the Scottish court, then turned her attention to patronage of the arts.

Portrait of Anne of Denmark, attributed to John de Critz, 1605, National Maritime Museum, London.

Portrait of Anne of Denmark, attributed to John de Critz, 1605, National Maritime Museum, London.

2004 Gunpowder, Treason & Plot

Sira Stampe in Gunpowder, Treason & Plot (2004). This was indeed an era of huge ruffs.

2004 Gunpowder, Treason & Plot

However, this miniseries is the greatest offender I can think of for floating ruffs.

 

Mary II of England (1689-94)

Daughter of the future King James II & VII. She married William of Orange and lived in the Netherlands, but when her father was deposed over his conversion to Catholicism in the “Glorious Revolution,” Mary and her husband William were invited to become rulers. Significantly, Mary was queen in her own right, although she ceded most of her power to her husband.

Portrait of Queen Mary II of England (1662-1694) by Godfrey Kneller, 1690, Windsor Castle.

Portrait of Queen Mary II of England (1662-1694) by Godfrey Kneller, 1690, Windsor Castle.

1969 The First Churchills

Lisa Daniely in The First Churchills (1969). Actually really quite historically accurate!

1992 Orlando

Sarah Crowden in Orlando (1992). I love the mantua dress and fontange headdress!

She was played by Rebecca Front (Death Comes to Pemberley, Psychobitches) in England, My England (1995), but I can’t find any pics.

2005 The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse

Victoria Wood in The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse (2005), a very broad comedy, hence the caricature look.

Queen Anne (1702-07)

Daughter of James II & VII, after her older sister Mary II died childless and after the death of King William, Anne succeeded to the throne. She married Prince George of Denmark and famously had SEVENTEEN pregnancies but no surviving children. Anne supported the moderate/Anglican Tories over the increasingly powerful Whig party.

Queen Anne by John Closterman

Queen Anne by John Closterman circa 

She was played by Anna Kallina in The Grinning Face (1921), but no pics.

1928 The Man Who Laughs

Josephine Crowell in The Man Who Laughs (1928). Too dark to see much!

1960 Das Glas Wasser

Liselotte Pulver in Das Glas Wasser (1960). Do not ask me what the FUCK is going on here, costume-wise, because I have NO idea.

TheBaroness(TM) from The Sound of Music invades England?

1960 Ett Glas vatten

Gunnel Lindblom in Ett Glas vatten (1960). Princess seams, shitty lace…

1979 Stakan vody

Natalya Belokhvostikova in Stakan vody (1979); no idea if she’s among these!

1984 Yellowbeard

Peter Bull in Yellowbeard (1984). Okay it’s wacky and the crown is ridiculous, but it’s actually not half bad!

She was played by Elizabeth Spriggs (aka Mrs. Jennings in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility) in Wren: The Man Who Built Britain (2004), but I am sadly photo-less.

The Favourite (2018)

Olivia Colman in The Favourite (2018). Stylized costumes but based on the correct cut and silhouette.

The Favourite (2018)

More Olivia.

The Favourite 2018 trailer

Keeping it regal.

 

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1761-1818)

Daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg, she married George III. She was Queen of Great Britain and of Ireland separately, then from the union of the two in 1801 she was combined queen of both. She was also the Electress of Hanover, then later the queen consort of the same. She was a patron of the arts and very interested in botany.

Johann Zoffany, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen of Great Britain and Ireland, 1766, Holburne Museum

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen of Great Britain and Ireland by Johann Zoffany, 1766, Holburne Museum.

Helen Mirren in The Madness of King George (1994). Amazing costumes – love the veil!

Because, hat.

Dress! Hair!

Semi-clunky trim, but nice fichu. Also I feel like all those pearls are very Edwardian…

 

Caroline of Brunswick (1820-21)

Daughter of the Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, she married the Prince of Wales despite Prinny already having married secretly. The two famously didn’t get along, although they managed one child. Caroline soon lived separately, then eventually things got so bad she left England for Italy. George came to the throne as George IV and tried to divorce her, so Caroline returned to Britain where she was hugely popular. The divorce fell apart, George banned her from the coronation, and then suddenly Caroline fell ill and died in London.

Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821) by James Lonsdale, c. 1820, National Portrait Gallery.

Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821) by James Lonsdale, c. 1820, National Portrait Gallery.

1997 A Royal Scandal

Susan Lynch in A Royal Scandal (1996).

1997 A Royal Scandal

Poor Caroline.

 

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (1830-37)

Daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, she married the future William IV as part of the race to succeed George IV. Adelaide was known for her piety and charity. Despite a number of pregnancies, the couple was childless, so Princess (later Queen) Victoria was her husband’s heir.

Harriet Walter in The Young Victoria (2009). Beautiful 1830s – love the solid velvet with the print!

She was also played by Delena Kidd in Victoria & Albert (2001), but I can’t find pics.

Who’s your favorite on-screen English/British queen from these centuries?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

32 Responses

  1. Fran in NYC

    You couldn’t find screen caps of Margaret Tyzack as Queen Anne in The First Churchills?

    Reply
  2. Saraquill

    I remember Mary II. I’ve visited Colonial Williamsburg a few times, and couldn’t miss the nearby College of William and Mary.

    Reply
    • Cheryl from Maryland

      As an alum of William and Mary, I have to tell you all that EVERY Halloween, pumpkins are placed on the heads of the William and Mary statues at the Richmond Road gate to the College. Also, the main street in Williamsburg, Duke of Gloucester Street AKA DOG Street, is named after Queen Anne’s longest living child, who died at age 10. Finally, as students, we got to trick or treat up DOG street as many of the houses are inhabited by Colonial Williamsburg employees.

      Reply
      • Nzie

        they didn’t teach W&M grad students all that! still regretting not spending more time in CW.

        Reply
  3. Tamara

    Love it! Very well informed- fellow English royal historian. But I’ll be a little bitchy and say there should be a demarcation between regnal queens and queen consorts. They are very different things.

    Reply
  4. Northcountry Gal

    Oh yes please some of the incredible Margaret Tyzack as Queen Anne. It was an amazing performance. The First Churchills is available on DVD and also on Youtube. Although you are not including them in this list, you can also see Catherine of Braganza and Mary of Modena.

    Reply
  5. Roxana

    What happened to Henrietta Maria, poor Sophia Dorothea of Celle, and Caroline of Ansbach?

    Reply
  6. Nzie

    I am all about Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte. How odd that initial string of Georges were… thrifty and strict alternating with profligate. But she and GIII seem to have been a good pair.

    I’ll see if I can find more on the Russian one. It’s name just means “a glass of water” for reasons I assume are clear in the film.

    Reply
  7. Nzie

    Ok, back with some info about Stakan Vody. (Apparently the name comes from some pivotal moment when offering Anne a glass of water topples her friendship with Sarah?) Anyway, I’ve looked up the actors and found the film online on a Russian website as well as on YouTube, and I feel confident that the woman in the bottom left corner (auburnish hair) is Anne. The woman dressed in a lot of black is Sarah. Costumes don’t look great to my not-especially-trained eye… kind of a mishmash of vaguely historical, some mid/late 18th century elements, and some super Victorian looks—including a Victorian corset with a metal 2 piece busk in front. In the scene I saw, makes me think “deflated 1850s look” (or maybe 1840s with 1860s sleeves). The hair is all 70s. I don’t even know what to make of Sarah’s look, although weirdly her hair IS more 18th century (just a lot later in it).

    You can see it here (YT link right to the first scene—she’s being dressed): https://youtu.be/JdTWwiR_45Q?t=1809

    I’m not super confident in my ability to get good screen grabs, but maybe you can. :-)

    Apparently it’s a remake of a 1957 tv show, in which both actresses appear to have been cast roughly the right ages (middle-aged—the Anne above looks on the younger side, and definitely healthier than she was). But the costumes on Anne and Sarah are looking more Elizabethan-inspired than early 18th century, at least for both their entrances. Sarah does have a more 18th century look when we first see her with Anne (at least in my skimming). It’s also on YouTube.

    Sarah’s first scene: https://youtu.be/D-IqxEAQuCs?t=983
    Anne, plus Sarah in a riding habit of some sort: https://youtu.be/D-IqxEAQuCs?t=1330
    Abigail has.. panniers and something fichu-esque, but also a pretty victorian-looking bodice: https://youtu.be/D-IqxEAQuCs?t=657 (she’s super excited because she’s being told that the signature on the letter of introduction is actually the Queen’s).

    Anyway, I know this will go into moderation since it has links, but hopefully it fills in some gaps. :-)

    Reply
  8. Kaite Fink

    In Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, is her hair supposed to be crimped? I get that it should be big and full, but it looks like the 80’s attacked first to get the body to do the big hair. Also, all I see is crimpy, poofy butt shape.

    Reply
  9. J Lou

    I know that she was never queen (she died too soon), but I’d love to see a movie or mini-series about Princess Charlotte of Wales. She was the only daughter of George IV and the only legitimate grandchild of George III. Her parents despised each other (see Caroline of Brunswick above), but she was apparently beloved by the English people, as she seemed to be a normal person in the middle of the wackadoodle Hanovers.

    So far as I can tell, there’s never been anything about her life. I don’t think that she was even mentioned in the Victoria mini-series, though Charlotte’s death is the reason that Victoria’s parents married and reproduced!

    Reply
  10. Lexy

    There is a cameo of Queen Caroline of Brunswick in Horrible Histories, in the solo song of George IV, if I remember well.

    Reply
  11. Alys Mackyntoich

    I think the right people could make a hell of a movie out of Caroline of Brunswick’s story

    Also, that blue on Harriet Walter is the best thing I’ve seen today.

    Reply
  12. M.E. Lawrence

    Nice thing about Mary II: Fond of music, she was the patron and friend of Henry Purcell, who wrote some gorgeous pieces in her honor. My Baroque-loving husband assures me that most British monarchs took their great court composers for granted.

    Reply
  13. Amanda

    This hasall got me thinking; i know she never got to be queen but I totally feel that Charlotte Augusta, Princesses of Wales needs SO much more representation on screen.

    Reply
  14. Damnitz

    Heike Makatsch played queen Charlotte in “Longitude”. It was a short view on the queen, although her mouth and body fits perfectly with the historical person. Costumes were a mixed bag, I can’t remember the costumes of the king and queen.

    Reply

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