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:
- Eleanor of Aquitaine
- Elizabeth Woodville
- Anne Neville
- Elizabeth of York
- Catherine of Aragon
- Anne Boleyn
- Jane Seymour
- Anne of Cleves
- Catherine Howard
- Catherine Parr
- Henrietta Maria
- Jane Grey
- Mary I
- Elizabeth I
- Catherine of Braganza
- Mary of Modena
- Elizabeth II
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 and about Renaissance through 19th century English/British queens. Onwards!
Alexandra of Denmark (1901-10)
Daughter of Christian IX of Denmark, she married the future Edward VII. She was incredibly fashionable and a real style setter. She wasn’t given any political powers, so was mostly focused on her children and charitable works.
She was played by Ann Firbank in Lillie (1978), but I can’t find any pics.
She was played by Julia Blake in Passion (1999), but I can’t find any photos.
Mary of Teck (1910-36)
Born and raised in England, although her father was the Duke of Teck; her mother was Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, granddaughter of George III. She was married to the future George V, and was mostly notable for supporting her husband through World War I, ill health, and major political changes.
She was played by Rebecca Slater in Edward the Seventh (1975), but I can’t find any pics.
Phyllis Calvert played her in The Woman He Loved (1988), but I can’t find any pics.
Played by Margaret Tyzack in, but no photos, in Wallis & Edward (2005).
Valerie Dane has an uncredited part as Mary in Downton Abbey (2010-15) — maybe in the court presentation scene?
Queen Elizabeth (1936-52)
Daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis (later the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in Scotland), she married the future George VI (who took over as king after his elder brother, Edward VIII, abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson). She was a major inspirational figure during World War II, and the matriarch of the British royal family until her death at age 101.
Marion Bailey will play her in the next season of The Crown (2016- ).
Who’s your favorite on-screen 20th century British queen/empress?
You missed one for Elizabeth (36-52) – Emily Watson played her in A Royal Night Out
Cool! Olivia Colman is playing her own mother! She’s Elizabeth the Queen Mum in Hyde Park on the Hudson, and she will be her daughter Elizabeth II in the next two seasons of The Crown. (And then she was also her own second cousin about eight times removed, from playing Queen Anne in The Favorite. (She has a face for portraying Stuarts/Hanoverians/Windsors!)
Alexandra always seemed a sweet, funny woman, someone who would make a good friend. I remember a story about her visiting soldiers in hospital and telling one young man not to worry about his wounded leg, that she had had a recent accident, and (something to the effect of), “Just look at me now!’ Whereupon she casually kicked said leg up and rested it on a table.
Also, what did anyone think of Eileen Atkins as Queen Mary in “The Crown”? She was my favorite: that scene where she curtsies to her granddaughter for the first time, with a long stare of Crone Wisdom.
(I mean, she had had a recent, somewhat similar accident to her own leg; she did not kick the soldier’s leg.)
I loved that moment in The Crown too! It was amazing! And so sad too. Really lovely.
Eileen Atkins is amazing, I also loved her in Upstairs, Downstairs
Another entry (through a glass darkly) for Queen Mary is Maggie Smith’s portrayal of the Duchess of York in Ian McKellen’s Richard III. Her outfits and appearance struck me as a direct reference to Queen Mary. (Along with several other parallel portrayals.)
I love them all, but I have a soft spot for HBC in the King’s Speech.
Also Olivia Coleman should play Queen Victoria and possibly Queen Mary I. Then she’ll have played with a few exceptions the ‘major’ 19-20th century queens and a Renaissance one.
One of my favorite Youtubers, Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, did a video on Queen Alexandra for Disability History Month under the title “The deaf princess who became a style icon.” It warmed my heart.
Smart Aleck answer: Jane Seymour’s turn as Wallis Simpson in “The Woman He Loved”; she was the uncrowned queen of England.
Greer Garson looks like Wendy Hiller on this picture
In Hyde Park on Hudson I thought they got the King and Queens characters the wrong way round.
Hitler called Elizabeth the most dangerous woman in Europe due to her capacity for inspiring the populace. She refused to leave Buckingham Palace during the blitz as her subjects couldn’t leave and she trained with a gun every day so if there was an invasion, she could do her part. Loved her!
Helen Ryan really loved playing Alexandra she played her yet again in 1994 sherlock Holmes “The Mazarin Stone” and Joanna David played Alexandra in “Jennie Lady Randolph Churchill” There was also an Alexandra in “Fall of Eagles” 1974 ep 09 Glenn Close played her in 1982’s TV version of “The Elephant Man” Deborah Grant played young Alexandra (with some beautiful costumes) in “Edward The Seventh” (1975) also and Pamela Abbott played her in “Muder by Decree” (1979)
Victoria Hamilton plays the Queen Mum in Season 1 and 2 of The Crown. I think she’s great in it. Gives the character an iron will.
Alexandra was beautiful and charming but also extremely selfish and infinitely difficult to live with and serve due to her stuvvorn unpunctuality and indifference to practical reality including living within her generous means. She was also sinfularls din and probably lowered the Royal Family’s IQ by several points in the next generation. Her eldest son Eddy was distinctly sub-normal and her daughter’s almost frightening cases of arrested development. George V was the the most normal of the lot. Not too bright, but sound enough.