The lives of the Royal Family have always been a subject of fascination, depicted on stage and screen many times and in all sorts of different ways over the years.
Queen Elizabeth II has been immortalised in everything from big-budget period drama The Crown to cartoon fame in The Simpsons, with the role winning Oscars and other awards for several stars.
Claire Foy – The Crown, 2016-2017
She had starred in dramas such as Wolf Hall and the revival of Upstairs Downstairs, but Claire Foy was a relative unknown when she was cast as a young Elizabeth in Netflix’s The Crown.
Playing the monarch in the early years of her reign for two seasons, Foy sensitively portrays a woman who always put duty first, from her wedding in 1947 and coronation in 1953 through to the birth of Prince Edward in 1964.
Foy was critically acclaimed for her performance, picking up awards including a Golden Globe and an Emmy, and went on to star in films including Neil Armstrong biopic First Man alongside Ryan Gosling, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo follow-up, The Girl In The Spider’s Web.
Olivia Colman – The Crown, 2019-2020
Broadchurch, The Night Manager, Peep Show: Olivia Colman is always spectacular in everything she does.
Having won an Oscar in 2019 for her portrayal of another monarch, Queen Anne in black historical comedy The Favourite, the actress picked up Queen Elizabeth II’s crown for the third series of The Crown later in the same year.
Like Foy, she also won awards including a Golden Globe for her performance, which covers the period between 1964 and 1990 over two seasons, taking in the Aberfan disaster, Winston Churchill’s death, Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister, and the introduction of Diana.
Imelda Staunton – The Crown, 2022
Filming on the fifth season of The Crown is currently ongoing, with its release expected in November.
Taking up Olivia Colman’s mantle is Imelda Staunton, who previously appeared as the Queen Mother in the 2003 BBC mini-series Cambridge Spies, which dramatised the true story of a group of Cambridge University students recruited to spy for the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.
In The Crown, Staunton will play the Queen as she faces several royal crises, including Prince Charles’s split from Diana, part of the monarch’s “annus horribilis” of 1992, and Diana’s death in 1997, plus the deaths of Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother within weeks of each other in early 2002.
Most will probably know Staunton best as villain Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films, but she has appeared in dozens of TV series and films over the years, including Shakespeare In Love, Vera Drake and Pride.
Helen Mirren – The Queen, 2006
Prime Suspect star Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth I in the Elizabeth I mini-series on Channel 4 in 2005 and went on to play Elizabeth II in The Queen the following year.
The film was written by Peter Morgan, who went on to create The Crown, and centres on the period following Diana’s death; Mirren portrays the Queen struggling to react to the tragedy, and won an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe for her performance.
Her Majesty herself must also have approved, as the actress was made a dame for services to drama in 2003.
And her royal acting connections don’t end there; Mirren played the Queen again, on stage this time in The Audience (also written by Morgan), in the West End in 2013 and on Broadway in 2015, starred as Catherine the Great in the Sky Atlantic/ HBO mini-series of the same name in 2019, and also played Queen Charlotte earlier in her career in The Madness Of King George in 1994.
And let’s not forget Fast Furious: Hobbs Shaw, alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, also released in 2019. It wasn’t exactly regal, but her character was called Queenie.
Emma Thompson – Playhouse Presents: Walking The Dogs, 2012
An anthology of self-contained TV plays made by Sky Arts, the Playhouse Presents series included this royal episode based on real-life events in its first season in 2012.
Walking The Dogs, a comedy drama, focused on the infamous break-in at Buckingham Palace by Michael Fagan in 1982.
Emma Thompson plays the Queen and again must have impressed the real monarch, as like Mirren she was also made a dame, in 2018.
She also shares a portrayal of Elizabeth I on her CV with Mirren, having played the role in David Mitchell’s William Shakespeare comedy Upstart Crow in 2017, and like Staunton is also a Harry Potter alumni, playing Sybil Trelawney in the films. Another Oscar winner, Thompson is also known for films including Nanny McPhee and Love Actually.
Kristin Scott Thomas – The Audience, 2015
Known for her roles in films including Four Weddings And A Funeral, Gosford Park and The English Patient, and more recently for appearances in the remake of Rebecca, in the acclaimed comedy Fleabag and in the Oscar-winning Winston Churchill film Darkest Hour, Kristin Scott Thomas is another dame to make the list (there’s a bit of a theme here).
Scott Thomas took over playing Her Majesty from Mirren when The Audience was revived in The West End in 2015; the play centres on weekly meetings, known as audiences, between the monarch and her prime ministers.
Jeanette Charles – several productions including Naked Gun, Austin Powers and National Lampoon’s
Not all portrayals of the Queen on screen have been poised and regal.
British actress Jeannette Charles, who is around the same age as the Queen, was often called upon to appear in comedies due to her resemblance to the monarch; in her twenties she reportedly had difficulty obtaining Equity membership because her appearances as the Queen relied on her being a doppelganger rather than her acting skills.
Over the years, she went on to play the role in films including National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) and Austin Powers In Goldmember (2002), her unusual job taking her around the world.
She even appeared in series 10 of Channel 4’s Big Brother in 2009 to surprise Brazilian contestant Rodrigo Lopes, who thought he was meeting the real Queen for a task. Of course he did. She retired in 2014.
Debra Stephenson – Alternative Christmas Message, 2020
Going one further than a doppelganger was comedian, impressionist and actress Debra Stephenson, best known for her roles in series including Coronation Street and Bad Girls, who played a “deepfake” version of the monarch to deliver Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message in 2020.
A form of effect where a person’s face is superimposed on to someone else’s body in videos, deepfakes have become more prevalent in recent years and used to create convincing, made-up videos of high-profile people.
Playing the Queen following the real monarch’s Christmas message, Stephenson delivered a warning about misinformation and fake news – while also appearing to reveal her lockdown rituals (“Netflix and Phil”), giving her thoughts on Harry and Meghan’s move to the US, and performing a TikTok dance.
June Squibb – 7 Days In Hell, 2015
Kit Harington (Game Of Thrones) and Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) star as rival tennis players in a mockumentary comedy recounting “the longest and greatest game in tennis history”, an epic seven-day clash at Wimbledon, which aired on HBO and Sky.
American actress June Squibb (Nebraska, About Schmidt, In Out) appears as an unrestrained Queen Elizabeth II, who gives the finger from the crowd.
Penelope Wilton – The BFG, 2016
In the Roald Dahl classic, orphan Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant need help from the Queen to stop the other giants from eating children.
Getting into Her Majesty’s dreams, they are able to get her on side and are welcomed into Buckingham Palace, before the cool, calm and collected monarch takes charge of the mission.
She even turns a blind eye to The BFG’s whizzpopping. In the 1989 cartoon, the royal was voiced by Angela Thorne (To The Manor Borne, Wallander), while Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey, After Life, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) plays the part in the 2016 remake, directed by Steven Spielberg. Very good, Your Majester, as the BFG would say.
Neve Campbell – Churchill: The Hollywood Years, 2004
Perhaps one of the more unlikely stars to take on the royal, Canadian actress Neve Campbell – best known as Sidney Prescott from the Scream franchise – plays the part of a young Princess Elizabeth in this 2004 parody, which centres around a British court and war government consisting of idiots and traitors.
Hitler moves into Buckingham Palace and plans to marry into the Windsors, and a US Army officer claims the cigar-smoking prime minister was actually an actor, Ray Bubbles, impersonating his own father, US Marine Corps lieutenant Winston Churchill, a genius spy who stole an enigma code machine.
It gets 4.9/10 on IMDB and a 33% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, in case you were wondering.
The actual Queen – Olympic Opening Ceremony, 2012
Her Majesty has appeared on screen too many times to count over the years, mainly in news reports and on Christmas Day.
But in 2012, she showed her humorous side, escorting Daniel Craig’s James Bond to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In the skit, the monarch is met by 007 at Buckingham Palace and accompanies him on a helicopter ride across London to the Olympic stadium – where they both parachute into the sound of the famous Bond theme.
Okay, she probably had a stunt double for that bit, but the rest is royal history.
Tress MacNeille, Maggie Roswell, Eddie Izzard – The Simpsons
Are you even famous if you’ve not made a Simpsons cameo?
Lady Gaga, Simon Cowell, Ricky Gervais, Gordon Ramsay, Barack Obama, Glenn Close, Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Hoffman, Stephen Hawking, Meryl Streep… the list goes on, with some stars voicing themselves or other characters, others impersonated by other actors.
The Queen has joined Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie several times over the years and been voiced by different actors, including British star Eddie Izzard.
Rosemary Leach – Margaret, 2009
The late British actress Rosemary Leach played Her Majesty not once but twice throughout her career, first in the 2002 made-for-TV film Prince William, and then again in 2009 for Margaret, a similar TV movie.
A stage, television and film actress, Leach was a BAFTA nominee and Olivier Award winner best known for starring in A Room With A View in 1985 and for appearing in the sitcom My Family.
Jennifer Saunders – Minions, 2015
Capturing the royal’s humorous side, Jennifer Saunders did an absolutely fabulous (sorry) job of voicing the queen for the 2015 Minions film, which sees the yellow heroes recruited by super-villain Scarlet Overkill on her mission to take over the world – and the Queen’s crown.