Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Stephen Frears (director) Peter Morgan (writer), The Queen (2006)

The film The Queen (2006), directed by Stephen Frears and written by Peter Morgan, deals with the crisis in popularity and approval faced by the Queen and royal family due to their unsympathetic reaction to the sudden death and funeral of Diana, the former Princess of Wales, in 1997.  The film presents the Queen and royal family as facing a crisis of their own making that threatened the future of the monarchy but they are saved at the last minute by finally accepting the astute political advice from the recently elected Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair.  While presenting this, the film advances the neo-Marxist thesis on how the leaders of progressive reformist or revolutionary left-wing parties are prone to become co-opted by the establishment they had previously intended to reform or abolish before they achieved high office. 

The film continually contrasts adherence to ancient traditions and protocols with the notion of modernisation in a manner that invites criticism of the former and support for the latter.  In this manner the film reflects the progressive, modernist ethos that institutions established before the Industrial Revolution are outdated and they should be radically updated or superseded.  What is modern is seen as better than what is traditional, especially regarding political institutions that are democratic rather than hereditary.  The monarchy is presented as the definitive traditional institution that should be reformed or replaced.  

The film presents the royal family as a privileged elite that enjoys luxury at the taxpayers’ expense and is steeped in unnecessary protocol. They are presented as out of touch with their subjects, and living in a bubble populated by yes-men and sycophants.  Their privilege and luxury is contrasted with the family of the Prime Minister, which is more casual and resembling other British families.  The office staff of the royal family is almost exclusively white and predominantly male, while the staff of the Labour Prime Minister’s office is multi-racial and also reflects feminist values.  The royal family is therefore illustrated as out of step with the nature of modern Britain by being a white institution while Britain is diverse, multi-racial and multicultural. 

Interestingly, this is a socialist, republican film about the Queen that seems to pull its punch.  It is critical of the royal family and its existence, but the sensitive and sympathetic portrayal of the Queen by the actress Helen Mirren seemed to soften the blow considerably.  The film can therefore also be read as a character study of the Queen as a strong woman who is true to herself, and who is a leader who faced a difficult crisis who eventually realised she had to adapt to survive.  

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2019 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: The Queen meaning, The Queen themes, The Queen analysis, The Queen notes