For all the simplicity of the movie’s subject, however, The Queen succeeds in providing a substantive entertainment, in part because its heroes are world figures of our own time, and, however inconsequential to the real events each of us is, we feel as an audience both within and outside of the theater, that we had a vicarious role in the events portrayed. And then, of course, there is the voyeuristic joy of being invited into Queen Elizabeth’s Balmoral Castle as well as into 10 Downing Street!
There is no question that the death of a princess, clearly tortured by the disdain and outright hatred of the royal family, a woman hounded by the press, who—despite the drunkenness of her car’s chauffeur—still played a role in the crash of her automobile, was a sad and perhaps tragic event. I still recall going to bed on the west coast of the US with the belief that she had survived the accident, only to discover later the next day (our morning paper often arrives after I leave the house) the sad news that she had died.
After several failed attempts to grasp the situation, the Queen struggles to comprehend her free-fall from grace. In the film, her vision comes in the form of a great stag she accidentally encounters after her car stalls mid-river; Prince Philip has taken Charles’ sons to seek out and kill the stag, but as that animal now appears before the Queen, she recognizes in the majesty of this beast something akin to her own position, that that remarkable survivor must be saved, and she quickly shews it away for its own protection. When the Queen finally bows, agreeing to leave Balmoral to return to the Palace, she first pays homage to the carcass of the stag, shot not by her own family, but by a visiting American tourist
Reprinted from Nth Position [England] (November 2006)
and My Year 2006: Serving (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2008).