Actresses have often experienced career highs playing Elizabeth II (Picture: Rex/Getty)

As one of the most recognisable figures of the 20th and 21st centuries, Queen Elizabeth II, who this Bank Holiday weekend has become the first British monarch to celebrate their Platinum Jubilee, has fascinated British and international audiences alike as a player on the world’s stage.

Due to her prominence, as well as the events she lived through in over nine decades – including World War II, the creation of the Commonwealth and the invention of the internet – the Queen has also been a popular figure on screen.

From The Crown to The Queen, many actresses have accepted the challenge of portraying a remarkable woman, who both reinvented the role of the British Royal Family over the course of her record-breaking reign and fiercely protected her privacy and impartiality under the rule ‘never complain, never explain’.

Accolades and awards have been bestowed on distinguished actresses for their role as the Queen in prestige projects, while other compelling performances have flown more under the radar.

To mark her 70 years on the throne, let’s take a look at some of the most notable onscreen portrayals of the Queen Elizabeth II.

The Crown – Claire Foy

Claire Foy took on the central role of the Queen in The Crown first (Picture: Rex)

In recent years, Peter Morgan’s ambitious Netflix saga has captured the attention and the imaginations of the world for its look at the Royal Family’s private lives.

It focuses on the trajectory of Queen Elizabeth’s life, starting with her wedding to Prince in 1947 and early married life before her father, George VI’s, death and her subsequent coronation.

Claire Foy achieved superstardom in the role for The Crown’s first two seasons, which covered the Queen’s life up until her youngest son Prince Edward’s christening in 1964. She also netted two Emmys (including one for a five-minute cameo), a Golden Globe and two Bafta nominations

Seeing the Queen in her younger years was a more unusual move, and Foy earned praise for her precise diction work as she nailed the Queen’s specific, heightened accent.

The Crown – Olivia Colman

Olivia Colman inherited the crown (and The Crown) from Foy (Picture: Netflix/Getty)

In 2017, Oscar-winner Olivia Colman was cast as the Queen for seasons three and four of The Crown, taking over from Foy.

Released in November 2019 and November 2020 respectively, and covering events up until 1990, Colman’s period in the role saw her take on major events in the Queen’s life, including her Silver Jubilee, Princess Margaret’s suicide attempt, the death of Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and Princess Diana joining the Royal Family.

Colman, who also won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the role, revealed she was ‘quite pleased’ to move on from playing the Queen, due to the challenges of playing a real-life person.

In an online conversation staged by Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, via Radio Times, she explained: ‘Because behind closed doors, we don’t know what she’s like.

‘I had a little bit of play with that. But definitely… the hardest part I’ve done is someone who’s real. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m quite pleased now to be able to move on to something else.’

The Crown – Imelda Staunton

Imelda Staunton will be the final Queen for Netflix, hitting our screens in November (Picture: Netflix/Getty)

Although not yet released, for the final two seasons of The Crown, Harry Potter star Imelda Staunton is stepping up to undertake the part of the Queen.

Season five will debut on Netflix in November 2022 and, although originally slated to be the final season of the show, creator Morgan reverted to his original plan of six seasons in order to cover the period in greater detail.

Staunton’s reign will reportedly cover up until the early 2000s, with The Crown having to plans to venture closer to the present day.

As an acclaimed stage actress, with four Olivier awards from a swathe of nominations, as well as an Oscar nomination and Bafta win for 2005’s Vera Drake, it’s a safe bet that Staunton will impress with her acting.

The Queen – Dame Helen Mirren

Dame Helen Mirren played the Queen onstage as well as on the silver screen (Picture: Netflix/Getty)

Before The Crown, there was The Queen. Also from creator and writer Peter Morgan, 2006’s The Queen portrayed Queen Elizabeth’s ‘annus horribilis’ on the screen – 1997.

It examined in detail the monarch’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death, and her contrasting initial preference to treat it as a private affair in contrast to new prime minister, Tony Blair, and son Prince Charles’ views on a public expression of grief.

Dame Helen Mirren swept the boards at awards ceremony for her role in The Queen, and even had tea with the Queen and Prince Philip – it seems safe to say she had the royal seal of approval over her portrayal.

Dame Helen went on to win a Tony and an Oliver award for her portrayal of The Queen in Peter Morgan’s 2013 stage play, The Audience.

It covered Queen Elizabeth’s weekly meetings with prime ministers throughout her reign.

Playhouse Presents – Dame Emma Thompson

Dame Emma Thompson took on a fictional retelling of a fascinating real-life event (Picture: Joan Williams/Rex/Shutterstock)

In series one of Playhouse Presents in 2012, an anthology of self-contained TV plays shown on Sky Arts, Dame Emma Thompson played the Queen.

In the episode called Walking the Dogs, written by Helen Greaves, the comedy drama feel covered the real-life 1982 Michael Fagan incident, in which an intruder (Eddie Marsan, who recently hit headlines for playing con-man John Darwin in The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe) managed to break into the Queen’s bedroom.

Later also covered in season four of The Crown, Fagan woke the Queen up, but the real-life incident was said by him to have been over quickly.

With artistic licence, Walking the Dogs re-imagined their brief exchange into a longer conversation, in which the Queen offered him both martial advice and a biscuit while she waited for her security guard to return from walking her beloved corgis.

The BFG – Dame Penelope Wilton

Dame Penelope Wilton’s interpretation of the Queen was courtesy of Roald Dahl (Picture: Netflix/Getty)

An important character in the Roald Dahl novel, when it came time for Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg to make an adaptation of the children’s classic, it was Downton Abbey star Dame Penelope Wilton who filled the role of the Queen.

Starring opposite Sir Mark Rylance as the Big Friendly Giant, Dame Penelope’s take on the Queen was, much like Dahl’s, sympathetic and compassionate once she is alerted to the dangers children face from the far-less-friendly other giants in the story.

Just as a young girl like Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) would hope, when called upon Dame Penelope’s Queen knows exactly what to do to fix the situation.

A Royal Night Out – Sarah Gadon

Sarah Gadon was a young Princess Elizabeth for another romanticised version of a true event in the Queen’s life (Picture: Getty)

Outside The Crown, it’s more unusual to see portrayals of Queen Elizabeth from her days a princess, but 2015’s A Royal Night Out tapped into romantic rumours about how Princess Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Princess Margaret (Bel Powley) spent VE Day in London in 1945 as World War II came to an end.

Although the princesses did leave Buckingham Palace to revel with the joyous crowds in London, in reality it was among an organised group rather than in the company of officer escorts.

Gadon was able to portray a more carefree Elizabeth, ahead of her time as queen and during her service with the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service as a driver and mechanic as she joined the country’s war effort.

Jeannette Charles

Jeannette Charles has appeared as the Queen in film franchises including Austin Powers and National Lampoon (Picture: David Davies/Daily Mail/Rex/Shutterstock)

Charles is the actress who has most often portrayed the Queen as a double and an actress, having moved from an early career in repertory theatre to making multiple onscreen appearances as the Queen, due to her striking resemblance to the monarch.

At 18 months younger than the Queen, Charles aged alongside her most enduring character and appeared in films including National Lampoon’s European Vacation, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! and Austin Powers sequel Goldmember, as well as Spike Milligan’s Q TV series.

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee 2022