Ah, The Queen… A good election-week movie choice! The story, which focuses on how Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair navigated the tricky week after Princess Diana’s death is interesting enough, and it’s wonderful to watch Helen Mirren’s nuanced performance.
I didn’t expect it to get me thinking much about motherhood, but in fact it did, as Prince Charles and his mother politely, quietly dispute over what makes a good mother and the Queen uses her wish to “protect the boys” as her public justification for remaining isolated in Balmoral, far from London’s clamoring crowds. She sticks to one model of motherhood (remote, formal; no doubt necessary for one who was continually on public view from the time she was a teen), and Diana presented a very different one. They were bound to clash.
I don’t know, of course (nor really care) what these people are really like, whether the Queen really is a concerned grandmother or just a cold-hearted slave to protocol. She’s likely some combination of both. What I loved watching depicted in the film was the dynamic between the Queen and her mother, a woman that she has to refer to as “Her Highness.” In my favorite scene, the Queen, worn out by the demands that she return to London, make a statement about Diana’s death, appear in public, fly the Union Jack over Buckingham Palace, stands outside her mother’s door, finally seeking her advice. She squares her shoulders, takes a deep breath, and knocks once on the door, calling quietly, “Mummy?” Because even the Queen is just somebody’s daughter.