TV

7 Actresses Who Portrayed Elizabeth II In Movies and TV Shows

Image credit: Legion-Media

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II left her mark not only on world history but also on the arts.

1. Claire Foy, The Crown (seasons 1-2)

Claire Foy is a new face in British cinema. She beautifully played a young Elizabeth: before she ascended to the throne and in the early years of her reign. The Crown made the young actress an instant star in Britain, and her impeccable performance, in turn, made the series an instant classic.

After the first two seasons, it was time to pass the baton to a more mature actress, at which point Claire admitted she was going to miss playing Elizabeth. Clair received numerous accolades for her work in this drama series, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series Drama in 2012.

2. Olivia Colman, The Crown (seasons 3-4)

In 2019, Clair Foy passed the baton of playing Elizabeth on The Crown to British actress Olivia Colman. Olivia was already an established actress; she had won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and an Emmy award. Still, she was very nervous about what Queen Elizabeth might think of her take on the role.

Well, nobody knows what the Queen thought of the series or whether she even ever watched it at all, but the general public loved Olivia in the role. She played a more mature and sophisticated Elizabeth, which contrasted nicely with the younger, more rebellious version portrayed by Claire Foy. Olivia played the character in seasons 3 through 4, depicting the Royal court in the 1970s through the 1980s.

In 2020, Olivia won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series for her portrayal of the Queen.

3. Imelda Staunton, The Crown (Season 5)

Extremely popular British actress Imelda Staunton was brought in to play an even more mature Queen. The actress enjoyed watching the series and admired her colleagues' work. The consensus is she's going to be a great Queen.

It should be noted that the production companies Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television originally planned to end the Crown after season 6, with the death of Lady Di in 1997. But rumours persist that actors are already auditioning for the roles of Prince William and his wife, Duchess Catherine, so it looks like the show must go on.

4 Helen Mirren, The Queen (2006)

The biopic, directed by Stephen Frears and released in 2006, depicts the first few days in Queen Elizabeth's life after the tragic death of Lady Di in 1997. The Queen was portrayed in this adaptation by British actress Helen Mirren. The film offers a vivid look at what happened with the Royal Family after the death of Princess Diana. It was an emotional drain on everyone. The film shows Elizabeth II handling the most difficult challenges with grace, but she finds herself at a loss when faced with criticism and accusations levelled at her and her son Charles following the tragic death of the nation's favourite royal. Helen Mirren played an Elizabeth that is sufficiently aloof but also charming, with a sense of humour and plenty of personality behind the formal royal facade.

Helen Mirren received the Best Actress Academy Award and a Venice Film Festival Award for her role. Director Stephen Frears won a Golden Globe, an Oscar and the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival for his bold choice of subject matter.

5. Sarah Gadon, London Vacation (2014)

The plot of director Julian Jarrold's melodrama is based on actual events during the Victory Day celebrations in London on May 8-9, 1945.

With their parents' permission, the young princess sisters Elizabeth and Margaret took part in the festivities outside Buckingham Palace. They were eager to celebrate the end of World War II in Europe with the common folk.

However, even though the movie is based on a true story, the filmmakers took plenty of creative liberties: in the film, the two young women escape from the palace with two officers and go on an adventure of a lifetime, falling in love, having lots of fun, breaking every possible rule in the book and still managing to remain incognito. The reality was far more prosaic: on that momentous day, the princesses were accompanied by 16 people, including nannies and armed guards and everything they did was in strict compliance with the protocol.

The future Queen Elizabeth was played in the film by the young actress Sarah Gadon.

6. Freya Wilson, The King's Speech (2011)

Freya Wilson is one of the youngest actors to play Elizabeth.

She was 11 years old when The King's Speech was filmed, and it was her movie debut. Directed by Tom Hooper and scripted by David Seidler, the historical drama is about Elizabeth II's father, King George VI, who hadn't expected to become king but found himself pushed into the role of the head of state after the abdication of his brother during one of the most challenging periods in history.

7. Emma Thompson, a Playhouse Presents Episode

The eighth episode of the first Playhouse Presents series depicts a real story from 1982 when Michael Fagan, an unemployed 31-year-old British man with schizophrenia, stole into Queen Elizabeth's chambers.

The alarm was triggered, but none of the guards believed anyone could have entered the palace; they assumed it was a false alarm. Queen Elizabeth ended up having to talk to the unhinged intruder for about thirty minutes. Fortunately, it all ended well. In the Playhouse Presents episode, Emma Thompson plays the Queen handling the incident.