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The British monarchy on screen$
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Mandy Merck

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719099564

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719099564.001.0001

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Melodrama, celebrity, The Queen

Melodrama, celebrity, The Queen

(p.363) 16 Melodrama, celebrity, The Queen
The British monarchy on screen

Mandy Merck

Manchester University Press

In the midst of Princess Margaret’s 1950s romance with RAF Captain Peter Townsend, Malcolm Muggeridge wamed that the new celebrity coverage of the royal family would end in tears. But in 2006, Stephen Frears’ The Queen proved that tears could enhance the popularity of the British monarchy, creating what film critic David Thomson called “the most sophisticated public relations boost HRH had had in 20 years”. In this depiction of the fateful week after the death of Diana in 1997, docudrama - the fictionalized representation of real people and events - is trumped by melodrama, with its pathos, its appeal for moral recognition and its highly expressive mise-en-scene. The fanner (represented by actual news footage) is the genre of the film’s “queen of hearts”, Diana. The latter (represented by the dramatic fiction written by Morgan) is that of its “queen of a nation”, Elizabeth II. In its opposition oftwo ambitious queens, one romantic, one worldly, the film echoes Friedrich Schiller’s 1800 proto-melodrama, Mary Stuart. More than two centuries later, the older genre triumphs, rendering the Queen’s fictional world more vivid and affecting than the actual images ofthe real-life Diana. Much of this triumph can be attributed to Helen Mirren, who brings the prestige of her star persona to a monarch in danger ofbeing overshadowed by the celebrity of her rival. In an unusually forthright discussion of royalty and celebrity, The Queen draws the two regimes of power together in a single figure, who finishes the film with a declamation on “glamour and tears”.

Keywords:   The Queen, Frears, Melodrama, Mirren

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