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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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Queens and queenliness: Quentin Crisp as Orlando’s Elizabeth I

Queens and queenliness: Quentin Crisp as Orlando’s Elizabeth I

Chapter:
(p.155) 7 Queens and queenliness: Quentin Crisp as Orlando’s Elizabeth I
Source:
The British monarchy on screen
Author(s):

Glyn Davis

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719099564.003.0008

In 1992, Quentin Crisp appeared on cinema screens as Elizabeth I in Sally Potter’s Orlando; the following year, he provided the “Alternative Queen’s Message” on Channel 4 television on Christmas Day, going head-to-head with Elizabeth II. This chapter will revisit this cultural moment, examining the significance of Crisp’s perfonnances of “queenliness”. The late 1980s/early 1990s heralded a shift away from the lesbian and gay politics of the 1970s and “80s towards a more confrontational queer activism. Orlando can be seen as an example of early queer cinema, given its play with gender and sexuality, and Potter’s casting of Tilda Swinton (a regular collaborator of Derek Jannan). Other queer films of the time also unsettle and complicate particular moments in history, and equally employ a pointedly artificial mise-en-scene (Jannan’s Edward II, Julien’s Looking for Langston, Kalin’s Swoon). How does Crisp’s appearance–as an embodiment of the flaming, camp homosexual–complicate the film’s politics of sexuality? Does it articulate a political “clearing of the ground”, with an older gay culture (Elizabeth) giving way to a fresh queer one (Orlando)? This chapter will consider the film as a provocative transition between particular forms of cultural production–bound up with changing attitudes towards the monarchy itself.

Keywords:   Quentin Crisp, Queen Elizabeth, Orlando, Sally Porter, gay culture, monarchy, queen

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