Moving images of the British monarchy, in fact and fiction, are almost as old as the moving image itself, dating back to an 1895 dramatic vignette, The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Led by Queen Victoria, British monarchs themselves appeared in the new 'animated photography' from 1896. Half a century later, the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II was a milestone in the adoption of television, watched by 20 million Britons and 100 million North Americans. At the century's end, Princess Diana's funeral was viewed by 2.5 billion worldwide. Seventeen essays by international commentators examine the portrayal of royalty in the 'actuality' picture, the early extended feature, amateur cinema, the movie melodrama, the Commonwealth documentary, New Queer Cinema, TV current affairs, the big screen ceremonial and the post-historical boxed set. These contributors include Ian Christie, Elisabeth Bronfen, Andrew Higson, Steven Fielding, Karen Lury, Glyn Davis, Ann Gray, Jane Landman, Victoria Duckett, Jude Cowan Montague, James Downs, Barbara Straumann, Deirdre Gilfedder, Jo Stephenson, Ruth Adams, Erin Bell, Basil Glynn and Nicola Rehling.
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 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 Queendraws the two regimes of power together in a single figure, who finishes the film with a declamation on 'glamour and tears'.