On The Queen, a film directed by Stephen Frears

Andrew O’Hagan in the New York Review of Books:

Qzd01083_art32002a2_queen20elizabeth20iiVery good monarchs must surely dislike innovation, if only to acknowledge the fact that innovation must surely dislike them. It may be said that Queen Elizabeth II has been especially skilled in this respect, having fought every day since her coronation on June 2, 1953, to oppose any sort of change in the habits of tradition and to preserve the British monarchy from the encroaching vulgarity of public feeling.

When people say they love the Queen that is often what they love— her stoical, unyielding passivity—and one has to look to Elizabeth’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, to find a monarch who might match her, and even beat her, as an idol of intransigence. “The Queen is most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of ‘Woman’s Rights,'” wrote Victoria in her journals, “with all its attendant horrors on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety.” Victoria always had the habit of expressing her views in the third person, and the above was written in 1870, a year, it might help us to remember, when everyday British women were just being allowed by law, for the first time, to keep the money they earned. Being in touch with one’s subjects, female or otherwise, was not seen to be a very necessary part of the job back then, and it might stand as one of the more limpid ironies of monarchy that the sovereigns who are most out of touch are usually the ones most loved.

More here.