It’s party time! This weekend Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. It’s 60 years of Lizzie on the English throne and in these 60 years the Queen has become more than a monarch and public figure. She has become an icon of popular culture which is appropriated by subcultures and mainstream alike. Much like the face of Shakespeare, good Queen Lizzie personifies Englishness and the British spirit.
The Diamond Jubilee is a perfect occasion to recall the most memorable appearances of “the Queen” in popular culture!
1. Andy Warhol’s “The Queen”
In 1985 Andy Warhol included the Queen into his list of public persons who have been found worthy of one of his colourful portraits. Warhol thus put the Queen on a par with pop icons like sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, actress Elizabeth Taylor, hip-shaking singer Elvis Presley, and – of course – himself. The reproducibility of Warhol’s portraits and its appearance in the mass media made the face of the Queen omnipresent.
2. “God Save the Queen” by The Sex Pistols
This song was released in 1977. What the band was not aware of at that time is that the release of this controversial single coincided with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The single reached Nr. 2 on the UK charts although important media stations such as the BBC (which is responsible for the charts) refused to play it.
“God save the queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
In England’s dreaming”
This year a Facebook campaign was initiated which planned to have the single reach Nr. 1 in the UK charts during Jubilee Week (2. – 9. July) but the Sex Pistols themselves distanced themselves from this project. They argue that it is not their intention to have their single be entangled in a media circus… Dear Sex Pistols, please excuse me for bringing your song into connection with the Diamond Jubilee here. Keep calm and have some Gin!
3. The Queen meets Bean
What is more British than Mr. Bean? (Ok… maybe Hugh Grant out in the rain, wrapped in a Union Jack, citing Hamlet while drinking tea would be, but as far as I know that never took place… yet). Here’s what happens when these two icons of Britishness clash:
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will be a big celebration and a media event. This is actually quite nice when reflecting that the Queen’s coronation in 1952 was the first national television event. Half of the British adult population were glued to the screen when the Queen received her crown although most of them did not even own a TV. The coronation was the first public viewing event and kickstarted a transformation of the royal family from representational monarch to cultural icons.
Finally, I have a good piece of advise for you! If you should ever meet the Queen personally, do not drink to her. She would not be amused and it could result in a very awkward moment as US president Obama’s meeting with the Queen shows, which is nearly as uncomfortable to watch as Mr. Bean’s:
But, don’t be sad. In private you may drink to the Queen whenever you like. And this is exactly what I will do right now: Here’s to the Queen! Cheers!