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10 Actors Who Have Portrayed Queen Elizabeth II

Scott Beggs
Imelda Staunton will star as Queen Elizabeth II in season 5 of 'The Crown.'
Imelda Staunton will star as Queen Elizabeth II in season 5 of 'The Crown.' / Alex Bailey/Netflix
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Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022 at the age of 96. The longest-reigning British monarch ruled for more than seven decades and saw vast, profound changes to the world during the time she sat on the throne. As one of the most prominent cultural figures in the world, she has been portrayed by many actors—often setting the character basis for a movie or TV show’s critical acclaim or an actor hoisting an award trophy. 

Her Majesty had almost 1000 film credits of her own, mainly for appearing as herself or in archival footage, and even won a BAFTA in 2013, in recognition of her “outstanding patronage of the film and television industries.” An unbelievably visible figure, Elizabeth even once played a fictionalized version of herself fighting off classic villains of British children’s literature with the help of Robin Hood and Peter Pan. In 2012, she—and her beloved dogs—kicked off the Olympics alongside Daniel Craig’s James Bond.

While she made her own mark on TV and film, here are 10 actors who have brought their own portrayals of Queen Elizabeth II to the screen.

1. Jeannette Charles

We should start with the Queen of playing The Queen. Jeannette Charles has been credited as The Queen/Queen Elizabeth II/HM The Queen a whopping 28 times—a run she secured with her very first role, playing Queen Elizabeth II in the 1974 television movie Loriots Telecabinet. Her credits as the Queen includes comedic jaunts in National Lampoons European Vacation, The Naked Gun, Austin Powers in Goldmember, and even a 1977 Saturday Night Live sketch.

2. Claire Foy

Claire Foy was the first actor to take on the role of Elizabeth for Netflix’s decade-spanning The Crown, portraying Princess Elizabeth with verve and youthful complexity. As the lead-off actor, she had to face down the question of the show’s inclusion of several scandals. “I think ultimately it would be very weird if we made a series where we pretended that Tony Armstrong-Jones was just a photographer, that Edward VIII never had any scandal in his life, and that Prince Philip was entirely devoted to the Queen,” Foy told The Guardian in 2017. “That’s not a true depiction of these people, and not a true exploration of their characters.”

3. Olivia Colman

Oscar-winner Olivia Colman took over from Foy for seasons 2 and 3 of The Crown, which took Queen Elizabeth into the more modern eras of Margaret Thatcher and Princess Diana. Playing the monarch had a huge impact on the actress, who proclaimed that she fell “in love with the Queen” and called her “the ultimate feminist.”

“She’s extraordinary,” Colman told The Radio Times of the Queen in 2019. “She’s changed my views on everything.”

4. Imelda Staunton

Imelda Staunton’s debut as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown will come in November, and they’re currently filming a sixth—and reportedly final—season where she continues the role. Naturally, Staunton has the added challenge of portraying the version of the Queen that most people are currently familiar with: the calm, cool, soothing grandmother figure.

On Friday, September 9, 2022, the production team behind The Crown announced that they would halt filming for the day “as a mark of respect” for the Queen, and that shooting will also be suspended on the day of Elizabeth’s funeral.

5. Sarah Gadon

In Julian Jarrold’s A Royal Night Out, Sarah Gadon portrayed Princess Elizabeth when she was a young woman, dancing and reveling throughout the VE Day celebration of May 8, 1945. The film took several opportunities to poke fun at prognostication and make us rethink history, including one scene where Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother reminds her daughter that she’ll be a princess for most of her life and that Winston Churchill would easily win re-election—both of which turned out to be false.

6. Freya Wilson

Freya Wilson attends a BFI screening of 'The King's Speech' (2010).
Freya Wilson attends a BFI screening of 'The King's Speech' (2010). / Jon Furniss/GettyImages

Freya Wilson played an even younger version of Princess Elizabeth, portraying the future queen as a child in The Kings Speech. She’s at her father’s side as he attempts to curb a stutter before an important speech going out over the newfangled radio. 

7. Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren delivered what is perhaps the most striking and iconic portrayal of the Queen in her later years in The Queen (2006)—a role that earned the actress her first (and so far only) Oscar. Queen Elizabeth II herself invited Mirren to a private dinner party shortly after the release of the film, but Mirren was filming in the U.S. and couldn’t fly back to take Her Royal Highness up on the offer.

8. Neve Campbell

It’s a little surprising how few feature film parodies there are of the Queen, but Churchill: The Hollywood Years really and truly went for it. It’s irreverent to the point of absurdity, with Christian Bale portraying Churchill as a cigar-chomping American Marine. Neve Campbell, playing Princess Elizabeth, also wields a machine gun and threatens to shoot off one of Hitler’s testicles. 

9. Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson in 2012. / Ferdaus Shamim/GettyImages

Two-time Oscar-winner Emma Thompson played Queen Elizabeth in an episode of Playhouse Presents that covered a very strange moment in the monarch’s life: In 1982, a man named Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace while some security guards were walking the dogs. He made his way into Elizabeth’s bedroom, where Her Majesty was sleeping. While reports originally stated that the two chatted for 10 minutes before she was able to summon help, Fagan discounted these rumors. “Nah! She went past me and ran out of the room; her little bare feet running across the floor,” he said. When the episode recounting their encounter aired in 2012, Fagan said he thought it was in poor taste to dramatize the incident. 

10. Fred Armisen

Fred Armisen’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth on Saturday Night Live is in a league of its own—a comic send-up of what the Queen might have sounded like if she dropped all the niceties and adopted a cockney-ish accent and brash attitude: “You can’t get away from me. I’m on your money. I’m in your wallet!”

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