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The Queen on screen: Olivia Colman, Helen Mirren, Claire Foy and more

See what they had to say about taking on the royal role of a lifetime...


queen actresses© Photo: Netflix
Eve Crosbie
TV & Film Writer
September 9, 2022
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We've always been fascinated by the royal family, so it seems hardly surprising that their story, and the stories of their predecessors, have been told time and time again through film and television. 

MORE: The Crown likely to shut down production following death of the Queen - details

However, there's no royal that has had so many incarnations on screen than the Queen, who sadly passed away on Thursday at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne. Take a look at all the famous actresses who have portrayed Her Royal Highness on film and television - and what they've said about doing so - here…

WATCH: The Queen's 70 year reign in pictures

Claire Foy

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Claire Foy portrayed the late monarch in the first two seasons of the critically acclaimed Netflix show The Crown, where she played Her Majesty as a young woman she ascended to the throne following the death of her father, King George VI. 

Speaking about the show, Claire told Town and Country magazine: "I would hate the idea of her watching it. When you're playing a real person, you never want to be ghoulish. I don't want to pick apart a person. I want to invent someone. So I would hate for her to watch it and think I overdramatised anything."

MORE: Paddington Bear's sweet tribute following Queen's death moves people to tears

Olivia Colman

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The BAFTA award-winning actress took over the role of the Queen from Claire Foy in the third and fourth season of The Crown. Speaking about researching the role, she explained to Harper's Bazaar: "I can't just sit like me, I have to sit like her, and look like pictures of her.

"They have been teaching me how to walk - I'm really terrible at that. I thought that general 'posh' would do it [for the accet], but apparently not. Really unusual vowel sounds. If you're saying 'yes', you say 'ears'. It's fun to do, isn't it? Very hard to stop. Ears." 

Imelda Staunton 

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Imelda Staunton is yet to make her debut as the Queen in The Crown season five, but it has  been confirmed that viewers can expect to see the new series land in November 2022. The new episodes are said to follow Her Majesty’s rule in the 1990s, which included her 'annus horribilis' year as well as the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. 

Speaking about taking on the role on BBC radio's Woman's Hour, Imelda admitted that she believes she has an "extra challenge" that her predecessors Claire and Olivia did not have to worry about. "I think my sort of extra challenge, as if I needed it, is that I'm now doing the Queen that we're a little more familiar with," she said.

Helen Mirren

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Helen Mirren has perhaps delivered the most acclaimed portrayal of the monarch; the actress won an Oscar and a Golden Globe in 2007 for her starring role in The Queen. Almost a decade later she reprised her role as the royal from her younger years to the present day by performing in The Audience on Broadway.

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"You're thinking 'it's the Queen, it's the Queen'," she said, when asked what it was like to meet the real-life royal. "Of course, even more so I think because I feel self-conscious, you know. I am genuinely always astounded by her aura, her twinkle, her presence. It never fails to surprise me, and again it's what everyone says when they meet her - it was what overwhelmed me the first time I met her."

Kristin Scott Thomas

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After Helen Mirren's incredible turn, Kristin Scott Thomas took centre stage in Peter Morgan's play The Audience, which marked her West End debut at London's Apollo Theatre. "I'm not doing an impression of the Queen, I'm trying to tell a story about what it would be like to be in her position," the actress previously said of the role.

Emma Thompson

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Emma Thompson portrayed the Queen in a TV drama based on the famous Buckingham Palace break-in which took place 30 years ago. Intruder Michael Fagan sneaked into the palace and managed to find his way into her bedroom, sitting on her bed where they chatted for ten minutes.

Freya Wilson

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Young actress Freya Wilson appeared as a young Princess Elizabeth in the 2010 period drama The King's Speech alongside Colin Firth who played her father, King George VI. The 11-year-old delivered a powerful performance in the Oscar-winning film about King George VI's ascension to the throne.

Discussing how she landed the role, she told publishing company Nosy Crow: "My agent put me forward for an audition, I think. I listened to clips of speeches made by Princess Elizabeth beforehand. I was called back three times and finally got the part."

MORE: The Crown: everything to know about season five - release, plot, cast and more 

Jennifer Saunders

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Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders lent her voice to the 2015 hit animation, Minions. Her co-star Sandra Bullock had nothing but admiration for the British actress' take on the Queen. "She's more like me than anything else I've been in," joked Sandra. "She's evil, she's crabby - all the traits I think make a good villainess. It's more fun to be mean than to try and make nice with everybody all the time. It's so good to be bad. And I got paid for it."

Sarah Gadon

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Inspired by true events, Queen Elizabeth the second and her younger sister Princess Margaret were allowed out of the palace for one night to celebrate VE Day in 1945. The Toronto native told HELLO! Canada that playing the role of Princess Elizabeth during VE Day celebrations was "terrifying" but "really beautiful." The fun and romantic flick is a reimagined take on the night the future queen and her sister Princess Margaret stepped outside the palace walls to celebrate in the streets.

Jane Alexander

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Four-time Oscar nominee Jane Alexander played HRH in 2011's TV movie William & Catherine: A Royal Romance. Taking the role in her stride, Jane confessed she wasn't intimidated by the character. "No, not really, because she is a public figure, so I'm sure she is used to these kinds of things. God knows Helen Mirren did a brilliant job in The Queen - that started it off," she said.

"Who knows if she and Phillip would ever look at movies about the royal family. Maybe they would out of curiosity, but my hunch is, maybe not. They know the real Kate. They know the real William."

Rosemary Leach

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The acclaimed actress played the high-profile part in a 2006 episode of the BBC's Afternoon Play called Tea with Betty, which sees the Queen visit a council estate and have afternoon tea with a resident in a show of community spirit.

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