To Salisbury yesterday evening for a belated showing of The Queen. The plot is quite familiar: a day-by-day exploration of the week following Diana’s death. Popular grief grows exponentially; the Queen and her entourage try detachment and stoicism; and the new Labour government, led by Blair, desperately tries to help the monarchy adjust to new realities and to ‘modernise’.
Around halfway through the film, there is a much-discussed scene when the Queen, alone on her Balmoral estate in Scotland, meets up with a magnificent stag. As she empathically bonds with it, she hears the guns of the hunters (Prince Phillip’s party with Diana’s sons) and silently pleads with the stag to flee. Later it is shot by some common, gross commercial banker - badly (he only wounds it).
This is clearly a metaphor. What is interesting, though, is the intended reference. Is the stag Diana, brought down by the uncaring Royal Family? Is the stag the Queen herself, now being hunted by the baying, common mob? Or is it simply a metaphor for the Queen’s own feelings, so much more easily invoked by animals than by people?
The other interesting thing was at the end. The film finishes with the Queen and Blair, now reconciled, strolling across the grounds of Buckingham Palace discussing the forthcoming legislative programme. The sound fades and the credits come up. And no-one moves.
We all sit there for a further minute and a half as the credits roll and the Queen (and Blair) walk slowly across the screen to exit right. As the Queen leaves the scene, Clare and myself are the first to stand up and make for the exit.
To get up while the Queen was still in frame ... would have been disrespectful. And that says so much about British attitudes to the monarchy, even amongst the intellectual republicans. Something, the film says, Blair knows best of all.
Incidental note: about two minutes into the film my phone buzzes with a call from my son Adrian in Whistler, Vancouver. He’s passed his second level snowboarding/ski instructor exams and can now work as an instructor. Result.