What attitudes do Tony Blair and his wife hold towards the monarchy at the start of the film?
At the beginning of the film, Tony Blair has just been elected prime minister, as the head of the Labour Party. His was a progressive campaign, promising equal opportunity, social justice, and modernization. In this way, he is opposed to the monarchy, which is an institution completely based around traditionalism and maintaining the status quo. Before the queen meets with him and his wife, she and her advisor discuss their progressive leanings, and their irreverence towards the crown. This is an immediate tension between the new prime minister and the monarch.
Why do the British people feel so disappointed in the royal family?
Princess Diana was a beloved public figure, and someone who spoke out against the royal establishment. She gets dubbed "the people's princess" by Tony Blair, because of her image as a deeply feeling, available, and warm-hearted royal, in contrast to her more tight-lipped in-laws. After she dies, the royal family does not make an effort to publicly mourn her death, as they want to attend to the well-being of her children and believe that it is not their place to speak about her publicly given the fact that Diana and Charles were divorced. The British people feel disappointed with this response, and expect the royal family to mourn the loss of the ex-princess more actively, in part to make up for what they perceive as the royal family's ill-treatment of the tragic figure.
What change of heart does Tony Blair have over the course of the film?
While Tony Blair begins the film with anti-royalist leanings, and is exceedingly frustrated with the royal family's chilly response to Diana's death, he eventually comes to understand the queen and her family's perspective on everything that is going on. He realizes that the monarchy is fundamental to Britain's political identity, and empathizes with the queen's desire to protect her reputation and standing with her people, while also fulfilling her traditional duties as queen. At the heart of this change of heart is his understanding that the queen is of a different generation. He realizes that she came to power during a time when it was expected that the royal family maintain calm attitudes and restraint when dealing with the public, but that now times have changed.
In what ways are we the viewers privy to the queen's private emotions in the film?
The queen is defined by her stiff upper lip and her restrained dignity. However, at certain points in the film, we see these performances of calm crack as she struggles to reconcile her monarchical sense of duty with her own raw emotions about her declining popularity. While in Balmoral, she gets her car stuck in a river and sits on the side of it, crying. It is a striking moment, one that contrasts with her regular attitudes, and shows us that beyond her strong-willed exterior, the queen is a fragile and emotional being, someone who just wants to be loved and respected.
Then later, as she looks at the flowers that have been left outside Buckingham Palace, she is disturbed to see that some of the condolence cards disparage her and the British family. While her expression is hidden to others, the viewer cannot help but notice the ways that seeing the cards pains the monarch. When a little girl hands her some flowers a few moments later, her face is flooded with appreciation and relief.
Does the film have a political perspective or agenda?
This is debatable. One could argue that the film makes apologies for the royal family and furthers the idea that the monarchy is essential to the character of the British government. The queen is the protagonist of the film, and we are often meant to see her as sympathetic and as someone who makes decisions for the good of her family and the country, in contrast to the hysteria of her citizens.
One might also argue, however, that the film has an ambivalent relationship to the monarchy, that it does not only sympathize with the royals, but also exposes them as attached to tradition in a counterproductive way. If anything, the film seeks to portray all of the complications of the British monarchy—its failings and its virtues—to make space for the viewer to draw their own political conclusions.