On the flight to London, Robin gives the queen a draft of the statement she is going to make on television. They send the speech on to Tony's office, and we hear news footage about the fact that royal protocol has been abandoned in favor of assuaging the public's grief about Diana's death. The queen gets out of the car to talk to the people gathered outside Buckingham Palace, as newscasters note that the last time she did this, it was to mark the end of the war in Europe.
Tony's advisors discuss the fact that the queen's speech is very chilly. "That woman has given her whole life in service to her people. Fifty years doing a job she never wanted, a job she watched kill her father. She's executed it with honor, dignity, and as far as I can tell, without a single blemish, and now we're baying for her blood!" he yells, storming out of the office.
The queen examines the flowers left outside the palace, many of which disparage the royal family. She sees one sign that says, "They have your blood on their hands," referring to the royals. She smiles at the public and approaches a little girl, who gives her a bouquet of flowers. The queen looks pleasantly surprised and thanks the girl.
Tony sends edits for the queen's speech, which include mention of the fact that she is a grandmother. She records the speech, in which she addresses the British people and discusses grief. As the Blairs watch, Cherie suggests that the queen does not mean anything she says, but Tony thinks she is doing something very noble, and he listens intently to the speech.
Cherie goes on a rant about the fact that all Labour prime ministers end up loving the queen. The queen talks about the fact that there are many lessons to be learned from Diana's life and death. The funeral draws thousands, including celebrities. Diana's brother makes a speech at the funeral, weeping as he speaks.
Two months later, Tony prepares to visit the queen. Cherie tells Tony that she hopes the queen sees how much she owes Tony, but Tony doubts that the queen sees it that way. At the palace, Tony compliments the queen about her comments on ending disagreements in India and Pakistan. The queen looks agitated, as Tony apologizes for the week of Diana's death, "in case you felt manhandled or managed in any way."
The queen says she did not feel that way at all, before saying that she will never understand what happened. She then alludes to the disparaging cards outside the palace, as Tony tries to assure her that she will be looked at favorably by history. "When people come to assess your legacy, they won't remember those few days," Tony says.
The queen questions this, saying, "You don't think what affection people once had for this institution has been diminished?" Tony says he does not, suggesting that she is more respected than ever. The queen suggests to Tony that the only reason he sympathized with her is because he knew that he could face the same judgment someday. She then suggests that he will, in fact, face that judgment one day, "quite suddenly and without warning."
Suddenly, the queen gets up and invites Tony to go on a walk with her while they talk. On her way out the door, she says that she believes that walking is very clarifying, before abruptly asking Tony if it is true that one in four citizens wanted to get rid of her in the wake of Diana's death. "For about half an hour," he says. "I've never been hated like that before," she says, adding, "Nowadays people want glamor and tears, the grand performance. I'm not good at that, I never have been. I prefer to keep my feelings to myself, and foolishly that's what I believe that people wanted from their queen, not to make a fuss nor wear one's heart on one's sleeve."
Tony alludes to the fact that the queen was so young when she ascended, and she agrees that she was only a girl. They go out for a walk around the grounds.
The queen is not the only character to go through a transformation of identity in the course of the film. Tony also questions his preconceptions during his time navigating the aftermath of Diana's death. While he begins his time as the prime minister feeling very critical of the queen, by the end of the film, he has come to respect the burden she is under, the fact that she is under so much pressure because of her birth, and he even defends her to his office. Having governed the people and worked with the queen, Tony questions his own progressive stance and wonders whether perhaps they put too much pressure on the monarch.
The queen may not have a conversion and come to feel the grief for Diana that is expected of her, but she does something else: she dutifully shows up on behalf of her people. As they watch her speech, Cherie Blair scoffs at the fact that the queen does not mean any of the heartfelt words she is saying, but Tony is invested in the speech, suggesting that "that's not the point. What she's doing is extraordinary." In Tony's mind, the fact that the queen is performing her role as a benevolent queen even in spite of her true feelings is what makes her great and admirable. The queen's role, according to this logic, is built on her ability to repress her feelings and do what is best for her people.
In spite of her steely reserve, the queen experiences some grave insecurities about her reputation and the reputation of the monarchy as a result of the public's scrutiny of her response to Diana's death. In her meeting two months later with Tony, she expresses her fear that the event of Diana's death has put a horrible blemish on her reputation. She grimaces and scowls, never showing her vulnerability to Tony, but her worry is there. The queen is humanized in the eyes of the viewer by her desire to be appreciated and respected by her people.
In this same meeting with Tony, the queen deftly observes the reason why Tony became sympathetic to her in spite of his modern political leanings. She suggests that in assuming the role of prime minister, Tony realized that he could one day face the scrutiny of the public, and became more sympathetic to the difficult plight of leaders. The viewer can tell from Tony's expression that the queen is right, that this is precisely why he has come to admire her so much. She even tells him that the scrutiny and dislike of the public is all but inevitable for leaders. In this moment, we see that a major theme in the film is the difficult responsibility of leaders, to not only make decisions on behalf of the public, but to endure their criticism and disdain.
The film is a small film in scope, covering a very tiny group of people at a very specific time in recent history. As the film ends, with the queen and Tony Blair wandering around the palace grounds, the viewer might wonder what exactly happened. Most literally, the film is about a queen deciding to make a disingenuous statement about the loss of her controversial daughter-in-law, at the urging of a more progressive prime minister. More than that, it is a meditation on leadership, duty, repression of emotion versus the expression of emotion, and the British monarchy. Director Stephen Frears leaves the more overtly political bent of the film rather vague, though it could hardly be mistaken for an anti-royalist plot. The film's aim is not to make political pronouncements, but to examine various political players—whose personal proclivities are so often shrouded from public view—as human beings, with very specific subjectivities and social contexts. The Queen looks at Elizabeth's position in society, her relation to the role of monarch and to her people, and the ambivalences and philosophies that encompass this role.