A central theme in the film is the increased interest, among British people, in republicanism. When Blair gets elected prime minister, his reputation as an antimonarchist precedes him, and the royals are aware of the fact that he ran on a progressive ticket. Even before the death of Diana, there is a tension between the older, more traditional monarchy, and more progressive, republican values. Then, when Diana dies—and the queen and her family stick to royal protocol, eschewing public grieving in favor of stiff upper lips—public support for the monarchy dips even lower. The queen imagines that citizens value her because of her ability to remain calm in times of crisis, and does not think that much is expected of her when it comes to grieving the death of Diana. However, her major conflict in the film is realizing that British people actually want her to show her grief and emotions about the loss. She is devastated to learn that her popularity has waned in the weeks following Diana's death, and the fallout forces her to consider the relevance of the role to which she has committed her life.
Politicians Who Connect With the People
Tony Blair represents the people over whom he governs. While the queen is separated from her subjects and put on a pedestal, Blair connects with the people and tries to make them see that he is advocating for their interests and looking out for them. This means that he is much better at navigating the aftermath of Diana's death than the royal family. He also understands that Diana, for all her controversy, was better at connecting with the people than her royal in-laws, and this is what made her so popular. Thus, the waning popularity of monarchy is in converse relationship to the rising popularity of figures who are better equipped to connect with British citizens.
Diana's death is affecting because of what she represented and how beloved she was, but it also became a stage for people to perform their grief to histrionic degrees. We see how the grief about Diana's death grows from straightforward grief about the loss to a circus of emotion and denigration of the royal family for not following suit. The royals take the stance that the mass hysteria is all performative and stoked by the machinations of the press, and the viewer sees that they have a point. While Diana's life is certainly worth mourning, the response becomes an animal of its own, with people using their grief as fuel for anti-monarchist sympathies. They see Diana not as a victim of the press that hounded her, but as a victim of an unsympathetic royal family. It is as if the response to Diana's death becomes a staging ground for some unresolved Freudian issues, with the royals representing disappointing parental figures for the subjects over which they rule.
Warmth vs. Reserve
The chief complaint submitted against the royal family, and particularly the queen, is her lack of warmth and emotionality about Diana's death. While Diana, the "people's princess," was seen as warm, charitable, and emotionally honest, the queen is seen as frigid and unemotional, particularly in response to the death. The queen's philosophy is all about maintaining composure and calm, a neutral screen to keep resolve up through tragedy. Having lived through the two world wars, this is her approach to tragedy, but it has become an outdated philosophy. Thus, she must reckon with this change in her own nation, and the ways that her citizens have different expectations of her than the values she was taught to uphold.
When Diana dies, there is a lot of talk of victimhood, with many wondering whether Diana herself was a victim. They wonder if she was a victim of circumstances, of the royal family, of the public, of the paparazzi. Thus, the question of victimhood is at the center of Diana's reputation and legacy. However, as the grieving process goes on, it becomes less clear who is the victim in the film. The queen, who would never allow anyone to think that she was anything less than formidable and strong, experiences some moments of weakness to which only the viewer is privy. In these instances, we see that she herself is the victim of unforgiving public relations, trapped between the tradition she is expected to uphold and the changing times and slant of the press. This is shown most vividly in her fixation on the fallen stag, whose demise she privately mourns.
The reason the queen does not bend to the will of her people is because she is attached to a very strong sense of duty. She believes that it is her duty as queen to maintain a sense of calm and order in times of crisis, in order to set an example for her people. In a conversation with Tony Blair, the queen tells him, "I doubt there is anyone who knows the British people more than I do, Mr. Blair, nor who has greater faith in their wisdom and judgment. And it is my belief that they will any moment reject this... this 'mood,' which is being stirred up by the press, in favor of a period of restrained grief, and sober, private mourning. That's the way we do things in this country, quietly, with dignity. That's what the rest of the world has always admired us for." This shows her devotion to restraint and discretion.
While the queen maintains a strong belief that she knows what is best for her people, she eventually accedes to their will and compromises with the prime minister. She makes a statement, visits Diana's grave, and attends the funeral, in spite of her belief that none of that is necessary. In this we see that, although she is stubborn and set in her ways, she is also invested in the opinion of her people and wants to govern them in a way that benefits her reputation and popularity. She must compromise on some of the monarchy's traditionalism to account for the extraordinary circumstances of Diana's death.
The Queen (2006 film) Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Queen (2006 film) is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.