r.i.p. queen of heARTS
nominated by Norman Warwick
The Arts sector in general and music industry in particular is mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8, 2022, at the age of 96 after serving as the British monarch for more than 70 years.
We have been reminded by Vanessa Thorpe, writing in The Guardian that:
The Queen’s daily life of duty and dilemma was monitored closely for seven decades. Each diary appointment, along with every deadpan impromptu aside, was noted by royal pundits and historians.
But the imagined private life of Her Majesty was at least as powerful a cultural influence as the actual public life. In our collective stories, and even in our dreams, Elizabeth II has been a regular member of the cast: a constant symbol of authority and regimented splendour. And now,as her reign is ended in a less deferential age, the monarch’s thoughts and concerns are familiar topics for literary speculation and satire. The image of the Queen, whether in profile on a postage stamp, or on canvas in regal portraiture, has been given a range of artistic treatments, many of them subversive, from Andy Warhol’s pop art portrait, to the one where the monarch’s eyes are shut, Chris Levine’s 2004 Lightness of Being. Nevertheless Her Manjesty´s public meetings with artsts and showbiz celebrities often seemed to be full of mutual admiration, as a photo of her speaking with Royal Variety performers such as Elton John, Cliff Richard , Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Paul McCartney, Knights And Dames of her realm, of course, (as illustrated right)
The popularity of The Crown, Netflix’s Buckingham Palace saga, is only a small part of this picture. Where Peter Morgan’s script sketches in the gaps with carefully researched invention, other writers have leapt in to have some fun.
When Alan Bennett brought his version of the Queen to the stage in 1988, he was one of the first to take a parodic look at the woman who personified the British national brand. His one-act play, A Question of Attribution, tackled Soviet espionage in the royal staff; Prunella Scales (left), stately and sardonic, caused a sensation in the role of the Queen.
In the 1992 comic novel The Queen and I, the late Sue Townsend also acknowledged the strange mix of approachability and formality embodied by Elizabeth II. In her story, Britain’s monarchy ends with a republican parliamentary victory and the Queen moves to a council estate. Her corgis are not allowed. Worse still, she has to dress herself, grappling alone with hooks and eyes and zips, like normal women do.
Possibly, the urge to set the Queen in humble domestic surroundings is linked to her frequent manifestation in the nation’s dream life. Like other famous people, her appearance in the sleeping mind is thought to represent the urge for acceptance and fulfilment, or alternatively the threat of authority. For the psychoanalyst Susie Orbach (right), considering the question recently, Elizabeth II was an emblem of a subconscious desire for security: “She is the fictive mother of the nation; someone on to whom we can project our wishes, longings and our hope for stability.”
As a familiar parent figure who might grant us favour, she also remained ultimately unknowable. Academic psychologists chronicled the part royalty often plays in psychotic disorder. For some of the Queen’s most troubled subjects, she becomes the focus of the sort of delusions that compelled Michael Fagan to break into her palace bedroom in 1982. He was aiming, apparently, for a friendly chat.
In 2012, this real incident prompted Helen Greaves to write the television drama Walking the Dogs. It featured Emma Thompson as the Queen and Eddie Marsan as the interloper in her chamber, re-enacting the scene long before Morgan had Olivia Colman and Tom Brooke play the encounter in the fourth season of The Crown. This time Fagan himself was annoyed by Morgan’s suggestion that the pair had discussed Margaret Thatcher
The writer admits tiptoeing with unease through the mind of his Elizabeth. He first essayed her in his 2006 screenplay for Stephen Frears’ film The Queen and then brought her to the stage in the guise of Helen Mirren, and later Kristin Scott Thomas (left) , in his royal play The Audience. Morgan recently told the Observer that he knows he cannot access the monarch’s “internal journey”. “What we can see, though, is an emotional reticence, and then wonder if that has come about programmatically, or whether she was born with something missing,” he said. “Perhaps the process of separating out Elizabeth Windsor from Elizabeth Regina has damaged her? I have always thought the danger of being queen is losing sight of who you are because you have to do certain things automatically, as the crown. So how much is her, and how much is the crown? That is the question. And how much is the cost?”
A succession of children’s authors have grown bold in their use of the Queen. Since Sophie, heroine of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, first went to the Queen for help defeating the giants, several other fictional children have trodden the same path. In fact, the Queen is often the source of salvation in children’s stories. In Two Weeks with the Queen, a 1990 novel by Morris Gleitzman, an Australian boy, Colin, writes asking for treatment for his sick little brother, while in 2018 a group of pupils in Onjali Rauf’s The Boy at the Back of the Class, write to ask for help for a Syrian refugee. In Me, The Queen and Christopher, a 2012 book by Giles Andreae, the Queen takes time to look out for a girl with a disabled brother. More anarchically, David Walliams has written a literary jape in which the Queen runs off, leaving an orangutan to rule the country.
“She has remained stoical and largely unblemished while her family is shipwrecked around her. The current state of the myth is one that gives Britain an illusion of consolidation and comfort, but it also deceives us into thinking this is the same country it always was.”
Several fictional versions of our Queen have had her kicking off the traces of majesty. The 2015 film A Royal Night Out follows Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret escaping into the crowds on VE night, while Emma Tennant’s 2009 comic novella The Autobiography of the Queen, allows her to scoot off to the Caribbean for a break under a fake name. Four years later, William Kuhn pulled a similar trick, setting her free at King’s Cross station making for a train to Scotland, head covered by a hoodie.
Sometimes the artist that has shaped an imagined, fresh version of the Queen has had the benefit of actually meeting her. Official portrait painters have enjoyed a succession of formal sittings, producing well-known works like Pietro Annigoni’s 1969 red-cloaked avenger and Henry Mee’s sunlit figure from 1990. The late Michael Noakes even travelled with the Queen to all her engagements for a year. The monarch he portrayed in his resulting book was both hardworking and amused, but was she the real woman?
Most of the music inspired by the Queen fell into two camps: the formal and the determinedly irreverent. Among the formal works are the pieces composed for her coronation, William Harris’s Let My Prayer Come Up Into Thy Presence, George Dyson’s Confortare and the Coronation March by Arnold Bax. The irreverent ones include the Smiths’ 1986 track The Queen is Dead, Leon Rosselson’s satirical On Her Silver Jubilee and, of course, from the same year The Sex Pistols’ banned God Save the Queen. Rather more sympathetic, perhaps unexpectedly, is Billy Bragg’s Rule Nor Reason, a song that paints a pathetic, lonely, if regal, figure. For an out-and-out tribute it is necessary to turn to the casual affection of Paul McCartney’s little squib, Her Majesty.
But the jazz classic inspired by a 1958 meeting with the Queen at Yorkshire Arts Festival may well top this list of tunes. The American band leader Duke Ellington (right) composed the lilting theme for the Queen’s Suite shortly after his encounter with Elizabeth II and he recorded it the following year, romantically sending the only copy to Her Majesty and refusing to release it in his own lifetime. Recalling the encounter in a later interview Ellington said: “I told her she was so inspiring and that something musical would surely come of it. She said she would be listening, so I wrote an album for her.”
Marina Warner, an expert in fable and myth, watched the Queen’s “charismatic aura” enlarge with time. “The radiance she acquired is partly just due to longevity,” she said. “It is not to do with power, which is only symbolic.” While rulers in fairy tales are often tyrannical and must be overthrown to let the young prince or princess flourish, our Queen is instead a symbol of continuity
“For my whole life Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has always been there,” wrote Mick Jagger, who was knighted by the Queen in 2003. “In my childhood, I can recall watching her wedding highlights on TV. I remember her as a beautiful young lady, to the much beloved grandmother of the nation. My deepest sympathies are with the Royal family.”
As a band, The Rolling Stones wrote: “The Rolling Stones extend their deepest sympathy to the Royal family on the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who was a constant presence in their lives as in countless others.”
Elton John, who was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for his contribution to music and philanthropic work in 1998, wrote “Along with the rest of the nation, I am deeply saddened to hear the news of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s passing. She was an inspiring presence to be around, and lead the country through some of our greatest, and darkest, moments with grace, decency, and a genuine caring warmth.”
John added, “Queen Elizabeth has been a huge part of my life from childhood to this day, and I will miss her dearly.”
In a lengthy post, Duran Duran left their message of remembrance for the Queen:
“Her Majesty the Queen has presided over the UK for longer than any other British monarch,” wrote the band. “She dedicated her life to the people and set an extraordinary example to the world throughout her reign. She’s seen changes that are beyond what any of us can imagine. She has faced challenges that she has risen to time and again. Her life has been remarkable in so many ways. We will all miss her and are grateful for the incredible service she gave to the people of Great Britain and the countries of the Commonwealth. We send our deepest condolence to the royal family. Her death brings to an end a long and unique chapter in the history of the United Kingdom and the world.”
In addition to Jagger and John, throughout her reign, the Queen, who began her reign on 6 February 1952, knighted dozens of British artists, including Queen’s Brian May, Bono, Annie Lennox, Beatles producer George Martin, David Bowie, Tom Jones, The Beatles, Roger Daltrey, Bob Geldof, Robert Plant, Cliff Richard, Sting, James Bond singer Shirley Bassey, Paul Weller, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Hank Marvin, the Bee Gees’ Barry and Robin Gibb, and more.
Paul McCartney, (right) who was knighted by the Queen in 1997, honored the late monarch and her King Charles III. “God bless Queen Elizabeth II,” wrote McCartney. “May she rest in peace. Long live The King.”
Ringo Starr added, “God bless Queen Elizabeth peace and love to all the family peace and love.”
Throughout the music industry, more continue to mourn the loss of the longest-running British monarch.
Singer Sir Tom Jonessaid the Queen had been an “inspiration throughout my life”.
“She was a reassuring force in difficult times, her dedication was faultless and her commitment to duty unrivalled,” he tweeted, adding “long live the King”.
Janet Jackson wrote “May you Rest In Peace Queen,” along with a photo of her meeting with the Queen, while Patti Smith posted a photo of the Queen with her late husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died in 2021, “This is 1947. Now they are back together.”
Former Spice Girl, Victoria Beckham, shared a photo of the Queen with her heartfelt message. “Today is a very sad day not just for our country but for the entire world,” she wrote. “I’m deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved Monarch, Her Majesty The Queen. She will be remembered for her steadfast loyalty and service and my thoughts are with the royal family at this incredibly sad time.”
Fellow former Spice Girl Melanie Brown described the Queen as “an incredible lady who all of us grew up with and had so much respect for”, sharing a picture of the monarch awarding her with an MBE.
Former Police frontman Stingrevealed how he had a “quiet weep” for the Queen, adding: “I am sad for my country and what it has lost.
The Hollies als posted a suitably lyrical tribute
Music mogul Simon Cowell paid tribute to Her Majesty’s ability to “balance great leadership, tradition and progression”.
Cliff Richard, who took part in so many performances in front of her majesty paid eloquent tribute and shared vivid memories of those events.
Other celebrities. from other spheres of life, including, Daniel Craig and JK Rowling are among those who have shared tributes following the Queen’s death.
Daniel Craig, (left) who appeared with the Queen in a skit for the London Olympics, said she had left “an incomparable legacy and will be profoundly missed”.
“I, like so many, was deeply saddened by the news today and my thoughts are with the Royal Family, those she loved and all those who loved her,” said the Bond actor.
Actress Dame Helen Mirren, (right) who played the Queen on screen and stage, said on Instagram: “I am proud to be an Elizabethan. We mourn a woman, who, with or without the crown, was the epitome of nobility.”
David Beckham said her majesty had served with “dignity and grace” until her last days and had comforted the country when “times were tough”.
He added: “How devastated we all feel today shows what she has meant to people in this country and around the world. How much she inspired us with her leadership.”
Harry Potter author JK Rowling (left) said the Queen had done her duty “right up to her dying hours”.
“Some may find the outpouring of British shock and grief at this moment quaint or odd, but millions felt affection and respect for the woman who uncomplainingly filled her constitutional role for seventy years,” she tweeted.
“Most British people have never known another monarch, so she’s been a thread winding through all our lives.
“She did her duty by the country right up until her dying hours, and became an enduring, positive symbol of Britain all over the world. She’s earned her rest.”
Theatre impresario Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber said the Queen had been “the constant anchor of not just Britain and her beloved Commonwealth, but an inspiration to the world for her lifetime of service”.
“Her legacy will be remembered as a selfless beacon for love, understanding and the celebration of fellow human beings all over the world, no matter their race or creed,” he added.
Ant and Dec posted a joint statement: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
“It is hard to believe she will no longer be with us. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with King Charles and the entire Royal Family.
“Rest In Peace Your Majesty. And thank you.”
Fellow TV host Holly Willoughbysaid on Instagram: “Thank you for your lifetime of service and humble commitment to duty.”
Dame Darcey Bussellshared a photograph on her Instagram page of her curtseying before a beaming Queen and the tribute: “A extraordinary & inspiring Woman. Thank you for a lifetime of service & all you did for the Arts.”
Even Paddington Bear, who did a light-hearted sketch with Her Majesty for her Jubilee celebrations this year, tweeted: “Thank you Ma’am for everything”.
Sports stars such as Sir Mo Farah also paid tribute: “My condolences to the Royal Family at this very sad time,” said the Olympic gold medallist.
“The Queen was loved all over the world and meant so much to so many.
“Meeting her was one of the greatest honours of my life. We will remember her for her warmth and dedication to the British people throughout her reign.”
Dame Jessica Ennis-Hillpublished a picture of the Queen on her Instagram story with the words “a sad day” next to a broken heart emoji.
Former England footballer Gary Linekertweeted: “Such a terribly sad day. Her Majesty The Queen has died. A truly remarkable woman who served her country with dignity, loyalty and grace. A comforting ever present in the lives of most of us. Rest in Peace, Your Majesty.”
Whatever our interests are in life the chances are that an abiding memory of that interest will somehow have the Queen involved. As a football fan, I will always see her, proud of her nation´s team, when presenting the world cup to Bobby Moore, as shown on our front page and at the top of this article.
In the current period of mourning there may be fewer live gigs this week, particularly in the UK, . readers should try to verify any folñk, country, blues or jazz listings you might see, but remember you can always tune in othe Hot Biscuits jazz mic-cloud broadcast. This week jazz jamboree on our Steve Bewick´s Hot Biscuits broadcast features a central spot for the sounds of Jay Riley Music and a recent CD, `light from dawn.` Also featured are tracks from, Kokomo Arnold, Anita O’Day, Woody Herman 1-Liners, Matt Carmichael, Evelyn Laurie and Fiona Ross, with `Red flags and high heels`. If this looks interesting share with your friends and tune in 24/07 (see the embedded link at the foot of this page).
The prime source for this article was a piece by Vanessa Thorpe , published in The Guardian. Check out the writer and the newspaper for scores of similar thought-provoking work. The Guardian is a great source of considered arts coverage.
In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles written by experts but that we are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit blog knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with new genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.
This article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.
Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.
As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.
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