Monday 16 August 2010

Natalie Dormer to play another Queen of England

Two former on-screen Anne Boleyns are set to once again "compete," as they play the same Queen of England in movies to be released next year.

Helena Bonham-Carter, who played Anne Boleyn in the 2003 British television drama Henry VIII, and Natalie Dormer, who played Anne (above) across 21 episodes of the Showtime series, The Tudors, will both be playing the late Queen Mother, Elizabeth, who passed away at the age of 101 in 2002.

Like Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was the daughter of a native aristocrat who eventually came to wear the consort's crown through an unlikely series of events. She was married to the Duke of York, the second son of King George V and Queen Mary, in 1923, and she commenced her official duties with a highly successful tour of Northern Ireland in the following year. She became the mother of Princess Elizabeth (our current Queen) in 1926 and the late Princess Margaret in 1930. When her husband's brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 in order to marry a divorced socialite, Wallis Simpson, Elizabeth unexpectedly became queen, now that her husband was the reigning Sovereign, King George VI. The Royal couple's role in maintaining British morale during the particularly dark days when Britain fought the Second World War on its own was so instrumental that Hitler called her "the most dangerous woman in Europe." After the entry of the United States into the war, the King and Queen continued to remain in the capital until the end of the conflict, even when the very real risk of failure on D-Day would have meant the collapse of the United Kingdom in the face of retaliatory German invasions. Her devotion to the Poppy Appeal and her sombre sadness on Remembrance Day is something that I always remember from watching the ceremony on television as a child with my late grandmother, who lost her brother on active service in 1942. She always spoke of the Queen Mother with the greatest affection and respect possible. My grandmother was an unemotional woman, in the sense that she didn't express everything that popped into her head like many people today. In fact, maybe it's better to describe her as dignified, rather than un-emotional. In any case, the silence with which she watched the 11th November ceremonies at the Cenotaph and the quiet face of the Queen Mother on the balcony, always spoke louder than words to me. How to describe a silence, much less the emotions of a silence, is something I've never quite mastered, however.

Following the death of her husband from lung cancer in 1952, the Queen was henceforth styled "the Queen Mother," by which name she was most commonly known by both the British public and the wider world. She continued to enjoy a warm relationship with both of her daughters for the rest of her life, as this (I think rather sweet) clip from when she attended the races with her daughter, the Queen, in the 1990s, shows.

Natalie Dormer will be appearing as the late Queen Mother in the movie W.E., the story of  the Abdication Crisis of 1936, told from the point of view of Wallis Simpson. W.E. is being directed by the pop star, Madonna in her directorial debut. Natalie Dormer says of her role: -

“[England] tends to remember the Queen Mother as a rather wrinkly 97 year-old, but I am playing her when she was quite an enchanting, engaging twenty and thirtysomething.”

Meanwhile, Helena Bonham-Carter has just finished filming The King's Speech, chronicling the story of her King George VI's speech impediment and his attempts to overcome it, along with the help of an Australian speech therapist (played by Geoffrey Rush) and, of course, Queen Elizabeth. The King's Speech which is said to be in the tradition of The Young Victoria, is set for release in January, 2011. Helena will be acting opposite the wonderful Colin Firth in the role of King George, with Michael Gambon as King George V, Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill, Claire Bloom as Queen Mary, and Guy Pearce as Edward VIII. Firth and Bonham-Carter can be seen in a pre-released still from the movie, below.

It's going to be fantastic to once again see two incredible actresses playing an incredible character.



  1. For physicality, the casting of Natalie Dormer as Anne may have seemed, initially, way off. Ms. Dormer has a rather small nose and a rather luscious figure. But no one, NO ONE has, IMHO, captured the character as well, (going all the way back to Merle Oberon) as Dormer has done in 'The Tudors' (I especially loved the way she could give 'google eyes' while strutting her stuff!)
    So who does our illustrious blogster think was the best?

    p.s. The thought of Madonna directing this one on the Queen Mum is scarey.

  2. I was getting excited about seeing Natalie Dormer play the Queen Mum, but after reading that Madonna will be directing, I became a little leery.

    The King's Speech, however, I am very much looking forward to. Helena Bonham Carter is amazing, and I love Colin Firth. (The rest of the cast is absolutely stellar as well.) The idea that it will be in the same vein as The Young Victoria, one of my favorite movies of recent years, has me confident it will be wonderful. (I can only hope it gets wider release here in the States than The Young Victoria did. I never was able to see that in theaters.)

    Thanks for sharing about these films, as I may not have had the chance to learn about them.

  3. I can't wait to see the one Colin and Helena! They look great!

  4. Tubbs, unfortunately we know little enough about the shape of Anne's nose to be able to rule definitively on how like/unlike Natalie Dormer's was in relation to it. Although, I agree that with Anne's famously waif-like figure, Miss Dormer MIGHT have been too sexy, on first appearances.

    In terms of who my favourite on-screen portrayal of Anne Boleyn has been, I want to say first and foremost that there have been no bad actresses who have yet to take up the role in a major production. That being said, there have been terrible versions of Anne produced, despite the quality of the actress, rather than because of it - Jodhi May and Natalie Portman, who played Anne in both productions of "The Other Boleyn Girl" spring to mind! There have also been several actresses who, I recognise, gave great performances, but just didn't really quite seem like Anne to me - the fantastic Dame Dorothy Tutin in "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" and Charlotte Rampling in "Henry VIII and his Six Wives" are the two I'm thinking of her. I don't know what it is that struck a jarring note with me when I watched their performances, especially since I think Dame Dorothy's performance as Queen Henrietta-Maria in the movie "Cromwell" is absolutely phenomenal.

    My own personal favourites as Anne have been Merle Oberon in "The Private Life of Henry VIII," Genevieve Bujold in "Anne of the Thousand Days" and, without doubt, Natalie Dormer in "The Tudors." :)

    Robyn, you're welcome! And Elena-Maria, I can't wait for "The King's Speech" to come out, either.

  5. Having read about Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons and her friendship with George V's children, I see her in a different light from her carefully promoted public image. She allegdedly set her sites on Edward, Prince of Wales but after he told her he might not become King, she switched her attention to his brother, Bertie Duke of York,......and the rest is history!
    She stated herself that "she wasn't really a very nice person" and her treatment of Wallis Simpson would seem to prove this.

  6. Anonymous, I'm not sure where you've read this account of events, but it cannot have been in a particularly reliable source.

    The story of Lady Elizabeth "preferring" the Prince of Wales is an old High Society gossip canard, which does not add up to anything we know of the chronology of Elizabeth's early involvement with the Royal Family. It was reported, for instance, predominantly in the letters of Wallis Simpson's friends, such as Lady Diana Mosley. At the time, Elizabeth did not want to marry the Duke of York or any member of the Royal Family. There are letters to her close friend and mother in which she expressed great reluctance at entering the Royal Family and thus having to moderate "every truly saying what I think or feel or being myself at all in any meaningful way" for the rest of her life. Moreover, whilst she had spent several country house weekends in the company of the Duke of York when he first proposed to her, she had never properly been introduced to the Prince of Wales. Far from being the scheming social climber your sources paint her as and far from having "switched her attention," Lady Elizabeth actually declined the Duke's proposal, at least twice. Expressing in a letter to her mother, her agony at wanting to make the Duke happy, because she loved him, but at the same time not wishing to become a member of the Royal Family. One has to remember that the Bowes-Lyon family were one of the wealthiest in the British aristocracy and the most prestigious. In the 1920s, she had little "need" to "climb" her way into the Royal Family. In fact, it would have meant a great deal more responsibility and a great deal less money.

    Finally, Mrs. Simpson was hardly a wilting flower. She exhibited character strengths only marginally less likeable than those of the self-indulgent and unrestrained Edward VIII. Sometimes we take history too far in re-writing it to the denigration of the "winners," like the late Queen Mother.

    Excellent biographies of her by Hugo Vickers and William Shawcross are available and a good overview of her early life is available in Sarah Bradford's fantastic biography of her daughter.


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