The Queen came to the throne at the dawn of the age of mass media. Her coronation in 1953 was the first national television event, and almost every step she then took in public was captured on film.
As for her private moments, a number of actresses have attempted to portray what might have gone on behind closed doors.
Here are some of the documentaries that opened a window into her life, and some high-profile, fictionalised portrayals that helped shape public perceptions.
The Crown (Netflix series, 2016-present)
You can’t write about the Queen on screen without mentioning The Crown, Netflix’s major series tracing the reign of the monarch from her ascension to the early 2000s.
Claire Foy and Olivia Colman have played the lead in the four seasons so far. Imelda Staunton is taking over for the fifth, which is scheduled to launch in November and be set in the 1990s.
The series feels at time like a high-class soap opera, accentuating the supposed drama and conflict both among the Royal Family and between the monarch and prime ministers, although its historical accuracy has been widely criticised.
A Tribute To Her Majesty The Queen (BBC documentary, 2022)
Touching recollections from the Queen’s own children set this 90-minute documentary apart from most other factual films about her life and times.
With so few opportunities to see truly intimate moments between the Royal Family, the obvious and genuine affection with which they speak gives us some insight into their relationships with their mother when they were a family first and royal second.
Prince Charles, as he was known at the time of filming, recalls an early memory from when he was just three. “I shall never forget, when we were small, having a bath and she came in practising wearing the crown before the coronation,” he says. “All those sorts of marvellous moments, I shall never forget.”
Elsewhere, narrator Kirsty Young tells the story of both the private and public sides of the Queen’s reign in her warm, authoritative style.
Her Majesty the Queen (Channel 4 documentary, 2022)
Veteran presenter Jon Snow opens this hour-long special with a very personal connection – proudly showing a blurry black-and-white photo of himself and his brothers meeting the Queen five years after her coronation, when he was 10.
His main memory is that the encounter involved repainting the downstairs loo beforehand in case one of the royals needed to go (they did not). Otherwise he doesn’t remember much, “except that she was small, pleated skirt, hatted, didn’t say much”. He adds: “Prince Philip – he said a lot, but I didn’t understand very much of it.”
Snow peppers the programme with more memories, both his own and from others, such as his next door neighbour, a former lady in waiting.
He balances these personal moments by using his journalistic rigour to also tell the official history, re-examining the most momentous episodes from the Queen’s seven decades on the throne, from her coronation to the controversies of the 1990s.
The Queen’s Coronation in Colour (ITV/Netflix documentary, 2018)
The start of the Queen’s reign may now seem to belong in a distant historical age. Colour coverage of the coronation and some more relaxed behind-the-scenes footage that was commissioned by the young Queen herself help bring the occasion to life.
There are interviews with some of those who took part, such as the maids of honour who had to stop one of their members from fainting during the ceremony. We hear how the Archbishop of Canterbury later helped revive her by giving her a swig of brandy in the vestry.
The programme, presented by Alexander Armstrong, also includes wonderful amateur footage of joyous and occasionally eccentric street parties that took place around the UK on the same day.