“The eccentric is peculiar to the British, especially because they are convinced of their own infallibility, emblem and heritage of the British nation.“writes Edith Sitwell in her book The eccentrics published in 1933 – seven years after Elizabeth’s birth Alexandra Mary and two decades before Elizabeth II’s coronation, which form the same and one person, but we all tend to believe that the Queen has always been Queen.
Since a crown was placed on Elizabeth II’s skull in 1953, artists – who share the title of the kingdom’s greatest neck-and-neck eccentrics with aristocrats – have made the very stylish figure of the monarch a pop, punk or rock’n’roll depending on the style. But the death of the ruler was not supposed to mask a thing, the Queen’s representations weren’t always destined to become giveaways sold to millions of tourists dragging filthy brightly colored suitcases through the streets of London.
In a period of global warming, heads of state are regularly accused by environmental activists of turning their broken promises into operations of greenwashing not to lose face. More than half a century ago no one was talking about the environment and to change its conservative image in a changing world, the British monarchy had the idea of using the Beatles. Since the release of their album Please, please, please by 1963, young long-haired boys had become icons in the UK. The Labor Prime Minister of the time, Harold Wilson, then suggested that the Queen decorate the “Fab Four”. Which was done in 1965, when Elizabeth II presented the Order of the British Empire to Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and, of course, John Lennon.
The latter, however, mocked the monarchy quite strongly. “We earned medals for not killing people”, scratched Lennon into the microphone of the reporters who had questioned him about this real interview, as the newspaper Les Echos recalls. He returned his decoration to him in 1969 in protest against British involvement in the Biafra war in Nigeria. But for Buckingham Palace the important thing is elsewhere. During her seven decades of reign, the queen has decorated a mess of celebrities, some of whom, like Mick Jagger, have nonetheless displayed values that are the opposite of the old monarchy.
The first to hijack the British national anthem were the Sex Pistols in 1977. Ten days before the Queen’s 25th anniversary, they released the single God Save the Queen by relating the monarchy with a fascist regime that has no future, with the famous “without a future“At the time, the punk quartet was the hero of the young English generation who dreamed more of dipping their lips in an alcoholic rock drink than in a lukewarm one. Cup of tea full of good manners and an agreed life. On the jubilee day, June 7, 1977, the Sex Pistols added a chord to the legend by performing the song about a ship that sails on Thames. After a fighteleven people were arrested when the boat arrived in port.
“It was not a voluntary effort to be passed on and to shock everyone”
Paul Cook, drummer of the Sex Pistols
However, drummer Paul Cook did not speculate on the farce, according to his observations reported in the book No Irish, no blacks, no dogs, New Yorkby Johnny Rotten, the lead singer of the band: “We didn’t write it specifically for Queen’s Jubilee. We didn’t know about it at the time. It wasn’t a deliberate effort to go out and shock everyone. The world.”
In 1985 Andy Warhol signed one of his works the most famous: Ruling queens. In this screen print, the artist represents Elizabeth II and three other women installed on the throne: Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margaret II of Denmark and Queen Ntfombi Twala of Swaziland. The irony of this portrait taken from a stamp celebrating Elizabeth’s jubilee in 1977? It has become an art object exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery which some consider a tribute to the queen. But by plastering a high color saturation on Elizabeth II’s face, just as he had previously done for New York transvestites, Andy Warhol is quietly saying that the monarchy exists only in the eyes of her subjects. In any case, this is the interpretation that an art critic makes of it in the newspaper The Guardian.
The queen never openly said what she thought of this screen print. But in 2012 she purchased four of her Warhol portraits for the royal collection. And the National Portrait Gallery sells T-shirts and mugs in the colors of Ruling queens. The monarch would be trapped by the pop-art star who once said: “I want to be famous as the Queen of England” ? Let’s imagine Andy Warhol and Elizabeth II playing the game of “I know you know I know …”.
It is undoubtedly the artist on this list who was most in tune with Elizabeth II. Elton John was knighted by the Queen in 1998 and has since sung the praises of the royal family. Perhaps because the pop icon with 300 million records passed in private lived a moment in which he perceived the queen’s humanity, as a mirror that resisted his own torments.
In love carehis autobiography published in 2012, Elton John retraced the chaotic periods in his life and the long periods in which he had sunk into drug and alcohol abuse. In his latest autobiography published in 2019 and entitled Myself, instead he had revealed a moment of relaxation for the queen. One day when Elton John was there, Elizabeth II had given a correction to Viscount Linley, the son of Princess Margaret. “I know that the queen’s public image is not exactly one of savage frivolitywrites Elton John. But, in private, it can be hilarious. I saw her approach Viscount Linley and ask him to look at her sister who had fallen ill and retired to her room. When he tried to push her away several times, the Queen slapped him lightly in the face, saying, ‘Don’t argue – CLACK – not – CLACK – with – CLACK – me – CLACK – I – CLACK – I’m -CLAC – the Queen!’ As she was leaving, she saw that I was looking at her, she winked at me and left. ”
In 2012, during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, a short film by Danny Boyle is projected. We see Daniel Craig, in the role of James Bond, enter buckingham Palace and go up the stairs four by four to the Queen’s office. Elizabeth II then reveals herself in front of the camera and throws a laconic “good evening mister bond”. The rest of the video softens the charm of this apparition a bit by leaving a false suspense: Did the queen take her place in the flesh next to Daniel Craig in the helicopter that takes off out-of-screen? by Danny Boyle, before reappearing, right this time, in the sky of the Olympic stadium in London? No, sure, it was a stuntman who jumped into the London sky in a salmon-colored suit.
The queen has known all the James Bond films (the first film dates back to 1962). But in Danny Boyle’s short film, she lowers herself to the rank of actress. Did you dream of a more rock’n’roll life as a 007 conquest? In his book The other side of the coinAngela Kelly, the Queen’s personal seamstress, revealed that Elizabeth II had agreed to break royal protocol to appear in this fiction. “She was very amused by this idea and immediately accepted”. To put the fun in a life that is too surely regulated like the music card. It is also from this boredom that British eccentricity is born.