Queen Elizabeth II died one year ago today.
I suspect her true, lasting legacy remains yet written as time has not given us the proper vantage point from which to fully understand her impact. Netflix’s The Crown helped us begin to understand, through significantly imagined scenarios, the soul and heartbreak and loves and hopes of England’s longest reigning monarch. Whether we are pro, anti, or apathetic to the monarchy, there’s no denying the Queen remains one of modern history’s most fascinating figures. We will undoubtedly be presented with all sorts of varying takes on her as we as a human race begin to understand exactly who she was.
The new documentary Portrait of the Queen filmed prior to her death. Some within the film do speak of her legacy, but it’s all in the present tense. There is no look back on her, no attempts to understand her mythology. Rather, we’re given sneaks and glances as to who she was as a human being through the eyes of those asked to capture her on film, the dozens of photographers who snapped iconic photographs of the woman at various ages across her reign.
For me, Portrait of the Queen emerges as a warm, engaging, and — most importantly — respectful presentation. It is compelling to hearing the various photographers recount meeting and working with her for a fleeting few minutes. The stories behind each photo often prove as fascinating as the final images themselves. My personal favorite remains the photographer who accidentally dropped his lens while playing with the camera and was politely chided by his assistant, causing the Queen to openly and genuinely laugh. The documentary’s greatest strength is in capturing these voices and experiences as we begin to consider her lasting legacy. It reminds us that, despite her station, she was indeed a human being with truly human thoughts, perspectives, and loves.
Despite a few minor annoyances (an overbearing score and an overabundance of stock footage unrelated to its subject), Portrait of the Queen is a documentary worth seeing if, like me, you want to understand more about the woman who wore the crown. A year following her death at 96, this documentary gives us more to consider as England and the world start to define her lasting legacy.
Portrait of the Queen is now available to rent on Vudu.