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In a sure-to-be-unique accomplishment, actress Helen Mirren took home two Golden Globes this year, both of them for playing Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth I, Mirren’s role on TV, has long been red meat for actresses. The other Elizabeth that Mirren played last year, the currently-reigning Elizabeth II of the film The Queen, has been somewhat less celebrated. Yet Mirren, making her acceptance speech for win number two, offered that Globe voters had thrown their support behind Elizabeth herself, dowdy, fusty and cantankerous, rather than the glamorous actress privileged, briefly, to walk a mile in her sensible shoes. And Mirren is correct, to the degree that her performance in The Queen allowed viewers to re-examine the villains and victims of Buckingham. Diana was the presumptive martyr, hounded by tabloids unto death. But was it possible, perhaps, that dry old Elizabeth was the one really doing battle with the flashbulbs, not by driving faster to get away from them, but by asserting the need for decorum and restraint? Especially in the wake of Diana’s death, Queen Elizabeth was the last one trying nobly, if a little ham-fistedly to keep her finger in the dike. Spontaneous shrines carried the day, but now, nearly a decade on, her stiff upper lip is looking better than ever.

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