A battle royal between the BBC and Her Majesty


Queen Elizabeth II is unhappy. No, Helen Mirren hasn’t snubbed her again: Annie Leibovitz and the BBC have. Rather, they’ve revealed her real-ness, and that just won’t do.

Yesterday, the BBC released a promotional trailer for the upcoming documentary A Year With the Queen. In it, the queen is seen disagreeing with Annie Leibovitz at a photo shoot (the preceding photo is one of the results of the shoot, but it isn’t the offending bit of media). Specifically, the queen took issue with Leibovitz’s suggestion that she remove her crown:

Leibovitz told the queen, “I think it will look better without the crown because the garter robe is so … ” but the monarch cut her off with an icy stare.

“Less dressy! What do you think this is?” the monarch said, gesturing to her attire.

The BBC today issued an apology, admitting that what looked like a stomping-off-the-set afterward was actually out of sequence; it was footage of the queen arriving at the shoot.

I don’t know where to begin, really. Well, yes, I do; I’m going to ignore all the out-of-sequence nonsense and focus on the queen’s discomfort with Leibovitz’s request. On the one hand, it’s a photo shoot: No matter who you are, you can expect to be poked, prodded and posed. And if you have even a passing familiarity with Leibovitz’s work, you know that you can expect her to get very close to you in some way. So, on that score, I’m tempted to say “duh” to Her Unsuspecting Majesty.

On the other hand, even a photographer should have some respect for personal space — and an inkling that a member of the royal family might have a different definition of personal space. It’s the Queen, not Elton John in a tiara at one of his fabulous fetes. (And it was indeed a tiara, not a crown, but never mind.) I’m just saying I might think twice before futzing with the head of a head of state. I know: It’s not like Leibovitz walked up to her and yanked off her headgear, but the very question was quite an affront. Imagine asking Dolly Parton to take off her wig or entreating Ron Howard to doff his omnipresent baseball cap. Horrors! (Here’s what Leibovitz really did with Parton in 1977, with the help of Arnold Schwarzenegger:)

All that aside, it’s hard not to giggle at this story. If there’s something funnier than a royal temper tantrum, I’d like to know what it is — there’s a reason shows like My Super Sweet 16 are so popular, and those aren’t even about real royalty. Moreover, a miffed monarch is just the sort of thing I’d hope to see in a Leibovitz photo. For now, I’ll settle for these:

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