Queens and queenliness: Quentin Crisp as Orlando’s Elizabeth I

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In 1992, Quentin Crisp appeared on cinema screens as Elizabeth I in Sally Potter’s 'Orlando'; the following year, he provided the ‘Alternative Queen’s Message’ on Channel 4 television on Christmas Day, going head-to-head with Elizabeth II. This essay revisits this cultural moment, examining the significance of Crisp’s performances of ‘queenliness’. Crisp’s performance as Elizabeth I is compared with other cinematic depictions of the monarch (Cate Blanchett, Bette Davis, Judi Dench). Potter has argued that there is a neat ‘fit’ between Crisp and Elizabeth I that justifies his casting, a suggestion that will be unpacked through a comparison of their biographies. 'Orlando' is also compared with Virginia Woolf’s source text, and the film’s content related to some of her other writings.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe British monarchy on screen
EditorsMandy Merck
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780719099564
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • Orlando
  • Quentin Crisp
  • Sally Potter
  • Film theory
  • Queer theory
  • Virginia Woolf


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