When it came to naming this exhibition, the curators of the Cartoon Museum had a bit of an issue. Her Maj was put together to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Liz 2.0 (or 1.0 if you live in Scotland…), but it seems that the Palace is preventing people from using the words ‘Diamond’ and ‘Jubilee’ unless the event or whatever is ‘official.’ You can tell from the the flyer that this exhibition is anything but.
It might not be ‘official’ but the Cartoon’s collection of royal portraits – even the unflattering ones- are always teasing and affectionate. The reign of Queen Liz 2 has been unusual in the history of the British Monarchy, as her and her Family have lived in the public eye: balancing being public figures and celebrities.
The exhibition starts with a cartoon depicting the 21 year old Elizabeth as Snow White-type figure, the typical fairy-tale princess imagery we saw so much of last year during the build up to the Royal Wedding (of Wills and Kate, not the other one…). It seems that we always think of our Royal Family in terms of a fairy-tale.
However, the exhibition also humanises the Queen and her family. Various artists have portrayed Her Majesty as Liz, the ‘ordinary housewife’ complete with rollers under her headscarf, which, to me, adds to the ‘soap-opera’ of the story of the Royal Family as it plays out in the papers. It’s also a nice nod to the image used on the flyer: Queen Liz behind the bar of The Queen Vic.
The picture was inspired by a visit Liz took to the set of EastEnders on her Golden Jubilee. According to Barbara Windsor (The Vic’s legendary Land-lady), the Queen wanted to get behind the bar of the east end’s most famous pub.
‘I was a bit embarrassed when she said she wanted to go behind the bar because we hadn’t swept up and there were old bottle tops and glasses and stale beer all over the floor,’ said Babs after the visit.
Interestingly, this exhibition has garnered lots of media attention. On one occasion when I was there we had three film crews in from all over the world!
Her Maj is at The Cartoon Museum until early April.