Escorted by James Bond, played by actor Daniel Craig, in a helicopter gliding over a cheering London, the 86-year-old queen was shown apparently leaping out with a Union Jack parachute for an Olympic arrival to trump all others.
Yesterday, during a tour of the Olympic Park, she told London Mayor Boris Johnson: “It all seemed to go very well last night. But I didn’t see my bit.” Boris said: “You were brilliant Ma’am.”
And the monarch replied: “It was a bit of a laugh.” The debut film role for the second-longest-serving monarch in British history marks the pinnacle of years of subtle change that has opened up the once painfully solemn royal family since the 1997 death of Princess Diana.
“There was a lightness of touch about what the Queen did at the Olympics — it was absolutely right,” said Simon Lewis, who as the Queen’s Communications Secretary from 1998 to 2000 helped to polish the monarch’s reputation after the death of Diana.
“It was perfectly judged and completely fitting for the occasion,” Lewis said. Polls show the sovereign remains enormously popular among English, Scots, Welsh and Irish who turned out in their millions in June for a Diamond Jubilee party that celebrated 60 years of service spanning a dozen premiers from Winston Churchill to David Cameron.
Dignified and serene, and now with just a glint of mischievous humour, it is the Queen herself who has directed the makeover for a Britain grappling with long-term decline and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
“The Queen was the star of the show, she was bloody wonderful,” said a Scottish soldier serving at the Olympics who only gave his name as Jimi.
“She was the best bit,” he said. “I think it shows the people another side to her. I think the people love her but since the Jubilee and after this a lot of people see just what a wonderful queen she is.”
On Saturday, Sir Paul McCartney, who performed at the ceremony, tweeted: “Didn’t realise Her Majesty was such a good parachutist!”, referring to the spoof that Queen Elizabeth jumped from a helicopter into the stadium.
Royal author and commentator Phil Dampier said the world was wowed by the Queen’s sense of humour. “In the past people have said she looks very serious, but that has always been deliberate because she feels she should not be seen laughing too much as it cheapens the position she holds,” he said.
“Her wonderful sense of humour in private was something we finally saw at the Opening Ceremony.” A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the Queen was “very happy” to perform in the Olympic film and “immensely enjoyed” the experience.
She was ‘delighted to be asked to be involved in something so exceptional,’ the spokeswoman said. Few public figures in history have ruled for six decades and while riding the crest of public appeal.
Marred only by the recent illness of her 91-year-old husband, Prince Philip, it has not always been this good for Elizabeth II.
Following the death of Princess Diana in a car crash, the ex-wife of Elizabeth’s son and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, the monarchy was cast as a hopelessly out of touch and far too old-fashioned for what was supposed to be a meritocratic Western democracy.
But if 1992 was her horrible year, 2012 could surely be her annus mirabilis, or year of wonders: Olympics, jubilee and the happy marriage of Charles’s eldest son Prince William to Kate Middleton, whose wedding was in 2011.
1 mn Number of views that the Queen’s parachute prank has got on YouTube