Queen Elizabeth makes Helen Mirren a Dame - HISTORY
Year
2003

Queen Elizabeth makes Helen Mirren a Dame

On this day in 2003, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II publishes the list of those she has chosen to appoint as Officers of the Order of the British Empire as part of the traditional Queen’s Birthday Honours. Included on the list were (among others) the soccer star David Beckham, the musician Sting, the actor Roger Moore of James Bond fame and the actress Helen Mirren. An acclaimed veteran of the London stage, Mirren had earned numerous awards for her starring role in the British television series Prime Suspect and would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Actress several years later for her portrayal of none other than Elizabeth II, in Stephen Frears’ film The Queen (2006).

Born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff in 1945, Mirren began her acting career with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the latter half of the 1960s. From her very first film appearance (playing the young muse to a middle-aged artist in 1969’s Age of Consent), Mirren displayed the overtly sensual screen persona that would become her trademark. Other early movies included O Lucky Man! (1973); the sexually explicit, critically derided Caligula (1979), which was co-produced by Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione Jr. and featured a full roster of preeminent British actors; Excalibur (1981) and the science-fiction film 2010 (1984). Mirren met her future husband, Taylor Hackford, when he directed her in 1985’s White Nights; after a relationship of 11 years, they married in 1997.

Mirren’s stage career flourished throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress for 1995’s A Month in the Country on Broadway. She also continued acting in films, earning notice for her performances in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) and The Madness of King George (1994). It was on television where Mirren made the biggest impact, however, playing the no-nonsense police detective Jane Tennison on Prime Suspect for a total of seven seasons from 1991 to 2006. She won numerous honors for the role, including Emmy and BAFTA awards.

Among the actresses of her generation, Mirren had become known for her comfort with nudity. To commemorate her 50th birthday, she posed naked on the cover of Britain’s Radio World. She continued to reveal herself on-screen as well, in the comedy Calendar Girls and the TV drama The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (both 2003). In some of her most acclaimed later film roles, however, Mirren played characters who were decidedly more inhibited, notably in 2001’s Gosford Park (for which she earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress) and 2006’s The Queen. The latter film garnered Mirren the best reviews of her career, and won her the Oscar for Best Actress. She earned an Emmy Award that same year for her portrayal of another British queen in the HBO miniseries Elizabeth I.

The famously liberal Mirren had previously rejected a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) distinction in 1996, when the conservative Tory Party had been in power. After accepting her DBE (Dame of the British Empire) honor in 2003, Mirren told the press: “The whole concept of aristocracy I loathe. I gave myself a week to think about whether or not to accept the honour. I talked to people in my industry and they were unanimous, they said you’ve got to do it. It was surprising to me, slightly, because I thought of myself as the naughty one.”

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Grenfell Tower fire ills 71 in London

Shortly before 1:00 A.M. On June 14, 2017, a fire tore through West London’s 24-story Grenfell tower. 71 people were killed in what was the deadliest fire in Britain in more than a century.The fire started in a Hotpoint brand fridge-freezer in a fourth floor apartment. The flames ...read more

Falkland Islands War ends

After suffering through six weeks of military defeats against Britain’s armed forces, Argentina surrenders to Great Britain, ending the Falkland Islands War.The Falkland Islands, located about 300 miles off the southern tip of Argentina, had long been claimed by the British. ...read more

UNIVAC computer dedicated

On June 14, 1951, the U.S. Census Bureau dedicates UNIVAC, the world’s first commercially produced electronic digital computer. UNIVAC, which stood for Universal Automatic Computer, was developed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, makers of ENIAC, the first general-purpose ...read more

Bounty mutiny survivors reach Timor

English Captain William Bligh and 18 others, cast adrift from the HMS Bounty seven weeks before, reach Timor in the East Indies after traveling nearly 4,000 miles in a small, open boat.On April 28, Fletcher Christian, the master’s mate on the Bounty, led a successful mutiny ...read more

Congress adopts the Stars and Stripes

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress adopts a resolution stating that “the flag of the United States be thirteen alternate stripes red and white” and that “the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” The national ...read more

Germans enter Paris

On this day in 1940, Parisians awaken to the sound of a German-accented voice announcing via loudspeakers that a curfew was being imposed for 8 p.m. that evening-as German troops enter and occupy Paris.British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had tried for days to convince the ...read more

U.S. command announces troop withdrawal

The U.S. command announces that three combat units will be withdrawn from Vietnam. They were the 1st and 2nd Brigades of the U.S. Army 9th Infantry Division and Regimental Landing Team 9 of the 3rd Marine Division–a total of about 13,000 to 14,000 men. These troops were part of ...read more

Jordan leads Bulls to sixth NBA title

On June 14, 1998, Michael Jordan leads the Chicago Bulls to an 87-86 win over the Utah Jazz in Game Six of the NBA Finals to clinch their third consecutive NBA title. Jordan scored 45 points and hit the winning jump shot with 5.2 seconds left on the clock in what seemed a fitting ...read more

California’s Bear Flag revolt begins

Anticipating the outbreak of war with Mexico, American settlers in California rebel against the Mexican government and proclaim the short-lived California Republic.The political situation in California was tense in 1846. Though nominally controlled by Mexico, California was home ...read more

Folk singer Burl Ives is born

Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives, a prominent folk singer and Academy Award-winning actor, is born on this day in 1909 near Hunt City, Illinois.To almost anyone born in the 1950s or later, the singer Burl Ives is best known for his voiceover work as the jovial Sam the Snowman in the ...read more

Harriet Beecher Stowe is born

Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is born on this day in Litchfield, Connecticut, the seventh child of Congregationalist minister Lyman Beecher.Stowe studied at private schools in Connecticut and worked as a teacher in Hartford for five years until her father ...read more

Flash flood devastates Oregon town

A flash flood in Oregon kills 324 people on this day in 1903. The sudden onslaught of water caused millions of dollars in damages to the central Oregon town of Heppner. Nearly a tenth of the United States is made up of floodplains that would normally be inundated with water at ...read more

TWA flight 847 is hijacked by terrorists

TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome is hijacked by Shiite Hezbollah terrorists who immediately demand to know the identity of ”those with Jewish-sounding names.” Two of the Lebanese terrorists, armed with grenades and a 9-mm. pistol, then forced the plane to landin Beirut, ...read more

First nationwide civil defense drill held

Over 12 million Americans “die” in a mock nuclear attack, as the United States goes through its first nationwide civil defense drill. Though American officials were satisfied with the results of the drill, the event stood as a stark reminder that the United States—and the ...read more