Although notorious for being independently minded rebel residents of the democratic U.S. of A., Oscar voters have always bowed to royalty with shameless reverence. Let’s take a royal tour through Academy Awards history.
“The Private Life of Henry VIII” (1933) won Best Actor for Charles Laughton in the title role.
“Cleopatra” (1934) won Best Cinematography. Joe Mankiewicz‘s bloated 1963 version won four Oscars (Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Visual Effect) and reaped a lead bid by Rex Harrison as well as a Best Picture nod.
“Romeo and Juliet” (1936) was the screen adaptation of a Shakepearean play commissioned by Elizabeth I. It secured nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (Norma Shearer), Supporting Actor (Basil Rathbone) and Art Direction.
“Conquest” (1937) landed a Best Actor nod for Charles Boyer as Emperor Napoleon Boneparte and an Art Direction nomination.
“Marie Antoinette” (1938) earned bids for Best Actress (Shearer), Supporting Actor (Robert Morley), Art Direction and Score. Sophia Coppola‘s 2006 retelling won an Oscar for Costume Design.
“Henry V” (1946) earned Laurence Olivier and honorary Oscar for his multiple efforts as actor, producer and director. He contended as Best Actor and the Best Picture nominee also picked up noms for Art Direction and Score.
“Hamlet” (1948), Shakespeare’s retelling of the Prince of Denmark, won Best Picture and Actor (Olivier) as well as Art Direction and Costume Design. It also contended for Supporting Actress (Jean Simmons), Director and Score. Oliver contended twice more for playing Shakespearean rulers: “Richard III” (1955) and “Othello” (1965).
“Joan of Arc” (1948) reaped a Best Actress bid for Ingrid Bergman in the title role and a supporting nod for Jose Ferrer as Charles VIII. It won Cinematography and Costume Design and contended for Art Direction, Editing and Score.
“Quo Vadis” (1951), set during the bloody reign of Emperor Nero, received eight nominations, including Supporting Actor bids by both Peter Ustinov and Leo Glenn as well as Art Direction and Costume Design.
“Julius Caesar” (1953) landed Marlon Brando a Best Actor nod for the title role and won Art Direction.
George Sidney‘s “Young Bess”, a 1953 film about Elizabeth I before she became Queen, received nominations for, you guessed it, Art Direction and Costume Design.
“Anastasia” (1956) won Best Actress for Bergman as an impostor to the Russain Romanoff throne and contended for Score.
“The King and I” (1956) won Best Actor for Yul Brynner as King Mongkut of Siam as well as four more awards: Art Direction, Costume Design, Score and Sound. Andy Tennant’s non-musical version in 1999 with Jodie Foster and Yun-Fat Chow received nominations for Art Direction and Costume Design.
“Becket” (1964) reaped a dozen nods, including Best Picture and dual Best Actor bids by Richard Burton in the title role and Peter O’Toole as Henry II. It won Adapted Screenplay.
“A Man for All Seasons” (1966) won Best Picture as well as Best Actor for Paul Scofield for his understated performance as Sir Thomas More, Director (Fred Zinnemann), Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design.
“Camelot”, a 1967 musical retelling of the life of King Arthur won Art Direction, Costume Design and Score.
“The Lion in Winter” (1968) won Katharine Hepburn her third Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine. O’Toole also contended again for playing Henry II.
“Anne of the Thousand Days” (1969) reaped 10 bids including Best Picture and for leads Richard Burton as the infinitely compelling Henry VIII, and Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn. It won for Costume Design.
“Cromwell” (1970), set during the ‘truncated’ reign of Charles I, won for Costume Design.
“Mary, Queen of Scots” (1971) reaped five bids including Best Actress for a miscast Vanessa Redgrave in the title role.
“Nicholas and Alexandra” (1971) recounts the last days of the ill-fated rulers of Russia and earned six nominations including Best Picture and Actress (Janet Suzman); it won for Art Direction and Costume Design.
“The Last Emperor” (1987) won nine Oscars, including Best Picture but failed to earn an acting nod for John Lone in the title role.
“The Madness of King George” (1994) landed acting nods for Nigel Hawthorne in the title role and supporting player Helen Mirren. It won Art Direction.
“Braveheart” (1995) won five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for star Mel Gibson. The film casts Edward I in a villainous role and has Princess Isabelle far older than she was at the time. Accuracy always takes a back seat to entertainment considerations.
“Mrs. Brown” (1997) earned Judi Dench her first Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a grieiving Queen Victoria. She won the supporting award the following year for her brief appearance as Elizabeth I in Best Picture champ “Shakespeare in Love.”
That same year also saw Cate Blanchett earn an Oscar nod for playing a younger version of the monarch in “Elizabeth” which reaped seven bids and won for Makeup. She reprised the role in 2007’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” landing another Best Actress nomination; the sequel won for Costume Design; I guess all those feathers were irresistible.
“The Duchess’ (2008) also won for Costume Design. Keira Knightley portrays the real-life Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, distant cousin of George III.
“The Young Victoria” (2009) also wins for Costume Design. Princess Beatrice, elder daughter of the Duke of York, has a cameo at the beginning of the film.
“The King’s Speech” (2010) won four of its 12 nominations, including Best Picture as well as Best Actor for Colin Firth as George VI, Director (b) and Original Screenplay.
In 2011, Roland Emmerich’s “Anonymous”, set in Elizabethan times and Madonna‘s “W.E,” which told the story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, both contended for Costume Design.