Queen's "Bond girl" stunt crowns majestic rebrand

Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:17am EDT
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By Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Casciato

LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth's virtuoso performance as the "Bond girl" star of the Olympic opening ceremony crowns a majestic 15-year special operation that has recast the monarch as the people's champion of a cool Britannia.

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.

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 told Reuters. "The monarchy in 2012 is the product of a great deal of careful thinking over a long time and some quite sensible, small steps along the way."

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 humor, 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 because he was not authorized by his superiors to speak to the media.   Continued...

Actors portraying the Queen and James Bond arrive via parachute after jumping from a helicopter during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012. REUTERS/Murad Sezer