Whether it’s down to feelings of admiration or rebellion, the Queen has inspired a multitude of songs over the course of her 70-year reign.
On 6 February 2022, Queen Elizabeth II marked seven decades as the head of the British royal family — the longest reign of any British monarch in history.
Over that time period, Elizabeth has been the focus of many pop culture phenomena, from schmaltzy biopics to musical compositions.
Next week, as Elizabeth celebrates her Platinum Jubilee with a weekend of festivities, street parties across the country will be in search of the perfect royal-themed playlist.
Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” was recently voted as the song the nation wants to sing to mark the Jubilee, with the 1969 anthem having seemingly blossomed into a beloved Brit classic during the 2020 Euros.
However, for those who aren’t so enamoured with the idea of a monarchy, there are a wealth of other songs offering alternative takes on the subject.
Here are 10 of the most controversial songs about the Queen, including tracks by the Beatles and the Sex Pistols…
The Beatles, “Her Majesty” (1969)
Featuring at the end of the 1969 Abbey Road album, “Her Majesty” is one of the few songs in countercultural pop music that portrays the Queen in a semi-positive light. The lyrics describe the Queen as a “pretty nice girl,” though add that “she doesn’t have a lot to say”. Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, said: “It was quite funny because it’s basically monarchist, with a mildly disrespectful tone, but it’s very tongue in cheek. It’s almost like a love song to the Queen.”
Sex Pistols, “God Save The Queen” (1977)
The most notorious anti-monarchy anthem of them all, “God Save The Queen” underwrote a nation’s discontent on the day of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Performing with a backdrop of Union Jack flags and images of the Queen with her eyes and mouth drawn over, the Sex Pistols crafted a song of rebellion with lyrics such as: “God save the Queen / She ain’t no human being.”
Leon Rosselson, “On Her Silver Jubilee” (1979)
Singer-songwriter Leon Rosselson may not have taken the music charts by storm with the satirical folk song “On Her Silver Jubilee”, but it endures as an amusingly sardonic take on the polarising royal institution. “Though she’s royally rewarded for the things she doesn’t do / With palaces and properties and to keep her in good cheer / Her working wage of one point seven million pounds a year,” sings Rosselson, who released the song when the Queen had been on the throne for more than 25 years.
The Exploited, “Royalty” (1981)
From the album Punks Not Dead, this track is a monarchy-bashing number in true punk style. More critical than the Beatles’ “Her Majesty”, the lyrics are followed by a chaotic string of laughs and screams. When lead singer Wattie Buchan sang the lyrics “Show me a picture of the Queen now/ Dirty little b****, f***ing little cow,” it was clear the Edinburgh band weren’t afraid to speak their minds.
The Smiths, “The Queen Is Dead” (1986)
Utilising Morrisey’s biting lyrics and remorselessly cynical point of view, “The Queen is Dead” is a poetic fantasy imagining the death of the royals. Morrisey’s voice narrates a figure breaking into Buckingham Palace “with a sponge and a rusty spanner”. Later, the lyric “The Queen is dead, boys / And it’s so lonely on a limb,” depicts a different reality where power is taken from the royals.
The Stone Roses, “Elizabeth My Dear” (1989)
This one-minute interlude on The Stone Roses’ eponymous debut LP is based on the tune of the traditional nursery rhyme “Scarborough Fair”. The lyrics “Tear me apart and boil my bones/ I’ll not rest till she’s lost her throne/ My aim is true/ My message is clear/ It’s curtains for you Elizabeth my dear,” presents a violent fantasy about overthrowing the monarchy. There’s even a gunshot at the end of the song – if the lyrics weren’t clear enough.
The Pet Shop Boys, “Dreaming of the Queen” (1993)
In “Dreaming of the Queen”, Neil Francis Tennant sets the scene of having tea with the Queen and “Lady Di”. The band paid tribute to the late Princess Diana by performing the song on their Fundamental Tour in 2006, backlit by projections of her funeral hearse on the stage. But the refrain of the chorus (“So there are no more lovers left alive”) is said to be a commentary on the Aids crisis and its effect on the gay community. Though there are many meanings for the song, the Queen is the centre of the narrative.
Manic Street Preachers, “Repeat (Stars And Stripes)” (1992)
This chant-like track is not exactly opaque in its meaning. The lyrics, “I’ve seen this happen before / This is a message from occupied England,” are followed by a cutting refrain: “Repeat after me, f*** queen and country”. The Manics’ damning assessment of the monarchy and its power in one fell swoop.
Frank Turner, “Long Live the Queen” (2008)
“Long Live the Queen” was released as a benefit single for the Breast Cancer Campaign, in honour of a close friend of Turner’s who passed away from the disease. The song’s lyrics, “You’ll live to dance another day / It’s just now you’ll have to dance for the two of us / So stop looking so damn depressed / And sing with all your heart that the Queen is dead”, are based on what his dying friend told him.
Cheat Codes, “Queen Elizabeth” (2016)
A surprising song released by the American electronic trio Cheat Codes, “Queen Elizabeth” is another love song dedicated to “the girl next door” Elizabeth. The lyrics “Oh, Queen Elizabeth, You’re the one that I wanna be with,” pine for the Queen in a tale of unrequited love. The prospect of being married to the Queen is sold pretty nicely too; “When I’m with her, then I feel like a king.” Nevertheless, the house-inflected pop track has a catchy chorus: “I will go down on my knees, down on my knees.”