Helen Mirren reveals how she ‘embarrassed’ herself during tea with the Queen

Helen Mirren
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Drinking tea with the Queen isn’t an everyday occurrence, but Helen Mirren had the opportunity to do just that. However, she admitted she had a “lesson in embarrassment” after forgetting royal protocol.

Dame Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her portrayal as Queen Elizabeth II in the 2007 film The Queen, but she found it very hard to keep her cool during an intimate tea with Her Majesty and Prince Philip.

Speaking at an event in New York, called Helen Mirren and Hawk Koch Discuss The Magic of Movies, she opened up about her awkward experience when sitting down for tea with the royals.

Dame Helen revealed that she forgot how to address the Duke of Edinburgh, after wanting to ask him to pass her the milk.

Explaining the scenario, she said, “She invited me for tea. I thought it was going to be in a room with 200 other people, which it often is. I’ve met her once before and it was in a room with 200 other people.

“So I said, ‘Oh well I can manage that.’ So it was at the horsey place and the message came to me that the Queen would like to invite you to tea, she knows you’re here.”

But the actress was very shocked to find out she was only one of eight guests invited to Buckingham Palace, making it a very intimate occasion.

Helen Mirren

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“So I walk in, and there’s like eight people sitting around a table. Prince Philip, the Queen, a Sheik of somewhere or other, and a couple of horsey people. I know absolutely nothing about horses, at all, and the Queen knows everything about horses.”

Helen found it difficult to contribute to the conversation, as she didn’t know anything about horses and she ended up “desperately trying to make polite conversation”.

She continued, “Then I got a cup of tea and the Queen, in particular, was having a very intense conversation about what’s in the sandwiches with Prince Philip, very important. ‘What is this? What’s in here?'”

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Helen Mirren

Helen then revealed her protocol struggling, saying, “The milk is on the other side of Prince Philip and I want some milk in my tea, but my brain goes completely dead and I cannot remember how to address Prince Philip.

“I mean, is it sir? Is it your majesty? Is it your highness? Is it rude to ask him to pass the milk? Or should I just ask for a lackey?”

Eventually Helen Mirren decided to not have any milk at all, and instead drank her tea black. She added, “I finished up not having any milk. I just couldn’t sort it out.”

However, she described the whole experience as a “lesson in embarrassment”, adding that the Queen and Prince Philip were “lovely” and “utterly gracious”.

We're glad she still enjoyed her visit, despite the slightly awkward moment!

Lucy Buglass is a Digital Writer specialising in TV, film and lifestyle content and has written for What's On TV, GoodtoKnow and Whattowatch.com. She's passionate about entertainment and spends most of her free time watching Netflix series, BBC dramas, or going to the cinema to catch the latest film releases. In her spare time, she writes film and television reviews for JumpCut Online and her own blog, Lucy Goes To Hollywood.