Queen’s night-time habit brought to life by Helen Mirren - and it reflects her life-long passion

The Queen’s night-time habit from childhood was reportedly incorporated into Helen Mirren’s performance as the monarch back in 2006…

 Queen Elizabeth II attends day three, Ladies Day, of Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse on June 20, 2019
(Image credit: Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

The Queen’s night-time habit in childhood might be rather unusual but it was brought to life on screen by Dame Helen Mirren and reflects her life-long passion.  


The extended Royal Family are known for their traditions, some of them quite unusual, like the Queen’s bizarre sandwich rule. And it seems that some of Her Majesty’s patterns of behavior in childhood have made their way onto the silver screen. Opening up to Harper’s Bazaar (opens in new tab) about the monarch ahead of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022 celebrations, Helen revealed that she read the book written by the Queen’s former nanny, Marion Crawford, or “Crawfie” as she was known. 

It was while making her way through the book that the award-winning actor learnt about the Queen’s night-time habit from childhood.

“The Queen always loved horses, and she had these little toy horses, and Crawfie said she would get up in the middle of the night and arrange them very neatly, so they were all in a row,” Helen told the publication.

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret with Lady Helen Graham and Miss Marion Crawford ('Crawfie'- Princess Elizabeth's governess) after their first ride on the Underground

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret with Lady Helen Graham and Miss Marion Crawford after their first ride on the Underground.

(Image credit: Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

She continued, “She said sometimes in the night she’d get up and check that they were still neatly arranged, that their little feet were still in a straight line.”

Upon learning this, Helen couldn’t help but incorporate a version of this orderly behavior into her performance after landing the highly prestigious role of the monarch in the 2006 film, The Queen. 

The historical drama that focused on the tragic death of Princess Diana and the royals’ response and included Michael Sheen as then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Queen and Dame Helen Mirren

(Image credit: Future// Image 1: Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images // Image 2: Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for WarnerMedia )

“And there was a moment [in The Queen] when she’s on the phone to Tony Blair and she’s got some pens, and I said: ‘I want a shot of her arranging these pens very neatly, equally distanced and exactly lined up’,” Helen explained.

“And it was a tiny detail that the audience will never really know, but you know, and when as a character you walk onto the set, you feel: ‘This is where I live, this is mine'," she added. 

Though as Helen admitted, this was a “tiny detail” in the wider movie, it’s a lovely way of reflecting the Queen’s habit from her early years. And while it’s unknown whether Her Majesty still owns toy horses, she reportedly now owns more than a hundred real life ponies and horses, according to The Telegraph (opens in new tab)

Queen Elizabeth II attends Windsor Horse Show on May 12, 2011 in Windsor

(Image credit: Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Just last month the Queen was spotted being driven to check up on her horses at Sandringham and she beamed with joy at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on its second day on May 13th. 

Her Majesty's life-long love of horses were also celebrated on the final day when over 500 of them were involved in the A Gallop Through History performance in honor of the Platinum Jubilee.

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.