This occurred in front of a crowd of the movie world's most iconic names, including George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, Eric Fellner, David Hare, Tessa Ross, Rebecca O'Brien, Tom Hooper, Leslie Phillips, Idris Elba, Edgar Wright, Minnie Driver and many more. Her Majesty received a Bafta!
This was not for her work with Danny Boyle and Daniel Craig – it was more in the way of a lifetime achievement award, for supporting British film over the 50-year span of her reign.
Of course, many great performers do not care to receive these long-service gongs in the absence of a recognition of any specific performance. Was Her Majesty going to send a Native American woman to turn it down? Would she stay in her trailer nursing some sort of toxic A-lister strop?
Of course not. She beamed delightedly as Kenneth Branagh gave the droll presentation and told the crowd that due to her Olympic triumph the sovereign had already been sent many scripts. "Not all of them are fully funded," Sir Kenneth said, "but with Your Majesty attached, they would be bound to get funding."
The speeches over, the Queen mingled with the crowd and tested the limits of our sophisticated self-possession by engaging people in conversation, asking them what films they liked and if they had seen Les Misérables. Reportedly, Her Majesty remarked that there were so many films out there that one needed someone to "sift out" the good ones. Could this be a new royal sinecure, payable with an annual flagon of port: the Royal Critick, entrusted with a solid gold model of a thumb, to placed ceremoniously up or down on top of her weekly delivery from Lovefilm? I might be available.
Dizzyingly, other members of the royal family appeared: the Duke of York; the Countess of Wessex; and Prince Michael of Kent, who told me that the industry needed critics "to pin-prick the egos". Good to know the institution of criticism is supported in these circles.
The protocol is, of course, that one never approaches the Queen. You wait for her to approach you. You don't ask her direct questions, you use the phrase "Your Majesty". Thereafter it is "Ma'am", to rhyme with "Pam", but you mustn't get confused and call the Queen "Pam". I was actually addressed by both the Queen and the Duke Of Edinburgh but I can't remember any of the gibbering banalities I must have uttered.
But what's the protocol with Lucas? With some trepidation, in company with the Observer's Philip French and the Sight And Sound editor Nick James, I sidled up. Cheerfully, the great man received us: Lucas talked animatedly with Philip about American Graffiti for a while but it was a whimsical question from Nick that opened up a new avenue. Was Lucas a Downton Abbey fan? Was he ever! "I just watched a boxset season one with my fiancée in Bermuda," he told me, adding that Dame Maggie Smith is his favourite.
As Minnie Driver observed afterwards, there was a jittery, skittery, almost delirious Christmas morning atmosphere of excitement in the great Windsor Castle hall – the one damaged in the fire 20 years ago. Perhaps it was partly because the location reminded us all subconsciously of the Queen's speech on television. Well, the royal Bafta was certainly a high-morale moment for British film, a sugar-rush of industry satisfaction.
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