On Friday, the actress explained during her “Helen Mirren and Hawk Koch Discuss The Magic of Movies” event that the Queen had invited her over for tea when The Good Liar star found herself completely stumped on royal protocol.
“She invited me for tea,” Mirren, 74, began, adding that she was under the impression it would be a large gathering, but instead it was an intimate affair.
“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,” Mirren explained. “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.”
“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.”
At this point, Mirren explained she was “desperately trying to make polite conversation and it’s just coming out like gobbledygook.”
That’s when things started to get a bit awkward.
“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?’” Mirren explained.
“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?” Mirren said. “Is it rude to ask him to pass the milk? Or should I just ask for a lackey?”
After contemplating the situation in her head, Mirren opted to go without having any milk at all. “I finished up not having any milk. I just couldn’t sort it out.”
Despite the awkwardness, Mirren shared she had a great time.
“It’s a lesson in embarrassment, but they were lovely, they were utterly gracious.”
Mirren famously took on the role of Queen Elizabeth in the 2006 film The Queen, which told the story of Princess Diana‘s tragic death and the Queen’s reaction to it.
Mirren’s latest project The Good Liar is set to premiere on Nov. 15 and stars Ian McKellen.