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When Queen Elizabeth II died Thursday at age 96, she left behind a legacy not only as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, but as one of the most prestigious audience members an A-list musician could play for.
From Lady Gaga and Brian May to the Beatles, Judy Garland and Ed Sheeran, stars have long coveted the chance to play for Elizabeth, be it at public celebrations or private fêtes.
“I’ve grown up with this woman. I was 7 when she came to the throne, so she’s always been part of my life, and the fact that I’ve met her on several occasions makes it even more important for me,” Rod Stewart said in June of being asked to play this year’s Platinum Jubilee. “I’m so happy just to be a part of it, because there was a point where I thought, ‘Oh no, they don’t want me,’ and I was over the moon when I was signed on.”
Stewart, 77, went on to recall a 2007 concert at St. James’s Palace in London, in which he played for the queen and her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.
“They were sitting 10 yards away, and they looked terrified because they thought I was gonna do ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?,’ ‘Hot Legs,’ real loud music,” he said. “And I started off, ‘You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss…’ They were so relieved they beamed from ear to ear.”
Here, read more stories of music royalty’s treasured interactions with British royalty.
The “Material Girl” singer met Elizabeth in 2002, at the London premiere of the James Bond movie Die Another Day, for which she sang the title song and featured in a cameo. Their interaction was captured on video, and shows Madonna giving the monarch a curtsy as they shake hands.
After their meeting, the star broke down their interaction to Reuters: “The queen asked me about Bond. I have never met her before, but surprisingly I wasn’t nervous.”
Elizabeth was just a decade into her reign when Beatlemania took the world by storm, and in October 1965, the Fab Four gathered at Buckingham Palace to receive their MBE, or Members of the Most Honorable Order of the British Empire, from the Queen herself. Though John Lennon went on to return his MBE as a means of political protest years later, Paul McCartney was later knighted by Elizabeth in 1997, and Ringo Starr in 2018.
“She’s lovely… very friendly,” McCartney said at a 1965 press conference of meeting Elizabeth. “She said to me, ‘Have you been together long?’ And I said ‘Yes, many years.’ And Ringo said, ‘Forty years,’ and then she laughed. We all had a little laugh.”
The Beatles later immortalized the monarch in song with “Her Majesty,” a 23-second track on the seminal Abbey Road. Decades later, McCartney performed the ditty for Elizabeth as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002. The “Band on the Run” singer went on to play at several other special events, including the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the Platinum Jubilee.
“What the generation now can’t understand is that guys my age, we were like, what, 14? Very formative teenage years, and the Queen was sort of, 24 or something,” McCartney told 60 Minutes Australia in 2017. “So to us, she was a babe! There was a certain lustfulness in us teenagers for Her Majesty… So we grew up loving the Queen for various reasons. I mean now, I’ve been lucky enough to meet her. I just think she’s a great woman.”
Back in 1957, Judy Garland sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for Elizabeth and her husband Philip at the 1957 Royal Variety Performance. A photo shows a smiling Elizabeth meeting Garland at the event.
The two would go on to meet several more times over the years, and in 1972, the Queen was photographed at a London gala shaking hands with Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli, who performed for her at the London Palladium.
In a memorable red carpet appearance, Barbra Streisand exchanged a hand shake and a few words with Elizabeth at the London premiere of Funny Lady in 1975, alongside costar James Caan.
Years later, in 2018, Streisand expressed frustration with the way then-President Donald Trump treated Elizabeth during a visit to London, and even channeled her emotions into the album Walls.
“To walk ahead of Queen Elizabeth, that was shocking,” she said at the time. “She’s 92 years old. Where are his manners? That’s what I’d like to know. Where are his manners? That kind of lack of dignity — [he] does not deserve to be President of the United States.”
The “Wannabe” singers have a long history of hanging out with British royals, and have spent time with everyone from King Charles III to Princes William and Harry. But in 1997, the beloved girl group got to meet the Queen herself, at the Royal Command Performance at Victoria Palace Theatre in London
Geri Halliwell shared a throwback photo in June of the moment they met Elizabeth to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee.
“HRH , our Queen ‘s 7O years of service and inspirational leadership. ?” she captioned the post.
Lady Gaga had her royal moment in 2009, when she sang “Speechless” for Queen Elizabeth at the Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool, England. The two later shared a handshake, with the “Applause” singer dressed for the occasion in an elaborate red latex dress.
“This is when I was in England and I was meeting the Queen,” she told British Vogue in November of her outfit. And I wanted to dress like a queen in a British fashion, and I also wanted to do it in my way. But we thought that we would give this look of a queen a modern twist by making it in latex.”
Queen meets Queen! May, longtime guitarist for the band Queen, famously performed on the roof of Buckingham Palace at the Golden Jubilee in 2002 — and opened this year’s Platinum Jubilee with the classic “We Will Rock You.” In a fun twist, Elizabeth herself got involved with the performance, and was seen in a video shared by the Royal Family clinking her teacup along to the beat of the song.
“Of course, it was wonderful because our bit was preceded by the Queen herself talking to Paddington Bear and then doing the little ‘We Will Rock You’ [clink clink] on her tea cup. It was fantastic!” May reportedly said later a fan Q&A. “I asked for that. I said, ‘Would The Queen tap it’ and they wouldn’t give us an answer. And we didn’t know until the day before. They said, ‘Oh we might get somebody Royal to do it for you’… After the show, I went on YouTube and saw it and went ‘Beautiful!’ I loved it, so cool!”
Ed Sheeran first met Elizabeth in 2012, when he played his hit “The A Team” for her Diamond Jubilee. Ten years later, he performed in front of Buckingham Palace once more, singing “Perfect” as a tribute to the Queen and her late husband at the Platinum Jubilee.
Sheeran said on Instagram at the time that it was her Golden Jubilee that inspired him to become a songwriter in the first place.
“20 years ago I decided I wanted to pick up a guitar because I watched the Golden Jubilee on tv, saw Eric Clapton play Layla and said ‘that’s what I wanna do,'” he wrote on Instagram. “10 years later I played The A Team at the Diamond Jubilee, and now 10 years on I’m playing the Platinum Jubilee this Sunday. Life is weird how it keeps coming full circle in lovely ways.”