Queen Elizabeth's virtuoso performance as the "Bond girl" star of the Olympic opening ceremony crowns a majestic 15-year special operation that has recast the monarch as the people's champion of a cool Britannia.
Escorted by James Bond, played by actor Daniel Craig, in a helicopter gliding over a cheering London, the 86-year-old queen was shown apparently leaping out with a Union Jack parachute for an Olympic arrival to trump all others.
The debut film role for the second-longest-serving monarch in British history marks the pinnacle of years of subtle change that has opened up the once painfully solemn royal family since the 1997 death of Princess Diana.
"There was a lightness of touch about what the queen did at the Olympics - it was absolutely right," said Simon Lewis, who as the queen's Communications Secretary from 1998 to 2000 helped to polish the monarch's reputation after the death of Diana.
"It was perfectly judged and completely fitting for the occasion," Lewis told Reuters. "The monarchy in 2012 is the product of a great deal of careful thinking over a long time and some quite sensible, small steps along the way."
Polls show the sovereign remains enormously popular among English, Scots, Welsh and Irish who turned out in their millions in June for a Diamond Jubilee party that celebrated 60 years of service spanning a dozen premiers from Winston Churchill to David Cameron.
Dignified and serene, and now with just a glint of mischievous humour, it is the queen herself who has directed the makeover for a Britain grappling with long-term decline and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
"The queen was the star of the show - she was bloody wonderful," said a Scottish soldier serving at the Olympics who only gave his name as Jimi because he was not authorised by his superiors to speak to the media.
"She was the best bit," he said. "I think it shows the people another side to her. I think the people love her but since the Jubilee and after this a lot of people see just what a wonderful queen she is."
The queen's playful Olympic opening shows just how far the rebranding of Britain's royal family has progressed.
For a great-grandmother born in 1926 -- when Calvin Coolidge was U.S. president and Josef Stalin leader of the Soviet Union -- to star alongside Ian Fleming's gambling, fast-life fictional spy with a 'license to kill' would have been unthinkable when her father, George VI, opened the last London Games in 1948.
Then, George VI wore formal military uniform to open the Games, in contrast to Elizabeth's peach cocktail dress alongside the very modern London cut of Craig's tuxedo as Bond.
"I can't imagine any previous king or queen taking part in anything like that, nor could I imagine the queen doing it when she first came to the throne," Lady Antonia Fraser told BBC radio.
"One saw a new aspect of the queen," she said.
Greeted with cheers and standing applause from 60,000 people, and then a sign-language rendition of God Save the Queen by children, the queen showed little emotion after what has surely been one of her most successful years.
"The routine, in which 'Her Maj' parachuted into the stadium from a chopper, was a tribute to the great British sense of humour. And that of our monarch," the Sun newspaper said in an editorial. "Good on you, Ma'am,"
The jump was performed by a stunt double.
Marred only by the recent illness of her 91-year-old husband, Prince Philip, it has not always been this good for Elizabeth II.
She described the 40th anniversary of her accession as an "annus horribilis" after three of her four children's marriages failed and there was a fire at Windsor Castle.