Review of Elizabeth, Elizabeth 1 with Helen Mirren, and Elizabeth the Golden Age

by Lori Coon

These three films view the life of Queen Elizabeth at three different times The film Elizabeth depicts her life in the year of 1554. Elizabeth the Golden Age shows the year of 1585 and Elizabeth 1- with Helen Mirren (HBO films) was from the period of 1579-1589. Although the time frames are different in these films, there are many similarities.

The thing that all three films have in common is that Queen Elizabeth is Queen. There is war on the horizon with Spain and there is conflict between the Catholic and Protestant faith. This conflict is of such magnitude that it causes nations to rise against each other, each believing in their religion and cause enough to endure torture, reproach and even death if need be to prove their loyalty. Many risked everything for their country and their God.

In the film Elizabeth, Queen Mary who is Elizabeth’s half sister is reigning on the throne. Elizabeth becomes Queen at Mary’s death bringing in the revival of the Protestant faith in England. Elizabeth is in love with her youthful sweetheart, who becomes part of her council when she becomes Queen. This film shows Queen Elizabeth In a sexual relationship with the Earl of Leicester. It doesn’t project her as a Virgin Queen, although she is named that in the title. Leicester has an affair with one of the maids of Queen Elizabeth and also commits treason. The Queen allows him to live so that she can be reminded of how close she came to danger. Sir William (Lord Burleigh), and Sir Francis are part of the Queen’s council advising her on the affairs of her country and the need for her to marry and produce an heir.

The Queen suffers great distress upon the death of Mary Stuart. She made it well known that she did not agree with having to participate in such an act against royalty.This film indicates that England will fight a war with Spain. It concludes with Queen Elizabeth’s assurance in believing that she is married to England and her people are her children.

In the film Elizabeth The Golden Age, Spain is a powerful empire. Philip of Spain is waging a holy war and England is standing against him. Queen Elizabeth is the Protestant Queen. The Catholics are taking orders from Spain and trying to assassinate the Queen. Lord Chamberlain and Sir Francis are her closest councilmen. The council wishes the Queen to marry and leave and heir. In this film there is an adventurer , Sir. Walter Raleigh, whom the Queen favors. This man makes love to Queen Elizabeth’s maid, Bess. Now Bess is with child. The Queen sentences them to jail and exile from the palace. The Queen has Mary Stuart beheaded. Mary is portrayed as being cunning and crafty and participating in the attempt to assassinate the Queen. The Queen shows remorse in Mary’s death but it is not of the intensity that is portrayed in “Elizabeth”. The Queen sets all prisoners free and England goes to war with Spain. The ships of Spain attempt to sail into England and England defeats them on the water. The conclusion has a contented Queen blessing the child of her maid Bess, and the "pirate," Sir Walter Raleigh.

The film Elizabeth 1- with Helen Mirren was staged in 1579-1589 in Whitehall Palace (London). Elizabeth has refused to marry. There is a dangerous war for those competing to succeed her. Spain leads the Catholics. This film recognizes the Earl of Leicester as the Queen’s long time friend and lover. He impregnates the widow of the Earl of Essex and the Queen is heart broken. She agrees to marry the king of France to protect the throne. There is jealousy between the Earl of Leicester and the king of France; eventually the Queen calls off the marriage. The Earl of Leicester remains her entrusted friend until he dies of natural causes. The Queen Elizabeth falls in love with his step son, the duke of Essex.

This handsome young man, Robin, is arrogant and flirts with the Queen’s maids and commits treason. The Queen has him beheaded. Lord Burleigh’s son becomes her headcouncil after his death and the death of Sir. Francis. She calls him a pigmy because of his stature. This shows the Queen in the most distressed state due to all the acts of cruelty and betrayal that has been committed against her and that she has committed. The film ends with the Queen refusing to eat for three weeks. She stands at a window and mourns. When she finally decides to lie down on her bed, she dies.

The costumes for this time period were beautiful and elegant. The Queen’s clothes were extravagant. The peasants and council members were dressed accordingly.The weapons were the same in each of the films, axes, revolvers, swords, cannons.

I felt as if each film shared the primary goal of portraying a beautiful, strong Queen. She had feelings but disciplined those feelings. In each of the films, Queen Elizabeth is shown as loving to dance. I believe that, as anyone in leadership can be, she was sometimes misunderstood and lonely. I think it would be hard to know if someone was really interested in you for who you were as a person or for what you could do for them as a Queen. In all three films, the men in her life who were special to her always seemed to betray her with the ladies of her court. Queen Elizabeth believed in a cause. Her priority was the protection and the safety of England and its Protestant faith.

She sacrificed her need of and desire for love, possibly children, and her peace of mind so that her kingdom could possess peace. After watching these films I probably know more about the history of England and Queen Elizabeth than I ever knew before. I was not aware that Queen Mary who preceded Queen Elizabeth was her half sister, that they had the same father, Henry VIII, who had Elizabeth’s mother killed. I must say that these films are not the kind I typically choose to watch. Each film producer had different views of the men in Queen Elizabeth’s life and possibly highlighted different individuals for her court and some of the minor characters or actors used may not have even beenreal individuals during that time, but I think that the theme of what that time period was all about was made clear. It was all strongly influenced by religion and what side you stood for. That was made very clear in each film.