Elizabeth: the Golden Age (2007)




Director:     Shekhar Kapur. 

Starring:     Jordi Moll(King Philip ll of Spain),  Aimee King (Infanta),  Cate Blanchett (Queen Elizabeth I),  Laurence Fox (Sir Christopher Hatton),  John Shrapnel (Lord Howard),  Geoffrey Rush (Sir Francis Walsingham),  Susan Lynch (Annette),  Elise McCave (Laundry Woman),  Samantha Morton (Mary Stuart),  Abbie Cornish (Bess Throckmorton),  Penelope McGhie (Margaret),  Rhys Ifans (Robert Reston),  Eddie Redmayne (Thomas Babington),  Stuart McLoughlin (Savage),  Clive Owen (Sir Walter Raleigh),  Adrian Scarborough (Calley),  Robert Styles (Palace Doorkeeper),  William Houston (Don Guerau De Spes),  Coral Beed (First Court Lady),  Rosalind Halstead (Second Court Lady),  Steven Loton (Manteo),  Martin Baron (Wanchese),  David Armand (Walsingham's Agent),  Steven Robertson (Francis Throckmorton),  Jeremy Barker (Ramsey),  George Innes (Burton),  Adam Godley (William Walsingham),  Kirstin Smith (Mary Walsingham),  Kelly Hunter (Ursula Walsingham),  Christian Brassington (Archduke Charles),  Robert Cambrinus (Count Georg von Helfenstein),  Tom Hollander (Sir Amyas Paulet). 

Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh and the Spanish Armada;  starring Cate Blanchett


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

1585.  Spain is the most powerful empire in the world.  Philip of Spain, a devout Catholic, has plunged Europe into a Holy War.  Only England stands against him.  England is ruled by a Protestant Queen.

Philip tells his young daughter Isabella that the time has come for the great adventure.  England is in the hands of the devil. 

Lord Howard tells Queen Elizabeth not to go among the people.  She will be murdered.  Every Catholic in England is a potential assassin and the Catholics take their orders from Spain.  Moreover, the Catholic Mary Stuart is Queen of England in waiting. 

Fotheringhay Castle.  Mary Queen of Scot's prison.  She receives a smuggled note.

On a barge on the Thames River, Francis Walsingham tells Elizabeth:  Your bishops preach that God is displeased because you are still not married (and perhaps infertile).  Marty Stuart has a son.  When Elizabeth gets Walsingham alone, she scolds him for speaking in public about private matters. 

The economic situation is bleak.  There is no money to build defenses. 

Philip plans to build the largest fleet ever built.  He refers to Elizabeth as a whore.  He sends an agent, Jesuit Robert Reston, to England to assassinate the Queen. 

Elizabeth and her court are walking between buildings.  A sea captain by the name of Walter Raleigh takes off his cape and lays it before the Queen saying that there is a puddle in the way.  After stepping on the cape Elizabeth laughs to herself:  "A puddle?" 

Elizabeth is looking for a suitable man to marry perhaps.  She sees the Spanish ambassador to talk about his candidate.  Next comes King Erik of Sweden, who is very young.  He claims that he is madly in love with Elizabeth.  The Russians suggest Ivan the Terrible as a husband.  Then there is Archduke Charles of Austria, younger brother to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, and very wealthy.   The man is also the cousin of Philip of Spain.  Elizabeth says:  "Send for him."  Walter Raleigh makes an appearance.  The Spanish ambassador objects to the Queen that he's a pirate of Spanish ships.  Raleigh explains that he is just back from the New World.  He has named the land he found Virginia, in honor of England's Virgin Queen.  He wants to found a colony there and has brought gifts from the region.  He shows her the potato and  tobacco.  Then he shows her a chest full of gold coins.  The Spanish ambassador says it is gold off a Spanish ship.  He is so disgusted that he and his aides leave. 

Catholic conspirator Thomas Babington shouts at a captured man:  "You traitor!"  You're Walsingham's pawn!"  He sticks a knife into the man's throat.  Then Reston shoots the man in the head with his pistol.  Some in the conspiracy want to act immediately against the Protestant establishment, but Reston tells them to wait for their orders. 

William visits his brother.  They have a meal together. 

Elizabeth complains of the increase of lines on her face to her lady-in-waiting Bess (Elizabeth Throckmorton). 

At a dinner Erik of Sweden keeps talking and talking in praise of Elizabeth.  (And this is not easy since his English is so minimal.)  Later Elizabeth speaks of Raleigh, saying:  "I suspect him of being a professional charmer."  He comes to see Elizabeth and talks to her of his sea adventures.  Elizabeth is enchanted by the tales and is almost envious.  She entertains fantasies of going to the New World and having grand adventures.  She tells Raleigh that she likes him and Raleigh says that he likes her.  He speaks to her of a pleasure she has not enjoyed:  being liked just for herself.  She tells Raleigh:  "Now you grow dull." 

At night Elizabeth tries out the tobacco.  She laughs at the experience.  The next day she goes out horse riding with Raleigh.  Many of her court wait for her looking very serious. 

Reston says to his men that Mary Stuart is the heart and soul of their enterprise.  He sends her another note saying they await her orders. 

Taking her bath, Elizabeth wonders if what Raleigh said is true.  Is she liked just for herself or her position? 

Bess's cousin Francis writes her a note.  She pays him a visit.  Francis tells her that he needs her help.  His father doesn't want to hide anymore.  They both want to get back in favor with the court.  Bess says that is impossible.  They are Papists.  Francis says they will embrace the new faith.  Bess is doubtful.  Francis pleads:  "Why can't you help us?  They will kill us."

Elizabeth and Raleigh are together.  She wants him to stay in England a little longer.

Walsingham's agent takes Francis and his father prisoner.  He has them tortured.  Francis tells Walsingham:  "You cannot save England now.  The 'enterprise' has begun." 

When Elizabeth sees the Spanish ambassador she asks him about the "enterprise".  She knows it involves two armies landing on the coasts of Sussex and Norfolk and placing Mary Stuart on the throne after she (Elizabeth) is assassinated.  Elizabeth becomes very agitated and screams:  "Go back to Spain!" 

Back in Spain, the Spanish ambassador tells Philip that Elizabeth knows of the enterprise.  Philip says they will attack as soon as possible. The fleet must be ready to sail in a month. 

Elizabeth goes to see Dr. Dee, a fortune-teller of sorts.  She asks about her future.  He tells her that he sees fear in her that he has never seen before:  "Something has weakened you." 

Bess visits Raleigh on board his ship.  She tells him that the Queen wishes to see him.  He visits Elizabeth who tells him:  "You ask permission to go, to return to your colony for 2, 3, 4 years.  That is a long time."  She insists that he is needed in England.  Elizabeth will make him captain of her guard.  She then tells him to kneel before her.  Elizabeth knights him.  He is now Sir Walter Raleigh.  Raleigh tells her:  "This is too great an honor."  The talk turns to her and she admits that she is a vain and foolish woman.  She is also envious of Raleigh.  He has real adventures.  She says:  "I'd follow you there if I could."  But the storm clouds are gathering here in England.  He is needed.  He cannot leave England. 

Reston prays.  Francis is hanged for being a traitor.

Raleigh visits Bess.  He knows that her cousin Francis has been hanged.  Bess is upset, she says, because she did not help him.  Raleigh tells her not to be so hard on herself:  "We are all human, Bess.  We do what we can."  They kiss.

Mary Stuart's jailer Paulet tells the Queen of Scots that her washerwoman was caught carrying letters in her washing.  Mary gets mad and asks if she is to have no privacy at all.  That's right, says Paulet in essence. 

Raleigh starts taking Bess's blouse off.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth looks at herself naked in a mirror (the audience only sees her back).  Raleigh and Bess make love.  Elizabeth is still looking at herself in the mirror.

Elizabeth has Bess dance with Raleigh while she watches.  Raleigh protests that he doesn't know the steps.  Elizabeth instructs him briefly.  He is so reluctant that Elizabeth has to say:  "I am to be obeyed."    While they dance, Walsingham  approaches the Queen.  She tells him:  "Leave us.  I want both of them left alone." 

Mary Stuart gets another note.  She says she must reply immediately.  She gives her o.k. for the start of the project. 

Brother William comes to assassinate Walsingham.  Walsingham confronts his brother.  He calls him a traitor.  Then he says that he has failed William.  He asks:  "Did you imagine I didn't know?"  He takes the knife from William. 

Potential assassins hover around Elizabeth and her aides as she and her retinue walk between buildings.  She goes into a chapel to pray.  The assassins try to rush into the chapel.  One is tackled.  But Babington gets in.  He points his pistol at Elizabeth and shouts:  "Elizabeth!  You whore!"  She slowly turns her head to look at him.  He freezes.  She gets up and slowly walks toward him.  As she comes closer and closer he pulls the trigger of his weapon.  Nothing happens.  (We learn a little later that the weapon was not loaded for unknown reasons.)  

Paulet comes to Mary Stuart with the news.  The Queen has been attacked; the assassins seized; "and you ma'am are to be tried for treason."  Mary tries to play completely innocent, but Paulet says that Walsingham has every letter she has ever written from the castle.  Mary shouts at him:  "Traitors!" 

Walsingham looks in on his brother.  He wants to know why the gun was not loaded.  Walsingham asks for William's help.  He asks what was the Jesuit to do.  William says that he does not know.  Walsingham gives up.  He tells his brother he will be taken to France and released.  And he never wants to hear of him (William) again. 

Bess goes to Raleigh.  She is concerned about the Queen.  She is very down.  Bess tells Raleigh that the Queen needs him.  She urges him to go help her. Raleigh goes to her.  She is crying.  They talk about love.  Elizabeth agrees with Raleigh that we do have a chance of love.  But she adds:  "I have given to England my life.  Must she also have my soul?" 

Walsingham insists to the Queen that the traitor Mary Stuart must die.  He says there is no time for mercy.  But Elizabeth does not want to kill her cousin.  Walsingham presses her, she keeps resisting. 

In Spain Philip learns that Elizabeth has letters in Mary Stuart's own hand.  Philip asks his little daughter how would she like to be Queen of England. 

Paulet tells Mary that she will be executed at 8 o'clock tomorrow morning. 

On the day of the execution, Elizabeth is extremely nervous and upset.  She keeps saying:  "It must be stopped.  I want it stopped."  Mary puts her head on the chopping block.  She forgives the executioner.  Elizabeth falls in front of Sir Walter Raleigh.  Mary's head is lopped off. 

In Spain Philip cries out:  "I call the legions of Christ to war! . . . She will pay with her country, her throne, her life."

Walsingham asks forgiveness from Elizabeth.  He says he failed her.  How so?  Because Philip was looking for a justification for attacking England and executing Mary Stuart, a queen, now provides that very justification.  In Spain, Philip looks at his huge naval fleet. 

Elizabeth frets.  England is at war now.  She says her thoughts turn dark.  Will she end up dying in a Spanish prison?  She asks Raleigh about how he faces death.  Raleigh replies:  "The closer I come to death, the more I want to live, the hungrier I am for life."  She carefully asks him for a kiss.  He kisses her.  She says:  "I die."  She holds his hand and lays her head on his lap. 

Bess grabs Raleigh when she can.  She tells him she is pregnant.  But she can't marry without the permission of the Queen.  And this the Queen would not grant.  She urges Raleigh to forget her and concentrate on doing his duty. 

The Armada is headed to England with an army of 10,000 soldiers.  And on the French coast, the Spanish ally the Duke of Parm has 15,000 troops.  Elizabeth tells her cabinet of sorts that she will engage the enemy at sea before they can join their forces together.  They will also fight them at the mouth of the Thames at Tilbury.  How many troops does she have there?  3,000 is the answer.  Sir Francis Drake prepares to meet the enemy ships. 

Bess and Raleigh secretly marry.  Elizabeth shouts for Bess.  Bess comes running and Elizabeth hurriedly asks her is it true that she is with child.  Yes.  The Queen goes ballistic.  "You traitress!  . . . My bitches wear my collars!"  Walsingham comes in to try to calm Elizabeth, but she will have none of it.  She asks Bess if the child is Raleigh's.  Yes.  It is her husband's child.  The Queen screams:  "This man has seduced a ward of the Queen!  Arrest him!"  Then to Bess she says:  "Get out!  Get out!"

Elizabeth goes back to Dr. Dee.  He tells her that in a crisis some become frightened and fail to do their duty.  But others rise to the occasion and soar to new heights of glory.  Elizabeth likes that thought.  She tells Dr. Dee that he is a wise man.  Dr. Dee says that she is a very great woman. 

Elizabeth sees the beacons lighted.  The Armada has been spotted.  She starts making final preparations.  The farmers are to take up arms.  The harvest can wait.  All prisoners will be released to fight.  England is there country too.  And Raleigh is forgiven, ". . . as I too long to be forgiven."

Raleigh in on board ship headed to face the Armada.  Elizabeth learns that the enemy has been engaged and two ships are lost.  The enemy continues to advance.  A little later she learns that four more ships have been lost.  Raleigh confers with Drake, who tells him that they will attack the Spanish fleet with six fire ships.  By sailing the fire ships right into the enemy fleet they may force the ships to scatter. 

The Armada is only a day away from land.  It is suggested that Elizabeth go to safe ground.  Elizabeth is not interested in safe ground.  She puts on her battle armor.  She then rides with her generals and other officers to the coast to speak to the soldiers there.  She gives a great speech telling the men that either she will die on the battlefield with her men or celebrate victory with them.  

A very rough storm arises over England.  The Spanish fleet leader gives the command to drop anchor or they will be driven out of formation and perhaps dashed on the rocks.  The English know the wind is in their favor and they head for the enemy with the fire ships.  Raleigh helps with the preparations.  Pitch is thrown on the decks as well as gunpowder.  The cannon are loaded with cannon balls.  As they approach the Spanish fleet, Raleigh orders everyone off the ship.  (He doesn't jump into the water until he knows for sure his fire ship will hit a Spanish ship, which it does.)

The alarm goes up in the ranks of the Spanish: "Fire ships coming!"  Elizabeth receives news that five of the enemy's ships are burning.  Walsingham says:  "Not enough."  Barefoot and in her nightgown Elizabeth walks to the coast to watch.  What she sees is very encouraging.  The sky above the ships is as if it was on fire because of the great number of burning ships.  And other Spanish ships are being tossed around by the rough seas.

Philip receives the bad news.  A mighty wind has humbled us, says a priest.  Their ships are destroyed.  Their armies perished. 

Elizabeth goes to visit a dying Walsingham.  He tells her that he has served her in all things and she says she knows.  She tells him:  "You rest here, old friend." 

Elizabeth speaks with Raleigh.  She says Bess has a son and that Raleigh must be proud.  Raleigh says:  "Very."  Is he still dreaming of that shining city in the New World?  "Always," says Raleigh.  Elizabeth says  to Bess that she would like to give her son her blessings.  Bess says:  "I would be honored."

Elizabeth, in a pensive mood, says that she is the Virgin Queen.  Still unmarried.  "I am mother to my people." 

Philip died ten years later leaving Spain bankrupt. 

England entered a time of peace and prosperity. 


Good movie.  Kept our interest throughout.  Interesting story about Raleigh.  He seems a man a bit too sure of himself.  Several times he forgets his place and talks too bluntly to the Queen.  In crises some people rise to the occasion and that was certainly true of Elizabeth.  And this in spite of the fact that she was very fearful of the coming fight with the Spanish Armada, even thinking about living her last days in a Spanish prison.  And perhaps even greater, she had the character to forgive those that other royals might have "royally" punished.  Cate Blanchett was marvelous as always.   Geoffrey Rush was also very good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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