Elizabeth (1998)




Director:     Shekhar Kapur

Starring:     Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth I),  Geoffrey Rush (Sir Francis Walsingham),  Joseph Fiennes (Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester),  Richard Attenborough (Sir William Cecil),  Christopher Eccleston (Duke of Norfolk),  Vincent Cassel (Duc d'Anjou), Fanny Ardant (Mary of Guise),  Kathy Burke (Queen Mary Tudor),  Eric Cantona (Monsieur de Foix),  John Gielgud (The Pope),  Edward Hardwicke (Earl of Arundel).

Country:  British film

A very good film filled with plots and twists of plots that keeps one enthralled.  One difficulty, however, is keeping all the characters clear in one's mind, so read the Historical Background.




Spoiler Warning:






Henry VII:


Margaret  --  marries Jame IV, King of Scots; her granddaughter is Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587)

Henry VIII  (1491-1547) -- 6 wives

Marry  -- marries Duke of Suffolk; her granddaughter is Lady Jane Grey

Henry VIII:

Mary (1516-1558)  -- daughter with Catherine of Aragon

Elizabeth (1533-1603) -- daughter with 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn

Edward VI (1537-1553)

Elizabeth's family following her father's death:

Catherine Parr (1512?-1548)  -- her stepmother

Thomas Seymour  -- her stepfather; may have molested Elizabeth

Elizabeth's Advisers:

Thomas Parry  -- chief accounting officer

Historical Background

A History of Britain video by Simon Schama

The story of two women that saw the union of England and Scotland and the birth of Britain.

Mary Queen of Scots who haunted Elizabeth for most of her life. She was a complete disaster as a ruler, but she reproduced.

Elizabeth was vain, spiteful, arrogant, frequently unjust, and maddeningly indecisive. But she was brave, clever and sometimes wise. She was a genius politician.

When she was two years old, her mother Anne Boleyn, was executed.
Never free from suspicion, Elizabeth watched herself being watched.

1548, May   --  Elizabeth sent off to stay with Sir Anthony Denny and his wife at Cheshunt. As a teenager she was living with Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's widow. Her new husband Thomas Seymour visited her in the night.

1548, Sept  -- Catherine Parr, her stepmother, dies.  When Catherine died, word was that Seymour wanted to marry Elizabeth. Some said Elizabeth was pregnant with his child.

1549, Jan  -- Thomas Seymour arrested under orders of rival and brother, Somerset.  Elizabeth had to convince Lord Protector Somerset that she was innocent. She said they were just rumors. "These are shameful sagas. . ." She was just 14 years old.

Five years later, when her Catholic half sister Mary came to the throne, she was in deeper trouble. Elizabeth talks herself out of being charged with the treason of involvement with a Protestant plot to bring that religion back to power.

Five years later Mary dies childless.

Nov 17, 1558 - seated beneath an oak tree she said "This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes." It was a miracle that she had made it this far.

She becomes Queen of England. She had a certain precocious self-possession that made quite an impression. The councilors thought she was full of manly authority. She did all the things women weren't supposed to do: looked men in the eye and spoke out of turn. This was thanks to her tutor Roger Askim, public orator at Cambridge University. He taught her the art of public speech, that which became her strongest public weapon. She brought to the throne statecraft as stagecraft. She had the gift of the actress and adored being adored.

Her most important adviser and surrogate father Sir William Cecile knew they needed an heir. The majority of the country was still Catholic, actively or passively. Cecile constantly needed to remind her that she needed a husband. And the doctor ordered marital copulation for the good of the realm.

Cecile's rival was Robert Dudley. Everyone assumed this was the man that Elizabeth loved. He was flashy, gallant, very handsome, and an extrovert. His father had been executed for treason.

But were they lovers? Dudley had an ailing wife. It would have been fool hardy for her to sleep with Dudley. Dudley's wife Amy was found at the bottom of the staircase dead with a broken neck. Rumors were that she had been pushed.

Elizabeth sent Dudley away until he had been cleared of suspicion. They were free to marry but a cloud of suspicion still hung over the relationship. For the next several years her emotions swung back and forth for Dudley.

1573 -- Elizabeth gives up on marrying Robert t Dudley. She planned to give him up in marriage to Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.

Elizabeth is eaten up with curiosity with Mary Queen of Scots. Mary with her heart shaped face was apparently the more attractive. To Elizabeth she was a menace. Mary was the daughter of King James V and Mary of Guise. Mary was a Stuart, Elizabeth was a Tudor.

At age 18 --Mary arrives in Scotland. Mutual suspicion between the two. Elizabeth denied her safe conduct through her new realm. Mary had a certain theatrical self-pity.

Mary had not intention of marrying Robert Dudley. He was spoiled goods. Lord Henry Donlevy was the handsome poster boy of Scottish nobility He had Tudor blood also. But he was a drinker, even a drunk.  So Mary comes to rely on her private secretary, Italian David Rizzio. Many thought she was trying to turn Scotland back to Catholicism.

1566 -- a group proposes a violent coup to Donlevy.

March 7 -- the plotters burst into her chamber and stab Rizzio to death in front of her. He was stabbed 50 to 60 times.

June 19 -- at Edinburgh castle she gives birth to James VI of Scotland. Elizabeth cries when she hears the news.

Mary was filled with contempt for Darnley. She resolved to get rid of him as a husband. Earl of Bufwell thought she meant killing Darnley. Bufwell was one of the great landowners of Scotland. Mary turned to him as protector.

March 9 1567 -- Plotters plant a bomb in the house where Darnley was asleep. He heard some noise and had himself lowered on a chair to the ground below. He ran straight into the plotters who promptly throttled him to death.

Donley's murder was a turning point in her life. Death followed her from then on. She was sick vomiting black mucus. His power over Mary started to go to Bufwell's head and he announced that she needed a husband offering himself for the job. He abducts her and takes her to castle Dunbar where he, violently it was said, planted his seed in Mary. Mary married him a few weeks later at Hollyroo. She lost it at this point -- lost the whole damn shooting match.

She should have distanced herself from Bothwell, saying she was shocked at the murder of her husband. The mother let herself be turned into a whore. Now she had to face the rebel armies faithful to her murdered first husband. Bothwell disappeared on the eve of battle. It was the last she would ever see of him.

She was forcibly taken back to Edinburgh a captive, filthy and disheveled. Greeted by a mob howling abuse. She was forced to renounce the throne in favor of her son. Her Protestant half brother the Earl of Murray took charge of the baby boy and made himself regent of Scotland. Mary was only 25 years of age. She seemed done for.

But she was not finished. Jailed she seduced her jailer.

May 1568 -- she makes a get away across the Loch. She had to appeal to Elizabeth. She seeks temporary refuge in England. Her hair cropped for disguise. But it was not to be a temporary period.

Elizabeth was now 35 years of age. She was no nearer to getting married.

Mary requested royal clothes. What she got was a package of linen. Elizabeth was wearing Mary's favorite pearls stolen from her and sent to the English Queen. Mary was outraged by the indignities heaped upon her.

Elizabeth was tempted to help her. But she thought it was folly to back a Catholic heir for Scotland. Elizabeth ordered an inquiry into the murder of Lord Darnley which really turned into a trial. She was prisoner shuttled from house to house under the care of the Earl of Shrowsberry.

She was kept in the midlands. She was a maximum security headache number one, a magnet for conspiracy.

Duke of Norfolk proposed to marry Mary. Outwardly it would be a conforming marriage. When the plot was exposed, Elizabeth sent Norfolk to the Tower of London.

Catholicism had been fed on the independence of families who ran things. Mary Stuart was not just a successor but a replacement for Elizabeth. The Catholic north fought the Protestant south. The rebels swept through Northumberland and elsewhere.

12,000 troops mustered and the rebellion brutally crushed -- the last great rebellion to disturb Tudor England. Elizabeth was 20 years into her reign. She had rejected many suitors.

1570s -- the cult of Elizabeth. Her accession day was the greatest of national holidays more sacred than any of the Papist ones. Men built huge prodigy houses in her honor. Elizabethan razzle-dazzle. A bejeweled apparition like some goddess on earth. But she was frightening as well as majestic. Elizabethan glamour show.

In Europe a war between Catholics and Protestants was about to ignite. In Rome the pope declared Elizabeth a heretic. England became a national security state. Agents and double agents were abroad in the land. The chief spy master was Francis Walsingham. He believed knowledge is power. He was ferocious but nor paranoid. The plotters wanted the assassination of Elizabeth and the enthronement of Mary.

Walsingham knew he could not just do Mary in. Elizabeth had to be free of suspicion. He would have to forge a solution. He engineered a trap for Mary. Mary was under house arrest.

Dec -- Walsingham suddenly put Mary into close confinement. Mary was furious and wanted to find a way out. So she smuggles out messages hidden in beer casks. But this was a trap; the letters were intercepted.

Rich merchant Anthony Babbington showed Mary a plot to kill Elizabeth. The trap was sprung. Mary's overseer Paulette allowed her to go out riding. A group of horsemen approached. Mary thought it was freedom coming for her. But it was Elizabeth's men coming with a warrant for her arrest. Babbington had been tortured and confessed.

Hundreds of incriminating documents were found in her room. Elisabeth wrote an ecstatic letter to Paulette for his role in the trap.

Mary did not crumble into confession. She was suddenly lofty, above all the charade. She gave as good as she got. She lied saying she did not know of the plot. Elizabeth wrote to Mary as an ingrate and accused her of trying to kill her. She felt betrayed by Mary.

Oct 15, 1586 -- Mary warned her prosecutors to look to their consciences. She appealed to that worldwide audience. She was painfully infirm, dressed in black velvet with a white headdress.
The trial resumed in London without her and she was convicted. Parliament wanted to get rid of her and so too the people. But Elizabeth delayed. She was scared as being seen as having her finger prints on the axe. Was she inviting trouble by executing Mary?

Mary would be a Catholic martyr. She played the role well. She had a crimson petticoat, the color of the martyr. She lay with utter stillness so much that it unnerved the executioner. His first blow cut deep, the second severed the head but for a hanging thread of flesh. For fifteen minutes her lips moved as if in silent prayer. The executioner picked her head up by the hair but it was a wig and her head fell and rolled about the floor. Mary's lap dog howled, would not eat and died.

King Philip of Spain accelerated his plans. He sent an armada. This was Elizabeth's worst nightmare -- a full-scale Catholic invasion. Spain knew the British fleet had faster ships. The weather batted for England.

1588 -- had a right to be afraid. Elizabeth appears before the troops. A mother dressed in a breastplate of steel. At Tilbury on August 8 and 9 she arrived in a gilded coach. The first speech by a Queen recorded in history. "My loving people I come among you not for my recreation. . . but being resolved to live and die amongst you all -- to lay down for God and my kingdom and my people. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman but I have the heart of a king. . . I myself will take up arms."

The speech did make a difference even it all was hype.

In the closing years of the Tudor century there were food riots. The Irish had driven into a nine year war. Thoughts turned to her successor, James, son of Mary Queen of Scots. So was it Mary who had triumphed from the grave?

James would be brought up a Protestant forced to renounce his own mother. But he was still Mary's child, not Elizabeth's.

Towards the end of her life, she had her wedding band sawed off ; the flesh had grown over the ring. She had put the ring on when she wedded Britain 45 years earlier.

1603 -- Elizabeth dies.


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