Sunday, January 15, 2012

Elizabeth

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth
I don't know if I have ever mentioned it, but I love to study royalty. And not just British royalty, but royals all around the world. They absolutely fascinate me. They are incredible representations of hundreds and thousanda years of history. So needless to say I try to watch as many movies of royals as I can possibly get my hands on.

Now I had heard of the 1998 motion picture simply entitled "Elizabeth" for a long time. I never saw it though because of its R rating, but now that I'm twenty-one that doesn't really bother me anymore. So I picked it up (as well as the sequel, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age") and watched it last night. 

It was very different from what I had been expecting. 

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The movie begins in England 1554. King Henry VIII is dead and England is divided between the Catholic and Protestant religions. The movie begins with the burning of the three Protestant heretics. A rather morbid and disgusting beginning, but probably very accurate as well.

Henry's oldest daughter Mary, a devout Catholic who was famously known as Bloody Mary for her butchering of English Protestants, is queen and is married to King Philip of Spain. Mary is powerful and supposedly pregnant, but is threatened by one person.

Her younger half-sister, Lady Elizabeth, a Protestant like her infamous mother Anne Boleyn. Half crazed at the idea that Elizabeth is conspiring against her with other Protestants, Mary wants her arrested and questioned and eventually killed.


We first meet Elizabeth as a lively and beautiful young woman who is dancing with the dashing and handsome Robert Dudley at her country home, Hatfield House (very romantic). Suddenly Queen Mary's guards arrive at Elizabeth's house and demand that she come with them. Before she leaves, Robert tells her "Remember who you are."

Elizabeth and her two ladies in waiting, Kat Ashley and Isabel Knollys (whose actual name was Lettice) are taken to the tower of London where Elizabeth is interrogated and questioned by Mary's counselors to the point where she is driven to insanity. 

She proves her innocence over and over until finally the counselors admit to Mary that she might be innocent. Mary summons Elizabeth and confronts her, labeling her a heretic and humiliating her about her mother. Soon Elizabeth's kindness wins her sister over and Mary tells her that she will set her free if she will continue the Catholic faith when she becomes queen.

Elizabeth replies, "I will do as my conscience dictates." 

She is sent back to Hatfield House and put under house arrest. While there she is comforted by Robert Dudley who believes with all his conviction that she will become queen. Although she is charmed by the idea, Elizabeth lives in fear that everyday could be her last day.

Instead of giving birth to an heir that could end Elizabeth's life, Mary dies of a tumor, but before her death, she refuses to sign Elizabeth's death warrant. Giving her counselors a shock at the fact that she would leave England in the hands of a heretic.

My favorite scene is when Elizabeth is told she is queen.

Her ladies maids tell her that the Earl of Sussex has arrived. Elizabeth, in fear, takes Kat's hand and walks out the door.

A flash of light.

The Earl of Sussex presents Elizabeth with the royal signet ring.

A flash of light.

The Earl of Sussex repeats the words, "The Queen is dead! Long Live the Queen!"

Elizabeth replies in the simplest of words, "This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes."

~ ~ ~


The rest of the movie is a roller-coaster ride of politics, betrayal, sex, divided loyalties, friendship, enemies, hatred, love, and the constant theme of good over evil. Cate Blanchett did a remarkable job as Queen Elizabeth I. There was a wonderful vulnerability about her character. 

She was able to portray as Elizabeth as a frightened insecure young woman and eventually a confident and strong willed queen. The only problem was Cate Blanchett was far too beautiful. She was stunning in that long dark red hair and most historians say that Elizabeth wasn't much to look at in later years.

There are four men who dominate Elizabeth's life.

Robert Dudley, her lover and childhood friend, who is the only light in her life.

Sir Francis Walsingham, one of her counselors who will do whatever it takes to protect her.

Sir William Cecil, her chief adviser who keeps her in line with hundred year old rules and regulations.

Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, her adversary who is after her throne.

All four of these men have a piece of her life in their hands and the whole movie revolves around her decision on who to trust and who to kill.

While watching it I began to doubt the accuracy of the film and surprisingly enough, my doubts were confirmed true. You can read the list of historical inaccuracies here

~ ~ ~
I found the movie to be rather entertaining, albeit the three raunchy sex scenes (I do have to admit the one with Elizabeth and Robert Dudley was beautifully shot) and also several grotesque scenes of torture. There was a dark and depressing quality to the film, but then Elizabeth's first few years on the throne were anything but happy and cheerful.

So, while it's not on my top list of favorite movies, the wonderful acting, beautiful costumes, and breathtaking landscapes are definitely worth watching.

"[At a time] when wars and seditions with grievous persecutions have vexed almost all kings and countries round about me, my reign hath been peacable, and my realm a receptacle to thy afflicted Church. The love of my people hath appeared firm, and the devices of my enemies frustrate."
~ Queen Elizabeth I

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