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The movie Elizabeth (1998) is a mostly accurate film about the reign of Queen Elizabeth in 1554. In this film, Elizabeth is portrayed as a vigorous young woman in her twenties with the brain power and enormous potential to become the greatest ruler to ever have graced England’s throne. Upon becoming Queen, Elizabeth enters into an ongoing political bout involving Spain and France as well as the Catholic Church and the (Protestant) Church of England. Elizabeth soon discovers that not all of her advisors have the best interest of England and of the Queen in mind. This is an intriguing and insightful story about Queen Elizabeth’s early years as the reigning Queen of England.
Elizabeth begins in 1554 after King Henry viii death and near the end of Queen Mary’s life. During this time, England and the devoutly Catholic Monarch Queen Mary, are determined to prosecute all who deny the Catholic Church and remain of Protestant faith. However, her half-sister Elizabeth the only heir to the throne, is a practicing Protestant. Queen Mary has Elizabeth arrested and accused of treason. Queen Mary then asks Elizabeth to promise to uphold the Catholic faith if she is to become the new Queen of England. Elizabeth respectfully refuses that request and soon becomes Queen.
As the new Queen, and still very unsure of her abilities to rule effectively, Elizabeth relies on the counsel and advisors (specifically Earl of Norfolk) to make decisions for her. After word of the French assembling an army in Scotland, Elizabeth, while under pressure from Norfolk, orders an attack against the French. The attack is easily repelled by the French under command of Scotland’s Mary of Guise, making the consequence of French invasion even more of a threat. After this ill-planned attack ending in devastation, she realizes that she cannot let herself be pressured into making political decisions by her “so-called” trusted advisors. Amidst the political turmoil, Queen Elizabeth is also faced with religion. Queen Elizabeth holds a vote and wins the argument to bring back the Church of England.
As the new Queen, Elizabeth finds herself faced with new dangers and threats. She finds that she is in the middle of a power struggle between Spain and France and it seems as though both are trying to take advantage of the weakened state and of the Queen. The King of Spain, the late Queen Mary’s husband, offers his hand in marriage only for political reasons. Additionally, the King desires to have the alliance and, in return, he promises her safety and security as Queen. The French are asking her to marry the Duke D’Anjou with the same promises. When it seems as though the Queen has made her decision to marry the duke D’Anjour, she finds him having a homosexual escapade and declares that she will belong to no man. Elizabeth continued on to declare herself as a born-again virgin. Thus becoming the Virgin Queen.
While Elizabeth does provide a mostly accurate depiction of Elizabeth’s life as Queen, the audience must remember that it is a fictional movie and the timeline and events are not completely accurate. In actuality, the events in this movie took place over about a 30 year period. Although Elizabeth was a “bastard child” of King Henry viii, she was taught by the finest teachers and a true Renaissance princess. By the time Elizabeth came to the throne, she fluently spoke the international political language of the time, Latin, as well as Greek, Italian and French.
In Elizabeth the Duke D’Ajour comes to England in attempts to marry Elizabeth and almost succeeds. However, history proves that this event never happened. It was his younger brother Duke D’Alencon who nearly succeeded, and it was when Elizabeth was in her 40’s rather than her 20’s as the movie shows. There is also a scene where the Duke sexually assaults Elizabeth publically and makes outrageous and crude sexual remarks to her. This type of behavior would never have happened and the Queen would never have tolerated it. Queen Elizabeth got her name the Virgin Queen because she was actually a virgin. Elizabeth shows Queen Elizabeth having sex with Lord Robert Dudley and then being re-born a virgin. Lord Robert Dudley was in fact her closest friend, but there was not a sexual relationship between them.
Movies today can give a clear view of important parts of world history as a human race. Individuals of all races, ethnicities, and cultures need not to only understand their own history, but the rest of the world’s as well. With this knowledge, perceptions may change and individuals may have a better understanding of others. By understanding the history of one’s own background as well as others, perhaps it would be easier to accept and understand how societies function today. While movies such as Elizabeth may not be completely accurate, it is important that the public attempt to understand and acknowledge the history of culture, justice, and important individuals. Many individuals such as Queen Elizabeth not only impacted their own jurisdiction, but also the future of the world. Sadly, many people today do not pay attention to the depth of such historical figures. In today’s society, visualizing history through a dramatic standpoint makes the information more likely to be absorbed and appreciated.
In my opinion, Elizabeth’s transformation in this movie is stunning to say the least. She went from the exiled “bastard princess,” to the Queen of England. Additionally, the Queen went from leading an exclusive and romantic relationship with Lord Robert Dudley to almost marrying into Spanish or French royalty, then to declaring herself celibate and a re-born virgin. Elizabeth also went from a weak-minded and extremely fidgety, free-spirited princess and new Queen to a strong and politically powerful woman ruler. Her transformation from princess acting from the heart, to Queen ruling with her head, was by far her most noble accomplishment which most likely was the key to her success. Lord Robert Dudley also was transformed in Elizabeth. Lord Robert Dudley went from being Elizabeth’s lover and best friend to being accused of treason and never to have a romantic relationship with Elizabeth again. Elizabeth also took him with her in her transformation from princess to queen, and he became an advisor to the Queen.
Although Elizabeth is a movie that I would not be likely to pick off of a shelf in the video store, I am very glad that I had the opportunity to watch and fully understand the movie. As I stated before, understanding history which will forever have an impact on society is extremely beneficial. Queen Elizabeth raised the standard of women from that era through eternity. Her powerfulness and amount of respect she demanded was nothing that could be questioned or doubted as society continues to evolve. Overall I would have to give Elizabeth two thumbs up. However, I do think the writers could have been more accurate with the facts and the timeline and had just as much success.
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