Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I is, in my opinion, one of the most remarkable of England's past monarchs. Her reign was full of controversy and political reform, and she was the first to bring any significant sort of religious tolerance to Britain. Without her leadership, and the influence of those backing her, the western world would likely still be ruled by Catholic monarchs. Though it was her father, Henry VIII who first defied the Catholic church and set the stage for future dissent against authority, he did not believe in freedom of belief for anyone but himself. If the Pope had given him a divorce when he'd asked for it, the protestant movement in England probably would have been quashed.

But, getting back to Queen Elizabeth I...

For those who would rather not pick through heavy historical tomes or bask in drab documentaries, there are two entertaining movies which dramatize Queen Elizabeth. Though historical purists may nitpick a few of the details depicted in the films, they are mostly accurate, and I highly recommend them. They both star Cate Blanchett in the lead role.

The first film shows Elizabeth's rise to power, and gives a very good historical overview of the politics of the time. We start out seeing the tyranny of her sister and predecessor, Queen Mary (aka Bloody Mary), who had heretics burned alive for daring to question Catholic doctrine. After Mary's natural death, Elizabeth takes the throne, and we see the underhanded and ruthless games played on both sides in the struggle for power, as well as some interesting insights into the queen's personal life.

In the sequel, we jump ahead over 20 years to the events leading up to the sinking of the Spanish Armada. This installment also stars Clive Owen (of King Arthur fame) as the charming pirate, Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh's relationship with Elizabeth is well known, though the extent of it remains questionable. Some suspect he may have been romantically involved with the queen, but there's no proof of that. Therefore, the film is careful, and does not depict the affair as sexual. Rather, Elizabeth is shown to be very interested in Raleigh, but unwilling to let herself be compromised.

I give Elizabeth a full 5 stars, and I give the sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, 4.5 stars. I only give The Golden Age a slightly lower rating because I feel the first film was more thorough. The sequel skims over some historical events, such as the battle of the Armada, due to time constraints. The subject matter needed more time to really come to life, but it is still enjoyable in the condensed format. They're both really great movies.

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