Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife, whom he beheaded after she produced a female rather than the male for which Henry had hoped.  Elizabeth was declared illegitimate.

She rose to the throne as Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 after the death of her older half-sister, Queen Mary, who was the legitimate daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.


Queen Elizabeth ICredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                     Queen Elizabeth I                                                                                                                                            Wikimedia - {{PD}}


Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) was known as the Virgin Queen.  In 1585, she was being pressured to marry by her adviser Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) in order to produce an heir to the throne.  If she remained childless, her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton) would become the Queen of England.  Francis brought many suitors to the palace for Elizabeth to consider, particularly the very young and immature Charles II, the Archduke of Austria.  Elizabeth had no interest in any of Francis’ choices.


Cate BlanchettCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                      Cate Blanchett                                                                                                                                                       Wikimedia

Walter Raleigh Returns from the New World

The famed English explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) was presented at court when he returned from the New World.  He brought potatoes and tobacco for Queen Elizabeth to sample, as well as a huge case of gold from a Spanish ship that he explained was unable to continue its journey.  Elizabeth would not accept the gold pieces.  Raleigh informed her that he had claimed the territory of Virginia for her, naming it in honor of her virginity.  She was very much attracted to the handsome adventurer who was happy to obtain her approval.  In one scene, we witness the legendary tale of Walter Raleigh spreading his coat on the ground so that Queen Elizabeth might not get her feet wet while crossing the road.  Elizabeth’s favorite lady-in-waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish), agreed with her queen that Walter Raleigh was a very attractive man.


Clive OwenCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                 Clive Owen - Wikimedia

A Spanish Plot to Assassinate Queen Elizabeth

In the year 1585, Spain was the most powerful country in the world and was ruled by the devout Catholic Philp II, who perceived Protestant England as a threat.  Elizabeth confided in her astrologer, Dr. Dee, who claimed that England and Spain would go to war.  Philip was plotting to have Elizabeth assassinated in order for her cousin Mary Stuart to ascend to the throne.  Philip called his plan “The English Enterprise.”  Mary Stuart had been under house arrest, a virtual prisoner of Elizabeth’s for several years since it was clear that her Catholic followers wanted her to be Queen.

Anyone who conspired against Elizabeth was hunted down and murdered.  The cousin of her lady-in-waiting, Bess, was murdered for his part in the conspiracy, and Bess felt guilty for not being able to help him.  She confided her sadness to Walter Raleigh who consoled her, and the two eventually become lovers.


Coat of Arms of Elizabeth ICredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                Coat of Arms of Elizabeth I                                                                                                                                           Wikimedia

The Attempted Assassination

One of the traitors confronted Elizabeth in the palace and aimed a gun at her.  He was subdued and brought to a torture chamber.  It was discovered that the gun had no bullets.  Elizabeth learned that her adviser, Francis Walsingham, had intercepted all of Mary’s letters and was aware of her involvement in the proposed assassination of Elizabeth.  He knew that Mary Stuart’s laundress had carried her letters in her laundry.  Walsingham insisted that Mary should be executed.  Against Elizabeth’s wishes, Mary was tried for treason and was beheaded.  Elizabeth had wanted it stopped, to no avail.     

The Spanish Armada

 King Philip II was secretly building an Armada but needed a rationale to attack Protestant England.  England’s reprisal against Mary Stuart gave Philip a reason to invade England since he wanted his young daughter to be Queen of England.  A series of English pirate attacks on Spanish ships furthered his intentions to declare war


Abbie CornishCredit: Wikmedia Commons

                                                            Abbie Cornish - Wikimedia

Walter Raleigh is Knighted

Meanwhile, Walter Raleigh asked Queen Elizabeth for permission to sail once again for the New World.  Elizabeth forbade him to go; instead she knighted him and made him Captain of the Royal Guard.  She delicately hinted to him that she would like to be kissed, and he accommodated her.  Raleigh and Bess, however, had declared their love for each other, although ladies of the palace were not allowed to be courted or to marry without royal consent.  Bess discovered she was pregnant with Raleigh’s child, and the couple decided to marry in secret.  When Elizabeth discovered that Bess was pregnant, she banished her from the court and imprisoned Walter Raleigh for seducing a ward of the Queen.

                                                          Geoffrey RushCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                             Geoffrey Rush - Wikimedia

War Between Spain and England

It was 1588 and the Spanish Armada began to approach the English Channel.  The ships of the Armada outnumbered England’s fleet, and defeat seemed inevitable.  The Spanish Armada had 10,000 men; the English forces numbered only 3,000.  Elizabeth declared that all farmers must leave their crops to aid in the battle.  Also, she freed all prisoners, including Walter Raleigh, who were needed to join Sir Francis Drake in his defense of English waters.  Elizabeth, seated on her horse and wearing a full set of armor, spoke to the troops at Tilbury, encouraging them in their efforts.  Fortunately for the English, a major storm arose and blew the ships of the Armada close to the beaches, ruining their formation and their plans.  Raleigh commanded his men to set all of the Spanish ships on fire.  The loss of the Armada was the greatest defeat that Spain had ever suffered.

Elizabeth Gives Her Blessing to Raleigh and Bess

With the war over, Elizabeth went to visit Raleigh and Bess and asked to bless their child.  She was happy to remain in her role as the Virgin Queen and protector of the English people.


Samantha MortonCredit: Wikimedia Commons

                                                                    Samantha Morton                                                                           Wikimedia                                                                                

A Work of Fiction

If you believe that all parts of this story are based on truth, then it is a chapter that has been left out of the history books.  It was not told to our innocent minds in seventh and eighth grade.  There is no evidence that Queen Elizabeth I fell in love with Walter Raleigh; he only dropped his coat over a puddle for her.  Furthermore, there is no evidence that Sir Walter Raleigh was involved in defeating the Spanish Armada.  History has shown that he was on land during that time and played no role in the battles.  Queen Elizabeth would have been 52 years old at the time of the Spanish Armada; yet she plays a woman who may possibly be in her late thirties.

Yes, it is a fictional portrayal of events.  However, in this case, the fiction proves to be far more interesting to the audience than the straight facts would have been.

Thumbs Up

One of the more remarkable assets of the film is the wardrobe worn by Cate Blanchett.  Her gowns were magnificent; she must have had forty changes of clothes throughout the film, one more beautiful than the other.  In fact, the film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.  Cate Blanchett also received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress; she was superb.   


The Life of Elizabeth I
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