Elizabeth (film)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Observe, Lord Burghley. I am married... to England.
Elizabeth-1998-movie-poster-elizabeth-3345038-500-656 5167.jpg

A 1998 Biopic of the early life of Queen Elizabeth I of England, arguably one of the greatest monarchs to ever sit on that throne, and starring Cate Blanchett in the title role. Broke the usual "period piece" mould of English biographical pictures in that it was directed by an Indian, Shekhar Kapur, took a much more dramatic style of storytelling, and didn't shy away from some historical truths of the era, such as dirt, poverty, and torture.

Followed by a sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age with the same director and Cate Blanchett once again as the Virgin Queen.

Tropes used in Elizabeth (film) include:
  • Arranged Marriage: Averted, perhaps unsurprisingly given Elizabeth was remembered by history as the Virgin Queen. In the film many attempts are made at marrying off Elizabeth to ensure an heir to the throne, but none succeed. Indeed the film's Crowning Moment of Awesome and Awesome Moment of Crowning, from which the page quote arises, is a Take That to the constant attempts of Lord Burghley to force Elizabeth into precisely this.
  • Badass Boast: In the sequel, the Spanish ambassador threatens the Queen with the imminent invasion of the Spanish Armada.

Queen Elizabeth: Go back to your rat hole! Tell Philip I fear neither him, nor his priests nor his armies. Tell him if he wants to shake his little fists at us we'll give him such a bite he's wish he had kept his hands in his pockets!
Don Guerau De Spes: You see a leaf fall, and you think you know which way the wind blows. Well, there is a wind coming, Madame, that will sweep away your pride.
Queen Elizabeth: I too, can command the wind, sir! I HAVE A HURRICANE IN ME THAT WILL STRIP SPAIN BARE WHEN YOU DARE TO TRY ME!

  • Badass Preacher: Catholic priests are apparently all trained assassins in the 16th century.
  • Blue Eyes: Elizabeth in the film, though the real Elizabeth famously had the very dark amber-brown eyes of her mother Anne Boleyn. However, Cate Blanchett has very sensitive eyes and can't wear contacts.
  • Break the Cutie: Basically, the entire film, with Elizabeth being the operative cutie.
  • Brick Joke: The horse that jumps off one of the Spanish ships in The Golden Age.
  • Camp Straight: Elizabeth's French suitor, the Duke of Anjou.
  • Costume Porn: Holy hell, yes.
  • Did Not Do the Research: Good God, where to begin?
    • William Cecil was not even thirty by the time Elizabeth came to the throne and she did not retire him by making him Lord Burghley, she ennobled him as a reward for his services and he remained her most loyal adviser until his death a few years before the queen's. Similarly, Francis Walsingham was only a few years older than Elizabeth. In the second film, Elizabeth visits him when he is dying. In real life she simply let him die in poverty and didn't go to see him.
    • Henri of Anjou was probably not a crossdresser and he wasn't homosexual - the number of his female mistresses is almost uncountable. Also his aunt died of dropsy rather than any foul play.
    • Mary I was actually very skinny rather than overweight in the film and Norfolk was a weak and easily-manipulated man rather than the film's powerful and scheming counterpart.
    • Elizabeth knew that Leicester was already married because she had attended his wedding. Moreover, he wasn't banished for being involved in a Catholic plot (because he was a Puritan) but instead because of a scandal over the mysterious death of his second wife.
    • Bishop Stephen Gardiner died before Elizabeth came to the throne and thus could not possibly have been involved in any plots. The Earl of Arundel was not executed for his role but was instead imprisoned in the Tower of London where he died as a prisoner and the Earl of Sussex was actually a loyal supporter of Elizabeth who would not have tried to overthrow her.
    • Elizabeth may not have actually had a sexual encounter with the Earl of Leicester and she did not cut her hair to show that she was a virgin but because she had smallpox.
    • Throughout the film, bishops are shown wearing black mitres that they never would have worn in real life.
    • In one scene Elizabeth mentions her mother Anne Boleyn. In reality, she never spoke about her mother. Not even once.
    • Elizabeth reprimands one of her council members for divorcing twice. In reality, it was more or less impossible to obtain a divorce at this time - something that Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, knew very well.
    • At the start of the film, the execution of Nicholas Ridley is shown with two other people of which one must be Hugh Latimer. However, their companion, an unnamed woman, is made up because Ridley and Latimer weren't burnt with anyone else.
    • Sir Thomas Elyot is drowned by Ballard for being a Reverse Mole. However, the real Elyot died at his estates in Cambridgeshire in 1546.
    • In the second film, Elizabeth frequently consults Dr John Dee over various matters. However, Dr Dee was abroad at this time and didn't return to England until more than a year after the Spanish Armada.
    • In the second film, nearly everything that Walter Raleigh does was actually done by Sir Francis Drake. Raleigh was kept in England when the Armada attacked because the Queen did not want him to be killed. Defeating the Armada was Drake's moment of triumph but he is hardly in the film.
    • The Earl of Nottingham states that the Spanish Armada have destroyed several English ships. In reality the English didn't lose a single ship.
    • Philip II of Spain is shown as a hunched and shadowy figure with a dark beard who is an incompetant king and a religious fanatic. The real Philip was known as being highly intelligent and had several successes with his foreign policies. He was also tall, blond and handsome.
    • The Infanta of Spain was not a child at the time of the Armada but was in fact twenty-one.
    • Sir Walter Raleigh was not knighted to keep him in England but to reward his services. He was also knighted on his ship and not against his will. Also, although Raleigh was imprisoned by Elizabeth, it didn't happen until several years after the Armada.
    • Raleigh was not a pirate, Drake was.
    • Mary, Queen of Scots gaoler, Amyas Paulet, actually treated her rather well.
    • Walter Raleigh quite famously had a strong West Country accent that meant some courtiers had difficulty understanding him. Francis drake also had the same accent. In the second film, Mary, Queen of Scots is portrayed with a Scottish accent when she would have had a French one as result of living in France for years since she was a child.
    • Frequently men at court are shown wearing long cloaks and carrying swords in the Queen's presence. Swords weren't allowed in court and the real Elizabeth actually banned long cloaks in case an assassin was hiding a weapon under it.
    • At one point a man is hanged using the 'long drop' method with a trapdoor. This method of execution was not invented until the Nineteenth Century.
    • Raleigh did not have an affair with Bess Throckmorton until three years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
  • Disappeared Dad: Specifically, Henry VIII, though it's only referenced in one scene.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In his introductory scene, Walsingham talks a youthful assassin out of killing him, giving a philosophical reverie about the nature of God and the universe. He then slashes the boy's throat.
  • French Jerk: Elizabeth's French suitor, the Duc d'Anjou who embarrasses her publicly at their first meeting.
    • Mary of Guise is the female version.
  • Grand Vizier: Subverted. Walsingham, who has all the defining features of a Grand Vizier, and even appears about to fulfill this trope in one scene, is utterly loyal to Elizabeth and according to the film's postscript served her faithfully for the rest of his life.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Twice actually. The first part of the film is about Elizabeth surviving the wrath of her sister, the second about finding a marriage suitor and the third about a conspiracy to remove her from the throne.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Well, being queen obviously has a lot to do with it as well.
  • The High Queen: A major reason for Elizabeth's transformation at the end of the film. It's referenced directly in the film:

Elizabeth: I have rid England of her enemies. What do I do now? Am I to be made of stone? Must I be touched by nothing?
Walsingham: Aye, Madam, to reign supreme. All men need something greater than themselves to look up to and worship. They must be able to touch the divine here on earth.

  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Elizabeth. While not exactly treated as nice, the films manage to cover up much of her dirty laundry.
    • Walsingham gets a historical Anti-Hero upgrade, being both even more ruthless and yet also much more important and chessmaster-y than he was in Real Life.
    • Walter Raleigh basically steals the life of Francis Drake and becomes the hero who defeats the Spanish Armada, rather than a bit player in the battle.
    • A subtle and arguable one, Elizabeth and Walsingham kneeling under a gigantic portrait of Henry VIII and wondering what he, her father, would have done, and if she'd ever live up to his reputation. The reputation of the man who had her mother beheaded so he could marry somebody else, routinely executed his closest advisers and allies, and possibly had as many as 10,000 people put to death during his reign.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Pretty much the entire Catholic Church gets this overhaul in the film. Both Bloody Mary and the Pope even live in small, spartan, darkened rooms where they give orders to crazed fanatics.
    • Robert Dudley is actually villainised by converting to Catholicism, the start of his betrayal of Elizabeth. In point of fact, not only did he never betray Elizabeth, he was a staunch Puritan until the day he died, and would never have dreamed of converting to the Catholic faith.
    • The Duke of Norfolk was actually just a naive and gullible co-conspirator in a couple of plots, the first of which was only to marry Mary Queen of Scots, which alone was enough to get him jailed for a time (the second was to replace Elizabeth, which of course got his head the chop). He was not the cold and calculating power-hungry mastermind portrayed in the movie.
    • The sequel basically portrays 16th Century Spain as a whole in the same way. In addition to making Jesuits assassins. Not much mention of English privateers raiding Spanish ships and colonies, one of the main motives for the Spanish campaign. The portrayal of Philip II is pretty much in keeping with traditionalist and biased Anglo-American histories, rather than more balanced modern ones.
      • To be fair the first film makes specific mention of English Privateers. In fact they are even called Pirates - both by the Spanish ambassador and by the 'actor' playing the Privateer. Let's also remember that the treasure in the Spanish treasure fleets has to be THE most ill-gotten loot in the history of conquest.
  • The House of Tudor: It's the historical setting of the film.
  • Important Haircut: The film's climax, and one hell of a Tear Jerker for anyone sympathetic to what Elizabeth is doing to herself.
  • Incest Subtext: The Duke of Anjou kisses Mary of Guise on the lips for several seconds. She is his aunt. He is also seen holding her naked body.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Walsingham having Daniel Craig burned. Lampshaded by Her Majesty herself that anyone will say anything under torture.
  • Lady of War: Elizabeth wears an armor and gives a rousing speech to her troops in the sequel.
  • Lighter and Softer: The sequel isn't as dark and confined as it used to be and the whole film is more Narmish.
  • Marry for Love: Brutally averted, given the object of Elizabeth's desires is already married and then leads a rebellion against her.
  • Mononymous Biopic Title: Although as a monarch she is mononymous by default.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Subverted.

Walsingham: "You were a great man. You would have been greater still. If you only had the courage to be loyal."
Norfolk: "I believe a man's courage is measured through the manner of his death. So cut off my head and make me a martyr. The people will always remember."
Walsingham: "No. They will forget."

  • The Obi-Wan: Francis Walsingham to Elizabeth, and possibly one reason why his Magnificent Bastardry does not turn him into a Complete Monster.
  • Ominous Walk: A Catholic priest, of all things. Done in Slow Motion for extra points.
    • And in the sequel where King Philip, his daughter and their retinue are walking along a shipyard where the Armada is being built.
  • The Purge: Elizabeth, through Walsingham, has all her enemies like the Duke of Norfolk and Mary of Guise assassinated in the end of the film.
  • Reverse Mole: Walsingham's assistant. Sadly, Father Daniel Craig beat him to death with a rock.
  • Sinister Minister: John Ballard.
    • And any other Catholic priest come to that.
  • Spiritual Successor: Albeit applied retroactively, since given the focus on strong woman protagonists many people like to take this as the unofficial sequel to the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl. Bonus points given the last image in the latter film is Elizabeth running around in the fields, and one of the first sights we get of Elizabeth in this film is her in a field once more.
  • Take a Level In Badass: Elizabeth. From condemned, helpless princess to iron-fisted queen of England in the space of under two screen hours.
    • The actual time span was 20 years.
  • Token Good Teammate: The Earl of Arundel from the first film. He bore The Queen no ill will but was devoutly Catholic.
  • The Virgin Queen: Well, duh.
  • Woman in White: Elizabeth twice, notably at the end and as well when she is taken into the Tower for questioning. That one is actually historically true as Elizabeth is recorded to be wearing a pure white gown when being questioned.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Pretty much The Movie.