Follow TV Tropes


Film / Young Bess

Go To

Young Bess: I warn you, madam!
Ann Seymour: Who are you to warn me?
Young Bess: My mother's daughter!

Young Bess is a 1953 Costume Drama based on the 1944 novel of the same name by Margaret Irwin, about the life of Elizabeth I before she became Queen of England. The film covers her early life from the time when Anne Boleyn was executed up until Henry VIII's death. A lot of time is devoted to Elizabeth's relationship with her stepmother's husband Thomas Seymour.

Directed by George Sidney, the film boasts a star-studded cast, including Jean Simmons as Elizabeth, Stewart Granger as Tom Seymour, Deborah Kerr as Catherine Parr, Charles Laughton as Henry VIII, and Kay Walsh as Elizabeth's governess Kat Ashley. The film's release also coincided with Elizabeth II being crowned in England.

Young Tropes:

  • Acquitted Too Late: Edward is writing a letter to pardon Tom when he and Bess hear the drums signalling that the execution is happening.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Catherine Parr had dark blonde hair in real life. She's a redhead here.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Edward VI is a child but acts as though he has the authority of a king, and bosses people around as such.
    "They don't even give me enough pocket money to bribe my servants."
  • Affectionate Nickname: Bess of course for Elizabeth.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Elizabeth and Tom Seymour's relationship was most certainly not a "romance" but a case of child sexual abuse, one that would have been seen as horrific in its time given that Seymour stood in loco parentis to the girl. Elizabeth was a young and naive fourteen, not an adult woman as depicted in this movie.
    • After Catherine's death, Tom did pursue Elizabeth but she ignored him.
    • Tom and Catherine married in secret, and it was thought to be scandalous because it occurred just months after Henry's death, so it was seen that Catherine should have still been in mourning for Henry. The film shows Bess getting Edward to write a letter condoning it, but in actuality it was Tom who convinced him to write the letter, after Catherine's death at that.
    • Catherine was pregnant with Tom's daughter and died shortly after the birth. This is not shown in the film.
    • Tom's downfall was actually caused by being caught outside the king's bedroom in the middle of the night, thought to be planning to kidnap Edward. Ned actually gave Tom a chance to explain himself at court, but he no-showed.
    • The movie depicts Elizabeth saving Catherine from being beheaded with a timely distraction. While Henry did nearly have her executed, Catherine herself managed to talk him out of it.
    • Minor, but Bess is often addressed as 'Princess Elizabeth'. After her mother's execution and her disinheritance, she was only ever called 'Lady Elizabeth'.
  • Betty and Veronica: Catherine is the Betty to Bess's Veronica where Tom Seymour is concerned.
  • Butt-Monkey: Barnaby, Tom Seymour's dim-witted page. The poor guy gets caught in the middle of Bess trying to make Tom jealous.
  • Cain and Abel: Many characters draw parallels between Tom and Ned with Cain and Abel. The climax of the movie is Ned ordering Tom's execution.
  • Chickification: Minor example, but Catherine Parr is depicted as rather dainty and passive. The movie leaves out the fact that she managed to talk Henry out of executing her, effectively saving herself.
  • Costume Porn: The costumes were designed by the famous Walter Plunkett, so they are very fancy and elaborate.
  • Dance of Romance: Between Bess and Tom at a ball naturally.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Lampshaded by Catherine when she asks Tom if he wants her to die so he can marry Bess instead.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Bess is considered a woman at only fifteen years of age.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Tom Seymour faces his execution in a composed and dignified manner.
  • The Faceless: When Bess is brought to meet Anne of Cleves, this stepmother is never shown. Only her voice is heard.
  • Fainting: After Bess gives her big grand speech to the council, she's seen fainting on the stairs.
  • Fiery Redhead:
    • Bess is portrayed as such. Notably the scene where she has a shouting match with her equally fiery and redheaded father.
    • Averted by the redhead Catherine Parr, who's very gentle and soft-spoken.
  • Fur and Loathing: Ned Seymour, the film's primary antagonist, has a few outfits that are trimmed with fur.
  • The Ghost: Mary only physically appears on screen during Henry's death scene. Granted she wasn't around much in this portion of Elizabeth's life but still.
  • Glad You Thought of It: Bess uses this trick to get Edward to allow Catherine and Tom to marry.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Tudor finery on display in every scene.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Tom Seymour becomes a dashing heroic champion of both Elizabeth I and Edward VI. This ignores the fact that he essentially molested her in real life, and likewise Catherine took part in a couple of the incidents.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Bess has Edward grant Tom and Catherine permission to marry, despite her growing feelings for him.
  • Last-Name Basis: Bess calls her governess Ashley rather than by her first name Kat.
  • Love Triangle: Between Tom Seymour, Bess and Catherine Parr.
  • One-Steve Limit: Edward Seymour is referred to as 'Ned' for the whole film to avoid confusion with Edward VI. But there is also Anne Boleyn (though only onscreen for a few seconds) and Anne Seymour - and notably Anne of Cleves is not name-dropped. Catherine Howard doesn't get named either, to avoid confusion with Catherine Parr. Additionally Kat Ashley is only called by her last name.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Bess gets her brother's servant Barnaby to kiss her, hoping Tom will catch them and get jealous. It works.
  • Pretty in Mink: For Bess's dance with the Danish ambassador, and when Tom starts to notice she's grown up, her outfit is a cream dress with white fur on the sleeves.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: The film imagines Tom Seymour and Elizabeth as having a love affair, when in reality Tom's advances on her were a form of child sexual abuse - entering her room while in his nightshirt and tickling her on the bottom was one of the more minor instances. Elizabeth was apparently deeply disturbed by his actions, and it's been suggested by reputable historians that this abuse was one of the reasons she chose to never marry.
  • Proper Lady: Catherine Parr is shown as a delicate, sweet little lady. This was right in the middle of Deborah Kerr being typecast as such.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Bess gives Ned Seymour a magnificent one when he accuses her of plotting to overthrow the council.
  • Redhead In Green: Bess has a few green dresses that contrast with her red hair.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Discussed by Henry and Bess.
    Henry: You shape the world as it suits you.
    Bess: Why not? Didn't you?
    Henry: (now laughing) So I did. You're my daughter.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Kat says to Catherine that she doesn't think Tom realises that Bess is now a woman.
  • Shown Their Work: Despite all the Hollywood History, there's a few details that were right:
    • Tom Seymour did indeed give Edward a regular supply of coins to bribe his servants with.
    • Edward did once say to Tom that it would probably be better for Ned Seymour to die, and Tom never found out the context.
    • Elizabeth was suspected about conspiring with Tom, and questioned for many weeks. Kat and Mr Parry were also sent away while she was questioned.
    • Catherine Parr alludes to being left regent while Henry was away, and there are mentions of people worrying about her getting executed because of her outspokenness towards the king.
    • Catherine Parr also was the one who helped mend relations between Henry and his daughters.
    • A dress Catherine wears is heavily modelled after the one she's wearing in the portrait that was famously mistaken for Lady Jane Grey for years.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Lampshaded by Henry about Ned and Tom Seymour, when he says that there are no brothers who could be more different.
  • Triumphant Reprise: In the end, as Bess is about to become Queen, Kat Ashley starts singing a triumphant reprise of "here we go, up and down" that she had sung to her as a baby.
  • Victorian Novel Disease: What the film suggests Catherine Parr died of. Her pregnancy and suspected childbed fever are completely ignored.
  • We Need a Distraction: When Henry is blustering about threatening to have Catherine executed, Bess screams and pretends to have seen French ships on the horizon.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Anne of Cleves does not factor into the story at all, the movie implying that she went back to Germany after being divorced. In reality she was given a sizeable estate and the title of 'The King's Honorary Sister', and she and Elizabeth were quite good friends.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Sort of. In the finale, Kat Ashley quickly rattles off that Edward died of tuberculosis and Ned and Anne Seymour were eventually executed.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Tom hits Bess after she accuses him of being jealous.