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Series / Elizabeth I (2005)

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"One thing I found hard to get scripted was the size of her ego."
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Elizabeth I is a 2005 British miniseries about the last few decades of the reign of Elizabeth I (Helen Mirren). The series deals with her personal and political life; Part 1 focuses on the final years of her relationship with the Earl of Leicester (Jeremy Irons), and Part 2 focuses on her subsequent relationship with the Earl of Essex (Hugh Dancy).


This show provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – History: the miniseries has Elizabeth ride in secret to her cousin Mary I's home-prison to see her face-to-face before deciding her fate. In Real Life Elizabeth and Mary never met: Elizabeth's councilors feared such a meeting because Elizabeth could sympathize having lived through the same trials and hardships in her youth. If the miniseries gets anything right, it's that the Scottish Mary actually spoke with a French accentnote  and that by the time of her execution Mary was overweight and in ill health.
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  • Batman Gambit: Elizabeth knew the Earl of Essex was going to betray her, so she relaxed the guard on him and did not prosecute him. The Earl duly goes on a mad scheme to ride to court and take her hostage, for which she is well prepared. The Earl is captured, while the Queen's earlier leniency made it clear to everyone she was the wronged party, despite his claims to the contrary.
  • Better as Friends: She tries this with Leicester at some point, but it's never very convincing; come on, if she COULD have made him King, slept with him and had heirs by him, then she would have done so.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Elizabeth dies alone, but her reign was long and successful enough that England - eventually the British Empire - will survive.
  • Celibate Hero: Elizabeth is one of the most famous in history. Played with in this miniseries as Elizabeth is shown considering a political marriage to the Protestant French Duke of Anjou, with her on-again off-again relationship with Leicester, and her later flirtation with Essex.
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  • Drama Queen: Essex. When Elizabeth is outraged by the miscarriage of justice with Lopez, Essex's reaction is to have himself driven through the streets in a mock funeral procession.
  • Easily Forgiven: Essex fails to achieve the actual military goal of capturing Lisbon after he disobeys her direct command not to go, but she waves aside his offense when he returns. She also forgives him for trumping up an improper case against Dr. Lopez, but that incident and Frances Walsingham's pregnancy open her eyes more.
  • A Father to His Men: Elizabeth insists on going to Tilbury to show her support for the soldiers.
  • Friendship Moment: Elizabeth has several little scenes of this with Lord Burghley.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted. Quite a lot is shown of gory executions.
  • The Heretic: Elizabeth and most of the people at the English court. One of the main reasons Spain tried to invade.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Slightly subverted, since it's not clear whether the men courting Elizabeth are in it for her or for the power. Except Leicester - it's clear he wants her for her and has even back when she was a bastard. And she knows it, much to both their misfortunes.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The Earl of Essex clearly aspired to be this, but forgot that behaving honorably includes obedience to a sovereign; see Off with His Head!.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Why she can not marry the duke of Anjou. Or Leicester.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The defeat of the Spanish Armada.
  • Off with His Head!: Subverted. Elizabeth is very reluctant to have Mary killed. This is later played to full by the execution of, you guessed it, The Earl of Essex - when he is executed, millions of people cheer happily.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Elizabeth of course wears several.
  • Pretty in Mink: In one scene, the queen wears a black dress trimmed with white ermine, and an ermine muff.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: In between romantic interludes with different men, Elizabeth also rules England effectively.
  • Rousing Speech: Elizabeth's at Tilbury.
  • Secret Relationship: Leicester and Lady Essex, later The Earl of Essex and Frances Walsingham - Elizabeth, rightfully enough, is realllllllllllllllllllllly not happy about this.
  • Standard Royal Court: Elizabeth's ministers and councilors for the most part are shown as capable and working well together, if exasperated by coping with Elizabeth's wavering mood swings.
  • Succession Crisis: Her councilors are afraid this will happen after Elizabeth dies.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Essex draws his sword on Elizabeth at a council meeting because she laughs at his suggestion. He escapes with his head that day, but he doesn't take a lesson from it.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Elizabeth's fate after watching her loved ones die or betray her.

Alternative Title(s): Elizabeth I

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