Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” (1999)

Just re-watched this tonight. I had seen it some years ago, but I know more about Elizabeth, her counsellors, and the various European intrigues than I did the first time around. I can only say that it was an unceasing pshaw-fest.

Among the many, many things to take issue with in the movie: the narrative jumps from Elizabeth’s accession in 1558 to her excommunication by the pope in 1570 in mere minutes. Since the actors do not appear to age during the movie, I was thinking we were still in 1560 or so. But no. It’s now 1570 and later, and Daniel Craig (the new James Bond) is playing a wicked Catholic priest (the only kind there was in that time) coming to assassinate Elizabeth.

At least two people are way too old for their characters: William Cecil looks like he’s about 80 at the beginning of the movie in the mid-1550s, but he was actually only in his 30s. He died in 1598 just shy of 78 years old. And Francis Walsingham looks like he’s in his late 50s when he comes back from exile in 1558, but really he was only about 26.

At the end, text on a black screen informs the viewer that “Elizabeth reigned for another forty years. Walsingham remained her most trusted and loyal advisor to the end.” Well, the movie ends with the execution of the Duke of Norfolk in 1572. That would mean Elizabeth reigned until 1612, which is 9 years past the actual date of her death.

As for Walsingham being her most trusted and loyal advisor: this doesn’t account for William Cecil or Christopher Hatton, both of whom very much had the Queen’s ear for very many years. But more importantly, Walsingham died in 1590. I guess Shekhar Kapur may be right, then, but only if you interpret “the end” in a very specific way. At any rate, it doesn’t communicate how Elizabeth treated her “most trusted” advisor. When he bankrupted himself paying off his dead son-in-law‘s creditors, and paying for his lavish funeral, Elizabeth wouldn’t contribute a penny to his plight. He died broke, and had to be buried at night so no funeral costs would be incurred.

It’s not called “the Golden Age” for nothing.


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