We all remember from our childhood history lesson that Sir Walter Raleigh laid down his cloak so that Queen Elizabeth 1 did not have to step in a puddle. This memorable scene opened the door to a relationship that we were not aware of from our history lessons, although I suspect that Hollywood may have embroidered the details a bit.
Cate Blanchett does a stunning job as she reprises her role as Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. Clive Owen, one of
my favorites, plays his part well as Walter Raleigh who is knighted by Elizabeth for – we know not what.
Elizabeth 1 was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, a marriage which brought about the break of Henry VIII from the Church at Rome since Henry was unable to dissolve his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.
The Elizabethan Age, which lasted for 45 years, was a glorious time in world history. The overriding difficulty to her councilors was the fact that Elizabeth appeared not anxious to marry. Elizabeth was an intellectual equal to most men and relished her independence. Also, her father’s marital history made her question the benefits of marriage to her.
This fact provided a fitting background for the secondary scenario in the movie – her growing fondness for Walter Raleigh. Raleigh had just returned from his ocean voyage to the New World, from which he brought gifts of potatoes, tobacco and coins to present to the queen. The coins gave him away as a pirate on the high seas, but Elizabeth remained steadfast in her friendship towards Raleigh. Nuances give away the truth that Raleigh did not return the growing affection from Elizabeth.
The movie completely ignores the true relationships of Elizabeth with the Earl of Essex and of Lord Robert Dudley in favor of enlarging on her dalliance with Sir Walter Raleigh.
In a bold move, Hollywood creates a triangular affair when Walter Raleigh becomes flirtatious with Elizabeth’s lady-in-waiting Bess. Elizabeth’s vulnerability and weaker side come to the fore when she lashes out at Raleigh upon the revelation that Bess is pregnant with Raleigh’s child. The Queen’s generosity of spirit is demonstrated when she requests to hold the newborn boy and gives him her blessing. This is a poignant moment and one which speaks eloquently of the character of Elizabeth 1.
Two significant and true events which occurred during the Elizabethan Age are treated well, giving some credence to the historical background presented in the movie. The beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, pretender to the throne, is rightly portrayed as an action which did not have the approval of Elizabeth 1, but rather caused her much angst and regret. Also, the defeat of the Spanish Armada by England’s inferior naval fleet provides a welcome distraction from the mundane happenings at court. This defeat is still remembered as one of the most famous naval victories in history. The special effects used to highlight this occasion have received special recognition.
If you are not too concerned about truth in the media, you may enjoy this motion picture. At the very least, it might send you to the history books to confirm or deny what you have just witnessed.
Movie – Elizabeth: The Golden Age