Saturday, November 18, 2006

Movie Review: Elizabeth

Mary Tudor was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, while Elizabeth was born to Henry and his second wife Anne Boleyn. Henry divorced Anne and had her charged with adultery and treason, for which she was executed. Subsequently, Elizabeth’s birth was considered illegitimate and her title of Princess was removed, which is why, in the movie version of her life, Mary refers to her as a bastard and Anne Boleyn a whore. Elizabeth was also a Protestant, while Mary was a Catholic, and Catholicism was basically the proclaimed religion of England. During this time, Protestants were savagely persecuted, and greatly at the direction of the Pope in Rome. Elizabeth was claimed to be a heretic and accused of being part of a conspiracy against Mary, probably mostly as a ploy to keep Elizabeth from having any claim to the throne should anything happen to Mary.

The Anglican Church was completely rearranged when Elizabeth took reign. Elizabeth, being a Protestant, took action to change the national religion, although she was tolerant of and fair to Catholics. She tried to unify England and allow both religions to exist, regardless of her personal choice. The church bishops were upset and felt threatened as Elizabeth made herself Supreme Governor of the Church of England, which put her directly between the church in England and the Pope in Rome.

The movie portrays King Phillip II of Spain and François, Duke of Anjou as candidates for marriage to Elizabeth. Both proposals were based on political aspirations and were not romantic gestures. Both Spain and France looked forward to possible alliance with England, which could result from marriage to the queen. The movie depicts that marriage to the Spanish king was a suggestion made through mediators, while d’Anjou was personally introduced to and spent time with the queen, although she supposedly finally denied his offer upon learning of some of his “recreational” activities (such as wearing dresses). Elizabeth was reluctant to marry either of them because she did not want her country to end up becoming a part of either France or Spain as a result of an alliance.

The one gentleman Elizabeth wanted to marry was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. They had a passionate affair, but she was advised against marriage to him because he was merely a subject and not royalty. Robert loved Elizabeth dearly, but was not exactly faithful to her, in fact, he was already married. He cared deeply for Elizabeth and was upset that he couldn’t be in a committed, open relationship with her due to her role as queen. He was fearful that her throne and her life were in jeopardy, so he agreed to try to convince her to marry Phillip of Spain. Unfortunately, part of the bargain for him was that he swore to the Spanish ambassador that he would be able to be of influence in reinstating Catholicism in England. In the end of the movie, while all of the others who were found to be conspiring against the queen were put to death, Elizabeth decided to spare Robert’s life to keep him as a reminder to her of “how close she came to danger”.

After conspiracies to have her removed from the throne were brought to light, and especially after her love affair with Robert ended so badly, Elizabeth decided that she would reinvent herself in a likeness similar to the Virgin Mary so that the English subjects would have something divine on Earth to worship. She considered herself “married” and completely devoted only to her country, and, therefore vowed to never marry any man. She has herself painted white to reflect her purity as a “born again” virgin, so to speak.

Elizabeth was probably one of the best English monarchs because she was very intelligent, and finally learned to rule without letting her feelings influence her decisions, particularly after her transformation into the Virgin Queen. Elizabeth’s role changed the definition of women in power by proving (to the world) that women possess the same intellect and skills as men. Her reign as queen for 45 years is a great example of what any woman, or man, can achieve.

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