This miniseries is awesome. Helen Mirren’s performance is powerful, stunning, compelling. Supported by a stellar cast including Jeremy Irons (Earl of Leicester) , Hugh Dancy (Earl of Essex), Toby Jones (Robert Cecil) , Patrick Malahide (Sir Francis Walsingham) Simon Woods (Gilbert Gifford) , she is Elizabeth I.
The two episodes focus on one motif: “the hardest thing to govern is the heart”. So we see Queen Elizabeth Tudor in her most human feeble aspect: the search for true love, loyal relationships, friendship and tenderness. As proud as she was of her independence – she never married – and her power , she suffered for her being doomed to solitude. She was capable of sublime tenderness as well as defying acts, of falling deeply in love as well as of stately insults. Her sharp intelligence and sense of humor, her stubborness and refined education, her strength and her humanity made of her the Queen with the heart and the stomach of a king and one the most beloved sovereigns in history.
Part I deals with her troubled but close relationship with her old friend and loyal advisor, the Earl of Leicester . Their love/friendship survives her contemplating marriage with the relatively young and handsome Duke of Anjou, a war with Spain, his secret (to the Queen) marriage to Lady Essex, his exile from court after her rage, her troubled "decision" to execute Mary Stuart. Jeremy Irons is incredibly good as Robin of Leicester.
My favourite scenes in Part I are
1. the moving farewell between the Queen and the Duke of Anjou. Mirren pronounces Elizabeth's lines from On Monsieur's Departure ( did you know the queen also wrote poetry?):
I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.
My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.
Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.
2. the meeting between Elizabeth and her prisoner and cousin, Mary Stuart Queen of Scotland in which Mirren pronounces a truthful line: "We are both prisoners of our time". Though this meeting has inspired fictional works, it never took place in real life. Friederich Schiller, for instance, imagined it in his tragedy Mary Stuart (1800).
Part Two follows Elizabeth through her later years, during which she has a passionate affair with the stepson of the Earl of Leicester, the much younger Earl of Essex, whose political ambitions frequently clash with his devotion and loyalty to the monarch. Elizabeth will suffer greatly for her weaknesses to the handsome fascinating Robin of Essex.
This series won Emmy, Peabody and Golden Globe Awards in 2006. In the same year Helen Mirren was also THE QUEEN , Elizabeth II , and dominated the Awards scene.
Among the historical inaccuracies, the screenplay explicitly mentions that Gilbert Gifford (Simon Woods) attempted to murder Elizabeth I by stabbing (in the first part of Episode One Leicester saves her life on this occasion). He is then seen being tortured and interrogated, but reappears in the second part of the episode to play his real historical part in the Babington Plot. This part of the episode even includes a scene where Gifford meets the Queen and she acknowledges him as the perpretator of the failed murder seven years before. The murder attempt never happened and, if it had, would inevitably have resulted in the perpetrator's execution.
I watched this two-part miniseries just yesterday and I'm so glad I did it. I was completely absorbed while watching it and ... it was rather dangerous ... Can anybody guess why?
I had seen and loved the two movies starring Cate Blanchett. She was brilliant. But Helen Mirren and the entire cast of this 2005 TV production surpassed my expectations.
Have you seen ELIZABETH I? Did you like it? If you haven't and love this historical figure as much as I do, you must get this DVD and watch it.