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Elizabeth: The Golden Age

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Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Promotional film poster
Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Produced by Tim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Jonathan Cavendish
Written by William Nicholson
Michael Hirst
Starring Cate Blanchett
Geoffrey Rush
Clive Owen
Rhys Ifans
Jordi Mollà
Abbie Cornish
Samantha Morton
Music by A. R. Rahman
Craig Armstrong
Cinematography Remi Adefarasin
Edited by Jill Bilcock
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • 12 October 2007 (2007-10-12) (United States)
  • 2 November 2007 (2007-11-02) (United Kingdom)
Running time
114 minutes
Country United Kingdom, Spain, France
Language English
Budget $50–60 million
Box office $74,237,563

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a 2007 sequel to the 1998 film Elizabeth, directed by Shekhar Kapur and produced by Universal Pictures and Working Title Films. It stars Cate Blanchett in the title role and is a fairly fictionalised portrayal of events during the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. The screenplay was written by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst. The music score was composed by A. R. Rahman and Craig Armstrong.

It was filmed at Shepperton Studios and various locations around the United Kingdom with an estimated production budget of 50 to 60 million USD.[1] Guy Hendrix Dyas was the film's production designer and co-visual effects supervisor and the costumes were created by Alexandra Byrne.

The film premiered on 9 September 2007 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It opened in wide release in the United States and Canada on 12 October 2007. It premiered in London on 23 October 2007 and was on general release from 2 November 2007 throughout the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland. It opened in Australia and New Zealand on 15 November 2007.[2]

The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and Blanchett received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a motion picture.


  • Historical background 1
  • Plot 2
  • Cast 3
  • Dramatic licence 4
  • Critical reception 5
    • Claims of anti-Catholicism 5.1
  • Filming locations 6
  • Soundtrack 7
  • Home media 8
  • Awards and nominations 9
  • Box office performance 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Historical background

In 1558, King Philip II of Spain's second wife, Queen Mary I of England, died. They had wed in July 1554, a year after Mary's accession to the English throne, but the English Parliament had refused to grant him much real power as co-monarch of England.[3] On Mary's death he had then tried unsuccessfully to persuade her sister and successor, Elizabeth I, to marry him, but she would not agree. Phillip decides to take revenge and launches the Spanish Armada, with the blessing of the Pope, to attack England, Protestantism, and Elizabeth herself. Sir Walter Raleigh, whom the Queen loves, marries a ward of her court after he learns she is carrying his child. Elizabeth I has both of them arrested.


In 1585, Catholic Spain ruled by King Philip II of Spain (Jordi Molla) is the most powerful country in the world. Seeing Protestant England as a threat, and in retaliation for English piracy of Spanish ships, Philip declares war. He plans to take over England, and make his daughter Isabella the Queen of England in Elizabeth's place. Meanwhile, Elizabeth I of England (Cate Blanchett) is being pressured to marry by her advisor, Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush). She is ageing and, with no child, the throne will pass to her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton). The Queen is presented with portraits of appropriate suitors, but Elizabeth refuses to marry, particularly to the Charles II, Archduke of Austria (Christian Brassington), who has become infatuated with the Queen. English explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) is presented at Elizabeth's court, having returned from the New World, and offers her potatoes, tobacco, two Native Americans, and gold from a Spanish ship that he claims was "unable to continue its journey". Elizabeth commands that the Native Americans be treated well, and refuses to accept the gold.

Elizabeth is attracted to Raleigh, enthralled by his tales of exploration, and asks Bess Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish), her most favoured lady-in-waiting, to observe him. Bess also finds Raleigh attractive and secretly begins an affair with him. Elizabeth seeks guidance from her astrologer, Dr. John Dee (David Threlfall) who predicts that two empires will go to war. However, he cannot predict which will triumph over the other, leaving Elizabeth to ponder her and England's fate. Jesuits in London conspire with Philip to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, in what Philip calls "The English Enterprise", and which is known to history as the Babington Plot. From her imprisonment, Mary sends secret correspondence to the Jesuits, who recruit Anthony Babington (Eddie Redmayne) to assassinate Elizabeth. Walsingham continues to warn Elizabeth of Spain's rising power and of the Catholic plots against her. However she, unlike her predecessor and half sister Mary I of England, refuses to force her people to share her beliefs. Even so, those conspiring against Elizabeth are being hunted and murdered, including Bess's cousin, whom Bess had failed to protect.

After learning of her cousin's torture and death at Walsingham's hands, Bess turns to Raleigh for comfort. The barely hidden closeness of Bess and Raleigh causes tension between them, testing her desire to keep him in England and increasing his desire to go back to the New World. Walsingham's brother, a Papist, knows of the plot against Elizabeth. It is revealed that Walsingham had known of the plot all along, intercepting letters, and his brother is jailed. He reveals the plot to Elizabeth, who angrily confronts the Spanish diplomats. The Spanish ambassador feigns ignorance and accuses Elizabeth of receiving Spanish gold from pirates and insinuating a sexual relationship with Raleigh. A sword fight nearly ensues between the queen's male escorts and the Spanish contingent. She throws the Spaniards out of court. Meanwhile, Philip is cutting the forests of Spain to build the Spanish Armada to invade England. Mary writes letters condoning the plot. Babington storms into a cathedral where Elizabeth is praying and points a gun at her. Elizabeth opens her arms, seemingly fearless. He pulls the trigger, and the gun fires. At first Walsingham is unable to discern why the gun was harmless, though it is later revealed by the traitor in the torture chamber that there was no bullet in the gun.

Elizabeth learns of Mary's involvement, and Walsingham insists she be executed to quell any possible revolt. Elizabeth is reluctant, but nevertheless agrees. Mary is tried for high treason. She is beheaded, ascending the block in a blood-red dress, red being the Catholic liturgical color for martyrs. Walsingham sees that this was part of the Jesuits' plan all along. Philip had never intended Mary to become queen, but since the Pope and other Catholic leaders regarded Mary as the true Queen of England, Philip uses Mary's death to obtain papal approval for war. The "murder" of the last legitimate Catholic in the line of succession gives Philip the pretext he needs to invade England and place his daughter on the throne as a puppet monarch, and he oversees the departure of the Armada from Cádiz. In England, Raleigh asks to leave for the New World, which Elizabeth forbids, instead knighting him and making him Captain of the Royal Guard. Bess discovers she is pregnant with Raleigh's child, and after telling him the news, she pleads with him to leave. He chooses not to, and the couple marry in secret. At the same time, Elizabeth awakes during a dream as the wedding is taking place. She confronts Bess a few weeks later, who confesses that she is indeed pregnant with Raleigh's child, and that Raleigh is her husband.

An enraged Elizabeth berates Bess, slapping and beating her, reminding her that she cannot marry without royal consent. Feeling betrayed, the queen banishes Bess from court and has Raleigh imprisoned for the crime of seducing a ward of the Queen. Walsingham arranges for his brother William to be released and taken to France on the condition that he must never return to England. The Armada begins its approach up the Sir Francis Drake in the battle. Elizabeth gives her Speech to the Troops at Tilbury seated on a war horse wearing full plate armour. The ships of the Armada vastly outnumber England's, but at the last moment, a major storm blows the Armada toward the beaches, endangering its formation and ships. The ships of the Armada drop anchor, and the Armada becomes a sitting duck for English fire ships. Elizabeth, back at her coastal headquarters, walks out to the cliffs and watches the Spanish Armada sink in flames. Elizabeth visits Walsingham on his deathbed, telling her old friend to rest. She then visits Raleigh and Bess and blesses their child. Elizabeth seemingly triumphs personally through her ordeal, again resigned to her role as the Virgin Queen and mother to the English people.


Dramatic licence

This representation of a historical period is heavily fictionalised for the purposes of entertainment. Its lead Cate Blanchett has been reported as saying: "It's terrifying that we are growing up with this very illiterate bunch of children, who are somehow being taught that film is fact, when in fact it's invention".[4] Some of the simpler fictions are:

  • Sir Walter Raleigh is falsely portrayed as a major figure in the defeat of the Spanish Armada, whereas Sir Francis Drake and other key leaders are not so credited.
  • Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, was lieutenant general at the Armada crisis. In the film, he is not present at the Tilbury camp, his role being given to Raleigh.
  • Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, says, "We're losing too many ships." In reality, not a single English ship was lost during the battle.
  • The film depicts Elizabeth being advised by Dr John Dee. Historically, Dee was travelling the continent throughout the period depicted and did not return until more than a year after the defeat of the Armada. Elizabeth's actual main advisor and chief minister, Sir William Cecil, is omitted from the film altogether.
  • The portrayed Jesuit leader of the Babington Plot, Robert Reston, is completely fictional, though based on the real-life Jesuit, John Ballard who encouraged Babington to initiate the assassination attempt on Elizabeth which would begin the chain of events leading to the Spanish invasion. However, because Ballard's death was portrayed in the previous film, the persona of Reston was created to replace him.
  • In the film, Elizabeth is confronted at the altar of Old St Paul's Cathedral by Anthony Babington with a pistol charged with powder but no shot. The real Babington Plot was thwarted while it was still being planned. It also depicts Babington (and, implicitly, the other conspirators) as hanged by long drop, rather than the actual, and more gruesome method of hanging, drawing and quartering.
  • In 1585, Elizabeth was fifty-two. The film shows various suitors being presented to the queen, with a view to marriage and children. These scenes presented actually took place much earlier in her reign. For instance, Erik of Sweden abandoned his proposals to marry Elizabeth after his trip to England was interrupted by the death of his father in 1560, when Elizabeth was twenty-seven. In fact, by 1568, Erik had been deposed from the Swedish throne and died in captivity in 1577.
  • In 1588, Infanta Isabel of Spain is portrayed as a child. In reality, she was twenty-one by this time.
  • The lady-in-waiting, Bess Throckmorton, in fact became pregnant with Walter Raleigh's child in the summer of 1591, three years after the defeat of the Armada, not immediately before.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots, is depicted as having a Scottish accent when she would surely have spoken with a French accent, having been raised at the French court from the age of five and not returning to Scotland until she was a young woman.
  • The film shows Spanish envoys and other members of court wearing swords during their audiences with Elizabeth. Owing to threats of assassination, only members of the Royal Guard were permitted to carry weapons near Elizabeth while she was in court.
  • The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, is portrayed as having happened very swiftly after her arrest, while she was still a young woman. In fact, Mary was held in custody at various places for 19 years before her execution in 1587, at the age of 44.
  • The film depicts the battle between the two forces as consisting of broadsides from the ships of both fleets. In fact, while the English ships were able to fire multiple times during the course of a day, the heavy Spanish guns were so difficult to reload that they were frequently only fired once. Broadsides would accompany later developments in ship design in the first half of the 17th century, the first major actions involving such technology and tactics for the English being the Anglo-Dutch Wars.

• During the film, Elizabeth spoke German to one of her suitors, Charles II, Archduke of Austria and in reality, there is no evidence that Elizabeth was taught German or even spoke German.

Critical reception

Although Cate Blanchett's performance was highly praised, the film received generally mixed to negative reviews from US critics. As of 24 November 2007 on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 34% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 145 reviews.[5] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 45 out of 100, based on 32 reviews.[6]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, gave the film 1 star out of 5, remarking on the film's historical revisionism and melodrama. He writes: "Where Kapur's first Elizabeth was cool, cerebral, fascinatingly concerned with complex plotting, the new movie is pitched at the level of a Jean Plaidy romantic novel".[7]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2½ stars out of 4, saying 'there are scenes where the costumes are so sumptuous, the sets so vast, the music so insistent, that we lose sight of the humans behind the dazzle of the production'. Ebert did, however, praise many of the actors' performances, particularly that of Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I. He said 'That Blanchett could appear in the same Toronto Film Festival playing Elizabeth and Bob Dylan, both splendidly, is a wonder of acting'.[8] Blanchett portrayed Bob Dylan in the film I'm Not There and was nominated for an Academy Award for her roles in both movies.

Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave the film 3 stars out of 4, writing '... as a pseudo-historical fable, a romantic triangle and a blood-and-thunder melodrama, the film can't be faulted' and 'This isn't historical fabrication, it's mutilation. But for all its lapses, this is probably the liveliest, most vibrant Elizabethan production since Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.'[9] while Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe said, "Historians might demand a little more history from Elizabeth: The Golden Age. But soap opera loyalists could hardly ask for more soap."[10]

Michael Gove, speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight Review, said: 'It tells the story of England's past in a way which someone who's familiar with the Whig tradition of history would find, as I did, completely sympathetic. It's amazing to see a film made now that is so patriotic ... One of the striking things about this film is that it's almost a historical anomaly. I can't think of a historical period film in which England and the English have been depicted heroically for the last forty or fifty years. You almost have to go back to Laurence Olivier's Shakespeare's Henry V in which you actually have an English king and English armies portrayed heroically'.[11]

Claims of anti-Catholicism

The film depicts an important episode in the violent struggle between the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation that polarised European politics. Several critics claimed the film was "anti-Catholic", and it followed a traditional English view of their own history. A British-based priest, Father Peter Malone, declared the film to be jingoistic in his review.

In the US the [12]

Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger said: "This movie equates Catholicism with some sort of horror-movie cult, with scary close-ups of chanting monks and glinting crucifixes".[13] Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune complained of what he saw as "ugly anti-Catholic imagery",[14] and Bob Bloom of the Lafayette Journal & Courier agreed that anti-Catholicism was one of the film's "sore points".[15]

Monsignor Mark Langham, Administrator of Westminster Cathedral, was criticised by some Roman Catholics for allowing scenes to be shot there; although praising the film as a 'must see', he suggested that 'it does appear to perpetuate the myth of “killer priests”'.[16][17]

Historian Franco Cardini of the University of Florence, alleged 'the film formed part of a "concerted attack on Catholicism, the Holy See and Papism" by an alliance of atheists and "apocalyptic Christians"'.[18][19] 'Why put out this perverse anti-Catholic propaganda today, just at the moment when we are trying desperately to revive our Western identity in the face of the Islamic threat, presumed or real?'[20]

Director Shekhar Kapur rejected this criticism of his film, saying: “It is actually very, very deeply non-anti-Catholic. It is anti extreme forms of religion. At that time the church in Spain, or Philip had said that they were going to turn the whole world into a very pure form of Catholicism. So it's not anti-Catholic. It's anti an interpretation of the word of God that is singular, as against what Elizabeth's was, which was to look upon her faith as concomitant'.[21][22] 'The fact is that the Pope ordered her execution; he said that anybody who executes or assassinates Elizabeth would find a beautiful place in the kingdom of heaven. Where else have you heard these words about Salman Khan or Salman Rushdie? That's why I made this film, so this idea of a rift between Catholicism and Protestants does not arise. My interpretation of Elizabeth is an interpretation of greater tolerance [than] Philip, which is absolutely true. It's completely true that she had this kind of feminine energy. It's a conflict between Philip, who had no ability to encompass diversity or contradiction, and Elizabeth who had the feminine ability to do that'.[23]

Kapur extended this pluralist defence to his own approach: 'I would describe all history as fiction and interpretation ... [A]sk any Catholic and they'll give you a totally different aspect of history ... History has always been an interpretation ... I do believe that civilisations that don't learn from history are civilisations that are doomed to make the same mistakes again and again, which is why this film starts with the idea of fundamentalism against tolerance. It's not Catholic against Protestant; it's a very fundamental form of Catholicism. It was the time of the Spanish Inquisition and against a woman whose half of her population was Protestant, half was Catholic. And there were enough bigots in her Protestant Parliament to say, "Just kill them all", and she was constantly saying no. She was constantly on the side of tolerance. So you interpret history to tell the story that is relevant to us now'.[24]

Filming locations

  • Brean Down, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, England, UK (Queen Elizabeth addresses her troops)
  • Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England, UK (John Dee's house exteriors/London alley/Paris street scene)
  • Dorney Court, Dorney, Buckinghamshire, England, UK (Raleigh's house/Walsingham's house/chapel interiors)
  • Ely Cathedral, Ely, Cambridgeshire, England, UK (Whitehall Palace interior)
  • Leeds Castle, Kent, England, UK (Chartley Hall/Whitehall exteriors)
  • Petworth House, Petworth, West Sussex, England, UK (Windsor Great Park)
  • Wells Cathedral, Wells, Somerset, England, UK (Whitehall Palace interiors)
  • Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire, England, UK (St. Paul's Cathedral/The Chapel Royal interiors/gallows scene)



Home media

The film was released on Region 1 on DVD and HD DVD 5 February 2008. It was released on Blu-ray in 2009 and bundled with Elizabeth.

Awards and nominations

At the 80th Academy Awards Alexandra Byrne won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.[26] Cate Blanchett was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film, becoming the first female actor to receive another Academy Award nomination for the reprisal of the same role. Cate Blanchett was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama for her performance in the film,[27] and the Critic's Choice Award for Best Actress in a leading role, she was also nominated for a SAG Award. The film won two Satellite Awards for Best Production Design for Guy Hendrix Dyas and Best Costume Design for Alexandra Byrne. Guy Hendrix Dyas received a nomination from the Art Directors Guild for Best Production Design in a Period Film, and Alexandra Byrne a nomination from the Costume Designers Guild for Best Costume in a Period Film. The film was also nominated for four BAFTA awards including Actress in a Leading Role, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Makeup.

At the 11th Pyongyang International Film Festival held on September 2008, one of the awards for special screening were conferred upon the film.

Box office performance

Elizabeth: The Golden Age grossed $6.1 million in 2,001 theatres during its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, ranking #6 at the box office.[28] In the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland the film entered at No. 4 and earned £1.3 million ($2.7 million) on its opening weekend.[29] As of February 2009 the worldwide total was $74.2 million, including $16.4 million in the US and Canada and $57.8 million elsewhere.[30]

In 1998, the preceding film, Elizabeth, opened in 9 theatres and grossed $275,131.[31] Its widest release in the United States and Canada was in 624 theatres.,[31] and its largest weekend gross throughout its run in theatres was $3.4 million in 516 theatres,[31] ranking No. 9 at the box office.[32] The 1998 film Elizabeth went on to gross $30 million in the United States and Canada, and a total of $82.1 million worldwide.[33]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) – Release dates".  
  3. ^ King Philip II of Spain on
  4. ^ "Cate Blanchett's film rant". M&C, People News. Archived from the original on November 7, 2007. Retrieved April 8, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Rotten Tomatoes".  
  6. ^ "Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007): Reviews".  
  7. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (2 November 2007). "Elizabeth: The Golden Age –". London:  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Colin Covert (14 October 2007). "Movie review: 'Elizabeth' a golden delight".  
  10. ^ Wesley Morris (12 October 2007). "Elizabeth: The Golden Age Movie Review".  
  11. ^ Newsnight Review, BBC Two, 26 October 2007.
  12. ^ Steven D. Greydanus. "Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)".  
  13. ^ Stephen Witty (15 October 2007). "Glittering like fool's gold".  
  14. ^ Colin Covert, 'Elizabeth' a golden delight Star Tribune, 12 October 2007
  15. ^ Bloom, Bob 'Golden Age' adds nothing as a sequel Journal & Courier, 12 October 2007
  16. ^ Malcolm Moore in Rome, 'Catholics condemn “twisted” Elizabeth film', Telegraph, 3 November 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  17. ^ Mark Langham, 'The Golden Age Dawns', Solomon, I Have Surpassed Thee, 10 August 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  18. ^ Richard Owen, 'Rome condemns Queen Elizabeth again – this time over film of her reign', The Times, 1 November 2007. Retrieved on 1 November 2007.
  19. ^ 'Historian bags Blanchett's Elizabeth: The Golden Age', Herald Sun, 2 November 2007. Retrieved on 2 November 2007.
  20. ^ Sajeda Momin, 'Elizabeth is anti-Christian', DNA, 2 November 2007. Retrieved on 2 November 2007.
  21. ^ Sandy George, 'Elizabeth film “not anti-Catholic”', Australian, 2 November 2007. Retrieved on 2 November 2007.
  22. ^ 'Blanchett defends new role at STC', ABC News, 2 November 2007. Retrieved on 2 November 2007.
  23. ^ Girish Rao, 'Elizabeth is not anti-Catholic', Rediff News, 21 November 2007. Retrieved on 22 November 2007.
  24. ^ Rebecca Murray, 'Director Shekhar Kapur Discusses Elizabeth: The Golden Age', Hollywood Movies. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Nominees – 80th Annual Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 23 January 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2008. 
  27. ^ "HOLLYWOOD FOREIGN PRESS ASSOCIATION 2008 GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS FOR THE YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2007". 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 15 December 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2007. 
  28. ^ "Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) – Weekend Box Office".  
  29. ^ "Box-office UK". AlloCine. Retrieved 6 November 2007. 
  30. ^ "Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) – Weekend Box Office".  
  31. ^ a b c "Elizabeth (1998) – Weekend Box Office".  
  32. ^ Weekend Box Office November 27–29, 1998, Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  33. ^ .htm "Elizabeth (1998)" .  

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