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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 loosely based on 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 Craig Armstrong and A. R. Rahman.

It was filmed at Shepperton Studiosmarker and various locations around the United Kingdommarker with an estimated production budget of 50 to 60 million USD. Guy Hendrix Dyas was the production designer and the costumes were created by Alexandra Byrne.

The film premiered on 9 September 2007 at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker. It opened in wide release in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker on October 12, 2007. It premiered in Londonmarker on 23 October 2007 and is on general release from 2 November 2007 throughout the rest of the UK and Republic of Irelandmarker. It opened in Australia and New Zealandmarker on 15 November 2007.

The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and Blanchett received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Blanchett was an Oscar nominee for Best Actress for Elizabeth as well.

Historical background

In 1558, Philip II of Spain’s second wife, Mary I of England – “Bloody” Mary – died. They had wed in July 1554, a year after Mary’s accession to the English throne, but the English Parliament had refused to crown him jointly with Mary so he had little power in England. On Mary’s death he had then tried unsuccessfully to persuade her sister and successor, Elizabeth, to marry him, but she would not agree.


Dramatic license

As in the first film, some of the historical facts and dates have been changed by the film-makers for artistic purposes. Responding to concerns arising from this, lead Cate Blanchett said: ‘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. Hopefully, though, an historical film will inspire people to go and read about the history. But in the end it is a work of history and selection.’ The changes include the following:
  • William Cecil, Elizabeth's most trusted adviser throughout her reign, is omitted altogether. There is no mention of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, Sir Robert Cecil, or Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, all of whom were more significant in the latter part of Elizabeth's reign than Raleigh.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh's role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada was relatively minor. The role of Sir Francis Drake, one of the key figures in the victory, is downplayed; in some episodes, such as the confrontation with the Spanish Ambassador, Drake's historical acts are attributed to Raleigh. Similarly, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester was lieutenant general of the entire English army at the Armada crisis. His role at Tilbury camp is performed by Raleigh in this film.
  • The English battle fleet was not 'out-gunned' by the Armada, as Lord Howard is made to claim at a crisis point in the film. Howard also says "we're losing too many ships.' In reality, not a single English ship was lost during the battle.
  • The storm that destroyed their fleet struck the Spaniards when they were off the Western coast of Ireland making an attempt to return to their home ports.
  • The film depicts Elizabeth frequently seeking the advice of Dr John Dee. Historically, however, Dee was travelling on the Continent throughout the period depicted, and did not return to England until November 1589, more than a year after the defeat of the Armada.
  • The film depicts Elizabeth as enlightened towards her Catholic subjects, vehemently rejecting an advice to embark on persecuting them. However, while Elizabeth claimed not to persecute English Catholic laypersons, Catholic priests could be hanged, drawn, and quartered simply for being such. This was codified by numerous laws, including the 1585 law, ‘An Act against Jesuits, seminary priests and such other like disobedient persons'.
  • In 1588 Infanta Isabel of Spain is depicted as a child. In reality she was 21 by this time.
  • In 1585 Elizabeth was 52. 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. 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 27. In reality, Erik married in 1567 and died in 1577. Ivan the Terrible had also died by 1585. Furthermore, Charles II of Austria was not a child in 1585 but a 45 year old, married man with eleven children of his own.
  • The portrait of Ivan the Terrible presented to the queen, was actually painted by Viktor Vasnetsov in 1897.
  • Sir Francis Walsingham was only a year older than the queen. His brother in the film, William Walsingham, is fictitious.
  • The movie has the Queen rallying her troops at Tilbury astride a white steed in full armor with a sword, when in fact she rode side saddle, carrying a baton.
  • The film shows the Spanish envoys and other members of court wearing swords during their audiences with Elizabeth. Because of continuous threats of assassination, only members of the Royal Guard were permitted to carry weapons near Elizabeth while she was in court.
  • Elizabeth had brown eyes (contemporary portraits show her to have had the deep amber brown eyes of her mother) and Bess Throckmorton had blue eyes, the reverse of the actresses portraying them in the film.
  • Near the start of the film, Elizabeth and her attendants are seen passing under the famous Bridge of Sighsmarker of St John's College, Cambridgemarker, despite the fact that the crossing was not constructed until 1831.
  • The film places Fotheringay Castlemarker at the centre of a loch, overlooked by the Scottish Highlands. Fotheringhaymarker is actually a village situated in a very flat part of Northamptonshiremarker in central England. Speaking to the Northants Evening Telegraph, the film’s historical adviser, Justin Pollard, ‘denied it glosses over the county’s role in the story’, saying ‘it was because Fotheringhay castle no longer exists’. The castle shown in the film is Eilean Donanmarker, which may be reminiscent of Lochleven Castlemarker, where Mary had been held many years before.
  • The Jesuit conspirator played by Rhys Ifans is given the fictional name of Robert Reston (compare the name similarity to Robert Parsons). He is loosely modeled on John Ballard, who went under several different aliases, and whose character, played by Daniel Craig, was disposed of in the previous film.
  • In the film, when a young man who has been tortured is then hanged, the method of hanging is the "Long Drop" method, where the force of the fall coupled with a specific knot breaks the neck of the victim. This method of hanging was not invented until the 19th century by William Marwood.
  • In the film, Elizabeth is confronted at the altar of Old St Paul's Cathedralmarker by Anthony Babington, who is armed only (but unknowingly) with a pistol charged with powder but no shot. The real Babington Plot against the Queen was thwarted while it was still being planned.
  • Bess Throckmorton's pregnancy, which led to her secret marriage to Sir Walter Raleigh and the birth of their son Damerei, actually occurred in the summer of 1591, some three years after the Spanish Armada, not immediately before. Shortly after its birth, the baby was relegated to a wet nurse and presumably died soon thereafter.
  • Elizabeth is portrayed as hitting Bess Throckmorton in fury when she discovers that Bess has eloped with Sir Walter Raleigh. In reality, Elizabeth never struck any of her ladies-in-waiting, with the exception of one incident, which did not involve Bess Throckmorton. The only time Elizabeth ever slapped any of her maids was in the case of Mary Shelton, who had married without permission. This would have been taken as a great insult, as she had been asked by Shelton's parents to find a husband for her, and eloping was seen as a personal betrayal.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots, was indeed "anointed" as queen, descended from royalty in France and Scotland, and mother of James VI of Scotland (later James I of England). As royal cousin of Queen Elizabeth (both she and Elizabeth descended from King Henry VII) Mary actually retained a legitimate claim to the English throne, and was supported by a significant portion of English Catholics.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots, is depicted as having a heavy Scottish accent when in actuality she probably had a pronounced French accent. She was raised at the French court from the age of five and did not return to Scotland until she was a young woman.
  • Elizabeth's speech to the troops at Tilbury omits possibly the most famous and oft-quoted phrase of the queen's: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a King of England too."
  • Mary, Queen of Scots is depicted as being caught, tried and executed for treason very quickly. In fact she remained in prison for some 19 years before being executed.

Critical reception

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."

The film received generally negative to mixed reviews from U.S.marker critics. As of November 24, 2007 on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 34% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 145 reviews. On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 45 out of 100, based on 32 reviews.

Roger Ebert gave the film 2 1/2 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 Festivalmarker playing Elizabeth and Bob Dylan, both splendidly, is a wonder of acting.' Blanchett portrayed Bob Dylan in the film I'm Not There and was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in both movies.

Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave the film 3 stars out of 4 said '... as a pseudo-historical fable, a romantic triangle and a blood-and-thunder melodrama, the film can't be faulted' and also wrote, '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.' 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.'

Michael Gove, speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight Review, said: ‘It tells the story of England’smarker 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.’

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 at the ( Cathport website).

In the U.S.marker the National Catholic Register film critic Steven D. Greydanus compared it to The Da Vinci Code, and wrote: "The climax, a weakly staged destruction of the Spanish Armada, is a crescendo of church-bashing imagery: rosaries floating amid burning flotsam, inverted crucifixes sinking to the bottom of the ocean, the rows of ominous berobed clerics slinking away in defeat. Pound for pound, minute for minute, Elizabeth: The Golden Age could possibly contain more sustained church-bashing than any other film I can think of." Greydanus asked: "How is it possible that this orgy of anti-Catholicism has been all but ignored by most critics?"

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

Monsignor Mark Langham, Administrator of Westminster Cathedralmarker, 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”’.

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"'. ‘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?’

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 Spainmarker, 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.’ ‘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 and 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.’

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 civilizations that don’t learn from history are civilizations 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.’


Home media

The film was released on Region 1 on DVD and HD DVD February 5, 2008.

Awards and nominations

At the 80th Academy Awards Alexandra Byrne won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design . 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, 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 Art Direction and Production Design for Guy Hendrix Dyas and David Allday and Best Costume Design for Alexandra Byrne. The film received a nomination from the Art Directors Guild for Best Production Design in a Period Film, and a nomination from the Costume Designers Guild for Best Costume in a Period Film, and was 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, the 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 Statesmarker and Canadamarker, ranking #6 at the box office. In the United Kingdommarker and Irelandmarker the film entered at #4 and earned £1.3 million ($2.7 million) on its opening weekend. the worldwide total was $74.2 million, including $16.4 million in the U.S. and Canada and $57.8 million elsewhere.

In 1998, the preceding film, Elizabeth, opened in 9 theatres and grossed $275,131. Its widest release in the United States and Canada was in 624 theatres., and its largest weekend gross throughout its run in theatres was $3.4 million in 516 theatres, ranking #9 at the box office. The 1998 film Elizabeth went on to gross $30 million in the United States and Canada, and a total of $82.1 million worldwide.

See also


  2. King Philip II of Spain on
  3. 'Cate Blanchett’s film rant' M&C, People News, 5 November 2007. Retrieved on 6 November 2007.
  4. John Winton, Sir Walter Ralegh (London: Joseph, 1975), pp. 109, 225, colour plate 12, 'Elizabeth Throckmorton, Lady Ralegh, as a young woman. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.'
  5. ‘Elizabeth film gaffe’, Northants Evening Telegraph, 3 November 2007. Retrieved on 6 November 2007.
  6. Newsnight Review, BBC Two, 26 October 2007.
  7. Colin Covert, 'Elizabeth' a golden delight Star Tribune, 12 October 2007
  8. Bloom, Bob 'Golden Age' adds nothing as a sequel Journal & Courier, 12 October 2007
  9. Malcolm Moore in Rome, ‘Catholics condemn “twisted” Elizabeth film’, Telegraph, 3 November 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  10. Mark Langham, ‘The Golden Age Dawns’, Solomon, I Have Surpassed Thee, 10 August 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  11. Richard Owen, 'Rome condemns Queen Elizabeth again - this time over film of her reign', The Times, 1 November 2007. Retrieved on 1 November 2007.
  12. 'Historian bags Blanchett's Elizabeth: The Golden Age', Herald Sun, 2 November 2007. Retrieved on 2 November 2007.
  13. Sajeda Momin, ‘Elizabeth is anti-Christian’, DNA, 2 November 2007. Retrieved on 2 November 2007.
  14. Sandy George, ‘Elizabeth film “not anti-Catholic”’, Australian, 2 November 2007. Retrieved on 2 November 2007.
  15. ‘Blanchett defends new role at STC’, ABC News, 2 November 2007. Retrieved on 2 November 2007.
  16. Girish Rao, ‘Elizabeth is not anti-Catholic’, Rediff News, 21 November 2007. Retrieved on 22 November 2007.
  17. Rebecca Murray, ‘Director Shekhar Kapur Discusses Elizabeth: The Golden Age’, Hollywood Movies. Retrieved 9 November 2007.
  18. Weekend Box Office November 27–29, 1998, Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 October 2007.

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