Elizabeth the Golden Age: Film and Reality

Elizabeth: The Golden Age, as some of you may know, is the 2007 sequel to the Oscar-winning 1998 film Elizabeth. Its screenplay is written by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst and it is directed by the great Shekhar Kapur. Cate Blanchett reprises her Academy Award winning role as one of the greatest queens of England’s history. She is joined by co-stars Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush, Jordi Mollà, Abbie Cornish, Samantha Morton, and Rhys Ifans.

While the first Elizabeth film centers on her rise to the throne, the Golden Age is set during the latter years of Elizabeth I’s reign as queen. In particular, it focuses at a tumultuous time in history when Spain and England are about to go to war. Before anything else, readers must understand that the portrayal of the events in the film has been fairly fictionalized. However, this does not take away from its central message nor does it have a negative impact on its general representation of the era.

This article examines the events portrayed in the film and real events that happened in our history.

Film Events

The film explores two major plot points. First, there is the potential romance between the Queen and Sir Walter Raleigh. Second, it shows the looming threat of war and the impending attack of the Spanish Armada against the English. The film seamlessly weaves these two plot points together by making Elizabeth’s love interest, Raleigh, one of the major heroes during the conflict against Spain.

As you may have surmised, this is actually Hollywood taking liberty with actual history. However, from a story telling standpoint, it makes perfect sense. The film is also lucky that the stellar writing and directing make this particular plot point so engaging and fun to watch.

Historical Events

To better understand the events portrayed in the film, it is also vital that fans look at the real events on which it was based on. Of course, one of the major caveats historians have with the film is the prominence of Sir Walter Raleigh in the conflict. However, while some of his exploits may have been exaggerated for purposes of the film, the events surrounding like the conflict with Spain still remains true.

As also shown in the film, the real-life Elizabeth made sure that England’s naval strength became a priority. By expressing supporting the “Sea Dogs”, such as John Hawkins and Francis Drake, she risked open war with Spain. They were essentially pirates who preyed on the Spanish merchant ships. They would steal all the gold and silver that the Spanish extracted from the New World.

Of course, King Philip and Elizabeth had their own fair share of conflict. Even before the events portrayed in the film there was animosity between them as he was one of her suitors that she rejected. By doing so, she effectively denied him the crown of England. The motivations behind Philip’s war in the film pretty much ran parallel to the real historical events – revenge for English piracy and the desire to install his daughter as the new Queen of England.

Elizabeth the Golden Age is a great movie to watch. It becomes even more interesting once you get to understand its historical basis.