Elizabeth R

Elizabeth R

"Elizabeth R" is an Emmy Award-winning BBC television drama serial of six 85-minute plays starring Glenda Jackson in the title role. It was first broadcast on terrestrial channel BBC Two from February to March 1971, and was later broadcast in America on the premiere season of PBS 's "Masterpiece Theatre". The acclaimed series is considered to be a largely accurate historical portrayal of the life of Elizabeth I of England.


* "The Lion's Cub" - The fragile succession heralds dangerous times for the young Princess Elizabeth. Having narrowly avoided implication in Sir Thomas Seymour's attempted abduction of her sickly half-brother, the boy King Edward VI; she becomes an unintentional figurehead for a Protestant rebellion led by Thomas Wyatt the Younger when her half-sister Mary I of England, a devout Catholic, succeeds to the throne. Will Elizabeth survive her emotionally unstable half-sister's reign? Or die, as so many other Protestants did, under the reign of "Bloody Mary"?

* "The Marriage Game" - The new Queen Elizabeth I is 25 years old - and unmarried. Her council, particularly the man she trusts most Sir William Cecil, urges her to marry quickly, (to insure the succession, among other valid reasons). Only Lord Robert Dudley, at first her Master of the Horse, and eventually the Earl of Leicester, seems to interest the Queen. When Dudley's wife dies under mysterious circumstances, Elizabeth must decide if she really wants to marry; and if so, is Dudley the right choice?

* "Shadow in the Sun" - Elizabeth meets her most eligible suitor yet: Francois, Duke of Anjou and Alencon. A marriage will cement France's sought for alliance with England. Both Sir William Cecil and Thomas Radclyffe, the Earl of Sussex (especially the latter), eagerly support this marriage offer. Despite the Puritans' rousing opposition in the country (which her zealously anti-catholic councillor Sir Francis Walsingham secretly approves of), Elizabeth seems taken with the witty and flower-tongued Francois. As her duties as Queen clash with her feelings as a woman (and she discovers to her fury that Dudley has secretly married her cousin Lettice Knollys), Elizabeth faces her toughest decision. In the end, her good friend and councillor Sussex helps Elizabeth make her painfully honest, final decision. Elizabeth does not want to marry - ever!

* "Horrible Conspiracies" - As long as Mary, Queen of Scots lives, she is the focus of plotters and revolutionaries. Despite a harsh clampdown against conspiring Catholics, Mary, in domestic exile, inspires an earnest attempt to overthrow Elizabeth. Is the execution of Mary the only way Elizabeth will remain on the throne? Sir Francis Walsingham definitely thinks so, and will use any means to convince Elizabeth to eliminate Mary. But Elizabeth fears Mary's death will condemn her in the eyes of God. In the end, Elizabeth makes the final tragic choice.

* "The Enterprise of England" - Whispers of war fill the air in Elizabeth's court and in Spain. The infirm King Philip II of Spain is eager to avenge the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, (and incidentally , make good on his inheritance from Mary as the Catholic claimant to the English throne - which Mary bequeathed to him). Philip urges an unprepared fleet, commanded by the incompetent Duke of Medina Sidonia, to sail on England. Even as Elizabeth rebukes the hawks (privateers) in her council (both Walsingham and Sir Francis Drake), with hopes of peace (encouraged by Cecil, who is now Lord Burghley), the Spanish Armada appears on the horizons of England. Her fate and the future of the country now lie in the hands of Drake, and Elizabeth's cousin Lord Howard, and the Navy. England triumphs, but Elizabeth pays a heavy emotional price with Dudley's death through illness and old age.

* "Sweet England's Pride" - "He is the sun in splendor, he is all our pride." Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex ( the stepson of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and the son-in-law of Francis Walsingham), is the people's champion, but he openly disputes the Queen's opinions. Elizabeth 'rewards' his daring feats in Spain with a tougher challenge: to quell the Irish uprising led by O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. But Essex has a rebellion of his own in mind. Can an old and dying Queen face a final challenge to her throne? And who will her successor be?


The first episode was broadcast on 19 February 1971, beginning on screen in the year 1548 with the then Princess Elizabeth's difficult ascent to the throne of England ten years later. The final episode was shown on 24 March, the 368th anniversary of the Queen's death.

The series was essentially a follow-up to the successful "Six Wives of Henry VIII" of 1970. Bernard Hepton as Cranmer, Basil Dignam as Bishop Gardiner, John Ronane as Thomas Seymour, and Rosalie Crutchley as Catherine Parr, reappeared in the same roles in "Elizabeth R".

Glenda Jackson's "tour de force" performance in the title role won her 2 Emmy Awards - for Best Actress in a Drama Series and Best Actress in a Movie/TV Special (for the episode "Shadow in the Sun"). The series itself won the Emmy for the Best Dramatic Series of 1972.

Costume designer Elizabeth Waller recreated many of the historical Elizabeth 's actual gowns for Glenda Jackson, adapting them from a number of the Queen's famous, official portraits.

"Elizabeth R" also starred many well-known television actors, including Malcolm McFee, Michael Williams, Margaretta Scott, John Woodvine, James Laurenson, Angela Thorne, Brian Wilde, Robin Ellis, Robert Hardy and Peter Egan.

It was parodied in Monty Python's Flying Circus when they portrayed the cast on motor-scooters and speaking Engrish. Therefore the title was changed to Erizabeth L.

Released on dvd by BBC/Warner in 2001.

In other countries

The series was broadcast in only five other countries: Netherlands (26 January 1972), Poland (13 February 1972), USA (13 February 1972) Belgium (7 September 1973) and Greece (autumn 1974).


* Glenda Jackson - Elizabeth
* Robert Hardy - Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
* Ronald Hines - Sir William Cecil
* Michael Williams - Francois, Duke of Anjou
* Robin Ellis - Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex
* Stephen Murray - Sir Francis Walsingham
* John Shrapnel - Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex
* Jason Kemp - Edward VI of England
* Daphne Slater - Queen Mary
* Vivian Pickles - Mary, Queen of Scots
* Hamilton Dyce - Amyas Paulet
* Rachel Kempson - Kat Ashley
* Peter Jeffrey - King Philip of Spain
* David Collings - Anthony Babington
* Bernard Holley - Gilbert Gifford
* John Woodvine - Sir Francis Drake
* John Nettleton - Sir Francis Bacon
* Angela Thorne - Lettice Knollys
* James Laurenson - Simier
* Hugh Dickson - Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
* Nicholas Selby - Sir Walter Raleigh
* Margaretta Scott - Catherine de' Medici
* John Ronane - Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley
* Bernard Hepton - Archbishop Cranmer
* Basil Dignam - Bishop Gardiner
* Rosalie Crutchley - Catherine Parr
* Brian Wilde - Richard Topcliffe

External links

* [http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/liz.htm Elizabeth R : A Television Heaven Review]

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