Historical storytelling on a grand scale, the four-part documentary series Elizabeth recounts the triumphs and tribulations of Queen Elizabeth I with great flair and insight. Elizabeth seized the throne in 1559 at the age of 25. Her ascension was fraught with unspeakable tragedy and violent opposition.
The film's first segment - titled From the Prison to the Palace - illustrates her tumultuous path to power. She was a child prodigy, and displayed an impressive strength of mind and will from a young age. But in spite of her obvious gifts, her destiny was not handed to her as it was with other successors to the throne; her journey was paved with great resistance. Her father, King Henry VIII, ordered the execution of her mother, her romantic liaisons were soured by incidents of sexual abuse, and she even endured wrongful imprisonment for a short time. The film shows how these wrenching early experiences shaped her resolve, and ultimately informed her approach to leadership during the time of her reign.
Her leadership style was also defined by her place in a male-dominated hierarchy. As stated in episode two of the series - titled The Virgin Queen - she seemed determined to rule as a "royal hermaphrodite". She resisted a string of potential suitors, and remained childless throughout her life.
Elizabeth may have shunned the feminine traditions of the time, but this might have resulted from her dual role as both king and queen of her country. When the war against Spain broke out in 1588, she proved her might with an overwhelming victory which was fought and won largely at sea. Episode 3 - titled Heart of a King - recalls this dramatic period of her monarchy.
The final segment titled Gloriana details the Golden Age that followed the defeat of the Spanish Armada. While the country's pride and prominence on the global stage was assured, the final 15 years of her reign were marked by continued conflicts and instability, strife amongst the governing ranks, and bouts of severe depression.
The complex narrative of Elizabeth is exhaustive, but far from exhausting. It's filled with enough drama, intrigue, and colorful characters to keep even the most passive follower of English history alert and exhilarated.
Directed by: Mark Fielder