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  • I saw this over 30 years ago as a teenager and thought it was superb. I don't think I've seen it rerun since, but Glenda Jackson's astonishing performance has always stayed with me. I just got the DVD set and it's stunning, even better than I rememberedit. The research and writing are much more intelligent than almost anything currently produced (the BBC produced it).

    I had a love/hate reaction to the Cate Blanchett Elizabeth a few years back; I loved it because the performances and cinemetography were great, but hated the many, many historical errors in it. If you like movies that are both well-made and historically accurate, you can't get any better than Elizabeth R.
  • 'I pity any student forced to watch this series', remarks a reviewer of this miniseries on this website. Well, I am a student and I certainly don't concur with this statement at all: having been fascinated by Elizabeth I as a child, (first watching this in my early teens) and having now studied Elizabeth and her reign at undergraduate level, I find it no less brilliant,charming, or committed to careful detail after many many viewings. It is, in fact, a tender and very accurate portrayal of Elizabeth's life, from the young queen to the aged one, treating her life with sympathy, insight, humour, and a heady dose of power and romance. The costumes and set are excellent, and in short, for many,Glenda Jackson really - and deservedly so - *is* Elizabeth I. Long after the film has finished, her portrayal will stay with you. Don't miss out on this, whatever you do, buy it and watch it, you certainly won't regret it.
  • BBD-323 January 2000
    This is my all-time favorite portrayal of Elizabeth Tudor, perhaps one of the greatest women to have ever lived. Glenda Jackson acts the role so well, one begins to believe in reincarnation. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Jackson was a trained shakespearian actor, therefore, adding the glamor of shakespearian oratory to the equally impressive story of Elizabeth. Why not--since they are both integral parts of the English renaissance.

    I believe this movie captures the feel of the times and the personal and political crises that Elizabeth faced, with tremendous accuracy. Historically this movie appears to be completely accurate in its factual representations, something that cannot be said for "Elizabeth and Essex" (Bette Davis) or "Elizabeth" (Cate Blanchett).

    Worth watching again and again.
  • Harold_Robbins21 December 2005
    Before the first episode was over I'd forgotten I was watching an actress - I felt as if I was experiencing an audience with a Queen! Glenda Jackson so inhabits the body and soul of Elizabeth I that all other interpretations of the role are diminished and it's impossible to think of anyone else in the role, even Bette Davis in her two films, PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH & ESSEX and THE VIRGIN QUEEN.

    While it's perfectly true that production values have come along way since this early Masterpiece Theater effort, the writing and acting are of such high quality that you won't mind; this one certainly helped set the standards for subsequent series and performances.
  • "Elizabeth R" is an outstanding biography of Elizabeth I of England. The performances by all of the actors, most notably the fantastic performance by Glenda Jackson in the title role, are all exemplary. After reading Alison Weir's excellent and detailed biography of Elizabeth and then watching the series again, I could see how accurate the series was and how much of Elizabeth's life they were able to cover in detail. (I would recommend anyone who has enjoyed watching "Elizabeth R" to read Weir's biography). Also, the series is a good follow up of the (also excellent) series "The Six Wives of Henry VIII". Some actors cross over from one series to the next in the same roles, giving a sense of continuity. Anyone who has an interest in the history of England's monarchy should enjoy this incredible series.
  • brontew25 November 2000
    One of the best mini series ever shown on television.

    I am a lover of British costume drama and love that period of history and so must admit a bias

    The series is written by depicting a significant event in Elizabeth's life in each episode - First as the young Elizabeth and the dangers she faced. The subsequent episodes show the early years on the throne and Elizabeth's early relationship with Dudley, her forays into the marriage game, the events surrounding Mary Queen of Scots' last days, the Spanish Armada and the last days of her reign and her relationship with Dudley's step son Essex

    Unlike the movie Elizabeth, this series is highly accurate. Each time I watch the episodes I pick up more details of the research that has gone into the series. For example the costumes are based on portraits of the Queen and gowns depicted in them. The inside scenes are based on the actual make up of Tudor palaces relatively small wood panelled rooms, not large stone Gothic chambers.

    Being a mini series the events of her reign can be given more depth. The actors and writers have more time to develop the characters and show the changing relationships between the characters. There is time to show the Queen's development from the young queen depicted in Elizabeth the movie to icon Elizabeth created for herself over time. The series is fascinating to watch for the transformation in each episode for the aging of the queen from the young puritanical princess, with simple clothes and no make up to the aged queen, who has to virtually put on a mask of make up to be seen in public.

    The mini series shows the enduring relationships the queen maintained with Dudley and Cecil.

    Glenda Jackson produces the definitive interpretation of Elizabeth, warts and all. Elizabeth was not always a "nice" woman, but she was a great queen and the series shows this.

    For anyone who enjoyed Elizabeth the movie I strongly recommend that they watch this series.
  • I recently viewed this series again as part of my research for a play I am writing about Christopher Marlowe. I am pleased to say that serious historical sources - primary sources - were consulted by all six writers. Detail after detail in all of the episodes are supported with source material. Elizabeth lived such a rich and fascinating life that the facts provide more drama than a lazy writer could ever belch out of his imagination. Sound, lively history. One of the five best programs ever on television.
  • trosa-124 April 2006
    This is a great historical account of one of the most incredible women in history. A descendant of incredible lineage (all cousins to be exact) the daughter of the most ambitious Anne Boleyn, was in fact Henry VIII's best prodigy as a true and fair leader of England and its people. Henry could have wanted no more of her (nor seen better from a son) had he been able to witness Elizabeth's ability as Queen.

    Glenda Jackson is able to give us a view of Elizabeth as if it were Elizabeth herself we were watching; at least Elizabeth as we believe she would have been. True to the word of some of the critics within, no one really knows for certain what Elizabeth may have sounded like or for that matter the tenor in which spoke. But that matters little in this most true account of the Life of Elizabeth R. One takes what is portrayed by Glenda Jackson and the rest of the cast as the most likely of truths. After watching the full series, you will feel as though you were in court with Her Majesty, Elizabeth I.

    If you haven't seen this you should.

    I loved this series growing up and after so many years of wanting to see it again, I have purchased my own copy of the series on DVD through

  • Only the BBC could produce such a historically correct mini-series on this fascinating character. Although Cate Blanchett did a very good job portraying Elizabeth, Glenda Jackson nails the character on a lesser set and with fewer flattering camera angles. Jackson becomes more Elizabeth and less Jackson as this very long series plods on. If you want lots of swordplay and action, pass on this one. This is for someone who enjoys reading history biographies, not historical novels. Although production values are a bit dated, you will not be disappointed by the detail of the story and the portrayal of the main character by Jackson.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Since cinema and television cameras first started to role, it seems the subject of Elizabeth I, has remained a constant favourite, with filmmakers throughout the generations obsessed with bringing to our screens bigger and better adaptations of this extraordinary life.

    From Errol Flynn and Bette Davies in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in 1939, to 1953's Young Bess starring Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger with more recent adaptations starring Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett and Anne-Marie Duff.

    However one performance and one adaptation that quite literally leaves all the above basking in its shade is Glenda Jackson's portrayal of our late Queen in the 1971 BBC mini series Elizabeth R. This Epic Biography spans Elizabeth's entire life from her tumultuous teenage years to her death in 1603 after finally forging her great legacy.

    Historical accuracy is for once put first and is complimented by great costumes, beautiful locations and expert performances by everyone involved. Even the extras must have been specifically chosen for being the best at their craft.

    Glenda Jackson becomes the definitive Elizabeth, whilst Ronald Hines and Robert Hardy don tights and ruffs as they portray Lord William Cecil of Burghley and Lord Robert Dudley of Leicester respectively and both with great aplomb.

    Running at an epic nine hours in it's entirety, it is even easy to break down and digest, as each of the six episodes is in itself a 90 minute movie which can stand alone as a masterpiece.

    Part One, (The Lions Cub) charts Elizabeth's dangerous journey through betrayal and the constant threats of execution throughout the reigns of her sickly brother King Edward VI and her tyrannical devoutly catholic sister Mary I, as she is forced to act the diplomat to ensure her survival; skills that will undoubtedly come in useful later in her life.

    Part Two, (The Marriage Game) depicts a newly crowned Elizabeth I, fighting off her advisor's who wish to see her married to an eligible suitor, to not only secure a Tudor heir, but to ensure political alliances overseas. Despite her own personal aversions to marriage, Elizabth is torn between her own demons and the well being of her people and country.

    Part Three, (Shadow in The Sun) sees Bedchamber diplomacy taken to a new level as Elizabeth is presented with her most eligible suitor yet, a French Duke who is brother to the King of France and will ensure a long and trusted alliance between the countries, but her advisor's are split on the issue, each advising her accordingly to secure their own ends.

    Part Four, (Horrible Conspiracies) tells an accurate account of the much fabled tale of Elizabeth's relationship with her Cousin Mary Queen of Scots and the plots hatched by her and her conspirators to 'dispose' of Elizabeth in her attempt to sit upon the English throne.

    Part Five, (The Empire of England) follows Elizabeth into war; a war brought about by Mary's Execution as the mighty Spanish Armada sails towards the English coast to avenge her death, invade the country and remove the 'murderous' Queen once and for all.

    Part Six, (Sweet Englands Pride) An old and dying Queen is greatly flattered by the attentions of the young, dashing and heroic Earl of Essex. But when Essex shows signs of rebellion and treason, it seems the Queens final hope of personal happiness eludes her once more. Can she save her throne from the ambitious Essex before it's too late.

    Highly recommended to all those lovers of English/British History and one that comes heartily recommended by me. The best Elizabethan yarn ever.
  • Don't be put of by the typical BBC production values, this mini-series is astounding in its scope.

    If you don't know much about Queen Elizabeth before watching this series, spend an hour reading brief sketches on her father Henry VIII and mother Ann Boleyn. Also, be sure to read about Elizabeth's younger brother Edward and older sister Mary, both of whom who preceeded her as England's King and Queen, respectively.

    You may have to look hard for a copy of the series, or ask your library to find it for you, but it will a wonderful 9 hours of viewing.
  • monakayk6 July 2006
    It has all been said in the other post about this great film/mini series. And also said about Glenda Jackson's performance as the 'Virgin Queen'. This film should be a requirement for any History student to watch. It is factual and actuate. The entire cast does a marvelous job with their roles and mesh together splendidly. I watched this film the first time on TV in the '70s when it was broadcast and enjoyed it thoroughly. I have seen it again several times and enjoy it each and every time. When Glenda Jackson was cast again in the role of Queen Elizabeth I in MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS, opposite Vanessa Redgrave...I was thrilled. Glenda almost stole the entire film. With the few scenes she was in opposite Vanessa..she made that film a hit in my opinion.

    The only thing I can add are these 3 words: Glenda IS Elizabeth I!
  • bunny-1417 October 1998
    An amazing series with beautiful costumes and scenery.Glenda Jackson is stunning as Elizabeth Tudor. Very acute telling of the life of Elizabeth before her reign and throughout as Queen of England. A must see.
  • As somebody who admires Glenda Jackson and takes an interest in this period of history, I adored Elizabeth R. To me, it is one of the best mini-series I have ever seen. I loved how absorbing throughout the story is with such believability, tension and poignancy in the drama, how compellingly real Elizabeth and the rest of the characters were and how intelligent the dialogue was written.

    The music is lovely, the series is beautifully directed and the support acting from Robin Ellis, Ronald Hines, Stephen Murray and Robert Hardy is very good.

    What made Elizabeth R for me were the sumptuous costumes and settings captured lovingly on camera and the real tour-De-force lead performance that is Glenda Jackson's. You don't see Jackson, you see Elizabeth, that is how good her performance is.

    Overall, one of the best mini-series ever. 10/10 Bethany Cox
  • Before Ben Kingsley as Gandhi or Denzel Washington as Malcolm X, Glenda Jackson walked in the shoes of Queen Elizabeth I in 1971. Or, better stated, Jackson, along with her cast, crew, and the BBC, transported television audiences to another era, another time when chivalry still existed, religion and politics were intertwined, and the world was lit only by fire. However, many of the old Medieval sensibilities were being displaced by an enthusiasm for discovery, science, culture, arts, and tolerance that we now call the Renaissance, and Queen Elizabeth I was the central figure in England's contribution to this rebirth of culture. Jackson's performance and unparalleled historical scholarship bring the era back to life and have ensured Elizabeth R's ranking as one of the great screen biographies.

    In addition to the superlative performance by Jackson, the entire production conveys the atmosphere of mid-to-late 1500's England. Former Hollywood offerings of the same subject, particularly the ones starring Betty Davis, had a fairy-tale ambiance that made the era seem more otherworldly rather than historical. By contrast, the 1971 BBC production brings the viewer right into the middle of 1500's England as if you are walking around the halls and chambers with the personages from the 16th century. Instead of seeing the monarch upon a distant throne in a palace hall, the viewer feels adjacent to these people, many of whom have become almost iconic. Conversations with the likes of William Cecil (Lord Burghley), Queen Mary I, Philip II of Spain, and of course Queen Elizabeth I herself are at a human level rather than at a distance. This intimacy creates a reality that fosters a closeness with the era, although these people lived 400 to 450 years before our present time. In short, we better appreciate that these people lived and breathed, loved and hated, wept and rejoiced, much as we do now. There is something about the whole production that feels like a Shakespeare play, which seems most appropriate.

    Queen Elizabeth I of England, the last monarch before the isles became known as Great Britain, was a pivotal figure who understood that a new era was dawning. In addition to the debts and deficits, her country was being torn apart by its own Reformation when Henry VIII split from the Roman Catholic Church to form the Church of England. His religious revolution, which not only resulted from Rome's refusal to consent to his divorce of Catherine of Aragon but because of the protestant waves that were influencing his people, dissolved almost overnight when his daughter Mary I became queen and briefly reinstated the Catholic Church. And she had a bad habit of burning people who did not convert back to the old religion.

    Queen Elizabeth I re-established, with the consent of Parliament, The Church of England and brought a certain amount of religious toleration uncommon in her era. Although she was still quite distrustful of "Papists", those still loyal to the Pope in Rome, far fewer saw similar fates as the Protestants during the reign of her half-sister. In fact, when compared with other European monarchs of the time, Queen Elizabeth I sanctioned far fewer executions. She encouraged trade, the arts, particularly the performing arts. The late 1500's until the early 1600's is regarded as England's Golden Age of theatre with the likes of Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Johnson. And scholarship, as in Italy a hundred years earlier, became an all-important aspect of Elizabethan life personified by the works Francis Bacon. And of course it was an age of geographical discovery as attested by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.

    Simultaneously, court intrigue was also an on-going quandary. From the moment of her crowning, Rome issued a death-warrant for her, and those loyal to Rome were persistently plotting to overthrow her. Despite her reputation for mercy, traitors whose mission was to assassinate the Protestant queen in the name of bringing the Roman Church back to England would endure a fate worse than death if arrested. Her most controversial act, the execution of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots, was not without cause. Recent evidence suggests that the queen of Scotland knowingly may have been involved in plots to overthrow England's monarch. Biographies written prior to the 1990's have often characterized the Queen of Scotland as an innocent victim.

    Queen Elizabeth I has literally become the symbol of all that is superior in English culture. The BBC production Elizabeth R is a living testament to that symbol. Her reign has become ever-associated with one of the greatest ages in all of humankind, and, using a camera lens, Elizabeth R brings this age into closer focus for better viewing and scrutiny. The Elizabethan Age is still 400 years away from us and getting farther, but at least Elizabeth R brings us back there for a moment.
  • bkoganbing6 July 2008
    Glenda Jackson after having appeared on the big screen as Queen Elizabeth I of England in Mary Queen of Scots was permanently etched in everyone's mind as Elizabeth Tudor after this fabulous BBC mini-series. Forget Bette Davis, Flora Robson, Florence Eldridge or Cate Blanchett, when you look at Glenda Jackson you are looking at THE Queen Elizabeth.

    Every inch the regal monarch, England's greatest and last ruler because after her, the Scotch and English monarchies were united and James I became the first King of Great Britain. Glenda plays Elizabeth with vigor and authority, a woman who never thought she'd wind up Queen, but was ready to sacrifice everything for her realm and the welfare of its people.

    As in Mary Queen of Scots the contrast is always made between Elizabeth and Mary Stuart who put her own passions and happiness above the good of Scotland. In Mary Queen of Scots or Mary of Scotland, the figure of Elizabeth is the shrewd villainess who lies and deceives Mary. Here Vivian Pickles is shown as one rather empty headed woman who is an easy mark for the machinations of Sir Francis Walsingham when he tricks her into signing on to a conspiracy to kill Elizabeth and take the throne for herself. A conspiracy of his own making. Pickles is also memorable in her role.

    Although as she got older and as Queen Elizabeth certainly had her run of the noble stud farm for her private pleasures, her first and only real love was for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Robert Hardy plays him here and we see him and Elizabeth both grow older and wiser together. She certainly could have married him back in the day, but was wise enough to see the political pitfalls if she did. Eventually Leicester realized them too.

    This was true right up to the end of her reign and the last great crisis of her reign, the popularity of the headstrong and foolish Earl of Essex played by Robin Ellis. The last of a long line of people who mistook bedroom technique for mastery of the female monarch. That woman knew exactly where to keep boundaries.

    Two performances worthy of note are Ronald Hines as her faithful first minister Lord Burghley and Stephen Murray as Sir Francis Walsingham, the man who raised espionage to a fine art.

    Still the series belongs to Jackson and it's run sometimes on the PBS affiliates. Catch it whenever it is shown.
  • rick_wood6013 November 2007
    I bought this series long ago on VHS, together with its historical predecessor, the Six Wives of Henry VIII. One hundred years of Tudor England fly by. Who says history is dull? I've watched both many times before. I still watch them, most recently Elizabeth R. True the presentation is somewhat dated and stagey. But this is not a wide screen epic, but a portrait of the woman and the times in which she lived. The more recent Elizabeth films are better at evoking the physical appearance of Tudor England. But as a portrait Elizabeth R shines, which is what the series intended to portray! Cate Blanchett is a wonderful actress. That not withstanding though, Glenda Jackson's portrayal remains THE definitive Elizabeth I.
  • Nearly 50 years after this was televised, Glenda Jackson is about to storm Broadway as King Lear.

    As Elizabeth I, Jackson gives one of the great performances of television. All of her intelligence and fierceness is channeled into making this Queen a person of flesh and blood, and not just a costume parade. Jackson is totally believable as the wary young princess and equally so as the weary old monarch. Her voice thunders through the ages as if it were the real voice of that ancient Queen.

    Among the cast are several familiar faces. Robert Hardy as Dudley, Robin Ellis as Essex, Vivian Pickles as Mary Stuart, Angela Thorne as Lettice, Peter Jeffrey as Philip II, Michael Williams as Alencon, Rachel Kempson as Kat, Daphne Slater as Mary I, Rosalie Crutchley as Catherine Parr, John Nettleton as Francis Bacon, Ronald Hines as Burghley, Stephen Murray as Walsingham, John Woodvine as Francis Drake, James Laurenson as Simier, Jill Balcon as Lady Cobham, and Margaretta Scott as Catherine de Medici, and all are wonderful.

    While the production values are rather modest, the series is very accurate in its historical facts and paints a properly dour picture of the religious wars that plagued Elizabeth as well as the constant and endless worries about the Succession to the Throne.

    Elizabeth was one of the most remarkable women in history and is here played by one of the great actresses of our time: Glenda Jackson.
  • lampic24 July 2015
    I vaguely remember this cornerstone of BBC historical drama from my childhood (along with "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", "Onedin Line" and "I Claudius") and had some idea about main actress being celebrated for her über-realistic portrait of Virgin Queen. There were actresses before (notably Bette Davis) and after her (Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett) but Glenda Jackson seems to stand as towering presence above them all, as simply perfect for that role. This is something I wanted to see again for a long time, even toyed with idea to order it from Internet and than to my biggest surprise found the complete DVD set on Amsterdam's second-hand record market (one of those things that I can't resist) for some ridiculously small price.

    Last night I treated myself with a first episode - apparently the idea was that each episode has different scriptwriter - just as I expected, production back than was far less glamorous than what we got used to later. Most of the scenes were shot indoors and everything was kept very simple, without any bombastic special effects, visual gimmicks or breathless computer- animated swirls around the screen - this was early 1970s TV and it shows. It reminds me of my childhood when singers on TV performed in front of some plastic chair or ikebana and that was all. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the story or acting - Glenda Jackson is simply stunning as young Elizabeth and we can almost see little wheels turning in her brain as she tries to get herself out of dangerous situations, political intrigues and potential death in prison, virtually alone while all those people plotted around her. If the men's roles were not so distinguishable from each other (so far), this very first episode has really good, strong moments for actresses - I missed the name of actress who played Mary Tudor, but she was darn excellent as well. I also noted the supporting role of Elizabeth's faithful nurse/servant Kat (just like every other character here, she is based on real historical person) who turned out, was played by Vanessa Redgrave's mother! This TV serial was also famous for make-up and prosthetics used to change Elizabeth's appearance but this would come later as here in first episode she was still very young and had not transformed into icy icon that she would became. Very interesting!
  • "Elizabeth R" is the finest historical and dramatic series ever to appear on Masterpiece Theater. Sumptuous in every detail and nuance, anchored by Glenda Jackson's superb performance, the outstanding ensemble surrounding her (especially Robert Hardy) and its historically accurate portrait of life in the reign of perhaps England's greatest monarch is worthy of the accolades it received.

    Glenda Jackson IS Elizabeth I ~~ no other actress has ever matched her outstanding performance. Equally outstanding is Robert Hardy's portrayal of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. "Elizabeth R" is a feast not only for the eye but the heart and soul as well. It is a masterpiece.
  • Faultless. I have been watching this series recently on YouTube and I cannot find one single aspect of it to whinge about. The portrayal of Elizabeth 1 is utterly breathtaking. The costumes perfect, lighting ditto, direction magnificent. The entire series is, for me, a sign that when everything is in place and knows its place - its been done with such skill that the expertise doesn't show, like a dancer on pointe, its seemingly effortless and yet, therein is its craft. The script is magnificent and one feels that the characters would approve of their portrayal. This character has been portrayed countless times yet, this series from the 1970's though showing its slip of age just a little, remains absolutely THE best.

    When the actress went into politics, I felt like shouting 'No...she's the queen!' Glenda Jackson is stunning, her face precisely shot from varying angles to accentuate her authority, her voice marvelous as she bellows out and acts the churlish girl when confronted by the possibilities of marriage. A wonderful cast. This is probably, for me, the most perfect historical drama ever made for television.
  • This series is a dream come true. I don't understand why they didn't tell this story in the Cate Blanchette movie. Elizabeth's story as it happened is utterly fascinating without Hollywood embellishments. The scenes are true to the history books and it is lovely to have someone like Glenda Jackson playing in them. She BECOMES Elizabeth Rex, complete with certain faces she makes, expressions she uses, her mannerisms. I walk away feeling like I've actually been hanging out in 16th century England with Liz. I first saw this 5 years ago and I always come back to watch it through again and again. This is a rare jewel.
  • This series was my introduction to Elizabethan England. The story of the Queen's ascension and her decades-long struggle against the might of France and Spain make compelling drama, highlighted by the quality of Glenda Jackson's acting and that of her co-stars, notably Robert Hardy as Earl of Leicester and Ronald Hines as William Cecil.

    The attention to detail in the costumes, the Elizabethan music employed throughout the series, and the view from the castles - it all serves the purpose of submerging the viewer in one of the most extraordinary periods in history. Political, religious and dynastic divides threaten the security of England and all that stands between peace and chaos is a queen's shrewdness and political instincts in the cauldron of Renaissance ebullience and wit.

    The absence of shiny and distracting CGI is more than made up in the attention to detail and respect of historical sources. I've read widely about this time of English history, and I stand in awe of the wondrously intricate and deeply human script, and the qualities of Ms. Jackson's art, which enlivens the plight of Elizabeth, the childless queen whose reign informed the English spirit ever more strongly than that of her dread father, Henry VIII.
  • melj15 April 2013
    ELIZABETH R exemplifies the concept of television as 'electronic theatre'; in fact, few attempts are made to present the drama as anything other than theatre. There is some effective exterior filming: Elizabeth's arrival at the Tower of London is among the series' most memorable sections. Such sequences allow a few moments of ventilation in what is a rather claustrophobic viewing experience. Although the sets and the exquisite costumes are eye-catching, attention is focused on the actors and the scripts.

    John Hale's THE LION'S CUB is not as coherent as the other episodes, covering a longer period, and featuring many characters. Such problems aside, it is one of the best episodes. It would be impossible to comprehend Elizabeth's subsequent actions without knowing something of her highly traumatic youth; yet many dramatisations of her life eschew this pivotal and richly dramatic time. This episode provides harrowing drama, and it is perhaps the most adept at enabling the viewer to identify with Elizabeth on a human level. The development of her shrewd political skill, as well as her personal fear of intimacy and its potential dangers, is especially well realised.

    The next two episodes centre on what little romance was present in the life of the 'Virgin Queen'. Rosemary Anne Sisson's THE MARRIAGE GAME, perhaps the best episode, highlights the tension between Elizabeth's coquettish nature and her determination to remain chaste. Her contrary conduct resulted in degrading gossip abroad, and terrible anxiety at home. This episode and Julian Mitchell's THE SHADOW IN THE SUN admirably capture this pervasive uncertainty; the latter provides a subtle exploration of Elizabeth's psychological motivations for not marrying, showing how impossible she found it to trust anyone with the secrets of her heart. It is, though, the least historically accurate episode.

    Hugh Whitemore's HORRIBLE CONSPIRACIES showcases Elizabeth's chronic indecisiveness, but still makes the maligned Mary Stuart its villain. The viewer is unlikely to be affected by her grisly fate; aside from being surprised at its graphic depiction. Another drawback is the absence of some of the vital players in the drama – Burghley, Leicester, et alia – who form such a convincing 'court' around Elizabeth in the preceding episodes. The final scene is unpleasant and overwritten, but it is mostly a tightly-plotted instalment.

    John Prebble's THE ENTERPRISE OF ENGLAND boasts the best script, featuring plenty of quotable dialogue. It is, essentially, a fine satire, showing the almost farcical events of the Armada. However, it lacks a central protagonist, and some of its characters do not come across as particularly human, but as historical figures. There are two delightful exceptions – Francis Drake and John Tregannon – and the Elizabeth/Leicester scenes, as well as the finale, are excellent. They provide the humanity which is otherwise lacking in this entertaining and witty history lesson.

    Ian Rodger's SWEET ENGLAND'S PRIDE, the weakest episode, is a somewhat disappointing rendition of the fascinating power struggle between Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex; giving undue attention to Essex's time in Ireland, it virtually ignores the relationship between the ageing Gloriana and the youthful earl. Essex's uprising, capture, and trial are all perfect fodder for a gripping drama, yet they are omitted from this production, except for passing references. However, this episode succeeds in conveying the poignancy of outliving one's own generation, something which coloured Elizabeth's later years. Her final speech and last hours are memorably recreated.

    Towering above all other achievements of this production is the marvellous central performance of Glenda Jackson. Jackson takes the viewer on an extraordinary journey. She is equally remarkable whether she is depicting regal dignity, mortal terror, light-hearted flirtation, wily out-manoeuvring, or world-weary old age. Above all, she is convincing as a monarch. Only an Elizabeth with the indomitable nature and imposing presence of Jackson's creation could have commanded the respect of her male subjects. She also has moments of sublime delicacy: her nearly silent demeanour, whilst hearing the details of Mary Stuart's demise, is a masterly portrayal of deeply felt horror, grief, and guilt.

    Such is the force of the series' central performance that the viewer could be forgiven for forgetting the supporting actors. With the exception of Vivian Pickles' turn as Mary Stuart – which allows her none of the exceptional charm for which she was famed – all the actors acquit themselves commendably. Robert Hardy, Ronald Hines, Stephen Murray, and John Shrapnel present strong support; and there are several memorable actors in smaller roles, such as Hamilton Dyce, John Woodvine, Michael Culver, and Bernard Hepton. However, there is only one cast member who achieves the Herculean feat of matching Jackson's power: Daphne Slater as Mary Tudor. This very fine actress delivers an outstanding performance; her scenes with Jackson provide the only moments when the latter does not entirely command the viewer's attention. Queen Mary I is so often denigrated, misunderstood, or simply dismissed as a fanatical, vindictive murderess. One of ELIZABETH R's triumphs is its considered, unbiased, and measured portrayal of this truly tragic queen.

    Jackson's contribution adds to the theatrical quality of the production, but this description is no criticism: this aspect of her performance elevates the series, giving it a combined intimacy and sense of inspiration which is usually found only in the theatre. Far from the epic, visual delights that can be found in a film, ELIZABETH R offers something no less compelling: a piece of acting so transcendent that it almost obliterates the production's shortcomings, and ensures that the experience of watching this series will not be easily forgotten.
  • Depicting the life of Elizabeth Tudor, this six part drama series takes us as she evolves from the terrified Princess living under constant threat of death to the famed Virgin Queen who ruled England for 45 years. Glenda Jackson is superb in the title role with a supporting cast from amongst the finest English stage and television actors - notably Ronald Hines, Stephen Murray, John Shrapnel and Robert Hardy. The script is tight, the direction focused and the performances convey all the peril, malevolence, greed, perniciousness and ambition of the 16th Century English court. It rarely ventures out of the studio, but the quality of the production has held up well in the almost 50 years since it was made by the BBC.
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