Elizabeth I's Secret Agents (TV Mini-Series 2017)

TV Mini-Series   |  TV-PG   |    |  Documentary, History

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Elizabeth I's Secret Agents (2017) Poster

The secret agents that protected Queen Elizabeth from treason for over 40 years, through the execution of Mary Queen of Scots to the death of Queen Elizabeth, the capture of Catholic fugitive John Gerard and the infamous Gunpowder Plot.


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29 January 2018 | irene_dwyer
| No Fact Checkers or Editors?
The only reason I give this even three stars is because the program highlights an interesting topic and a rarely examined period in English history. However, I can't remember the last documentary I watched that had so many errors and omissions. Some of the small mistakes might not matter to anyone but a history wonk. For example: Mary was not Elizabeth's "first cousin"; they were first cousins once removed and thus a generation apart. Mary was not "ill educated". She wrote competent prose and poetry, played several musical instruments and learned French, Italian, Latin, Spanish, and Greek in addition to speaking her native Scots. Cecil did not merely "work his way up" from commoner status and thus hold a grudge against the nobility. His father and grandfather had been minor court officials. He was a premier scholar, as was his second wife; both studied with Elizabeth's tutor Roger Ascham and Cecil had been employed by Elizabeth prior to her accession to the throne. One error, however, undermines the whole program: When this episode moves from the Duke of Norfolk's execution to Mary the narrator begins by telling us that Catholic Mary, "...having been driven from Scotland by her Protestant subjects is now living in the north of England." What? Mary was forced to abdicate in favor of her one-year old son James in July 1567 by a coalition of Protestant lords led by her illegitimate half-brother the Earl of Moray. Moray then became regent for the infant James. Mary fled to England--seeking Elizabeth's protection--in 1568. Elizabeth, who had been subsidizing the Protestant party in Scotland for at least ten years, promptly put Mary under house arrest. At the time this program begins to focus on Mary (1586) she had been imprisoned, however luxuriously, for nearly twenty years. Kate Malby, the historian assigned to the topic of Mary alludes to this but I wondered at this point if the historian narrators had even been shown the overall script. I doubt a Tudor/Stuart historian would have ignored the implication that Mary was living freely in England. The program then goes on to describe Mary's execution but fails to inform the viewer that she had first been properly charged, tried and convicted of treason. There were a number of problems with the trial (Mary had no counsel, was not shown the evidence against her, etc.) but she was not summarily executed merely because Cecil wanted her gone.

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