The Loves of Elizabeth I on Film

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Although we like to think that Elizabeth I, the so-called "Virgin Queen," did not have feelings for men, a number of films both past and present have focused on the powerful and often devastating relationships she had with the men in her life. From the grand films starring Bette Davis to the darker and more sinister films starring Cate Blanchett, the movies have always been concerned with the loves of the one queen who never took a husband.

"The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex"

Starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn in the title roles, this film explores the very vexed relationship between these two larger-than-life personalities, right up until the moment when Essex rebels and must ultimately be sentenced to death. Davis is quite gripping as the aging Queen Elizabeth, bringing her forceful personality to the screen to create one of the most enduring and powerful queens to have occupied the English throne.

"The Virgin Queen"

Again, in this film we see the personality of Davis coming through in the vindictiveness and jealousy of a monarch who was notorious for her almost desperate attempts to keep her courtiers under firm control. It also details her contentious relationship with lady-in-waiting Bess and her husband and lover Walter Raleigh. Only a prominent and dominant actress like Davis could pull off portraying this powerful and domineering woman who, perhaps despite her vow of virginity, was often ruled by her emotions.

"Elizabeth"

Perhaps no actress living today bears such a striking physical resemblance to Elizabeth as Cate Blanchett, who starred in this film. While it takes some very notable liberties with history, "Elizabeth" does manage to capture the desire she felt for her favorite and lifelong friend Robert Dudley. Of course, the film also goes into some detail about the physical nature of their relationship and, in the end, shows that Elizabeth decided to choose her reign and country over the desires of her heart.

"Elizabeth: The Golden Age"

Finally, we come to this film, which was a sequel to the prior movie. In "The Golden Age," we see Elizabeth falling in love with the dashing and swashbuckling Walter Raleigh, even though her good friend and lady-in-waiting Bess Throckmorton has also fallen in love with him. At the same time, however, we also see Elizabeth struggling with those who would bring her down, including her own cousin and prisoner, Mary, Queen of Scots, and the king of Spain. Again, historical accuracy is not the order of the day, but the film is still intensely emotional and very moving.

Throughout the history of cinema, Queen Elizabeth I has exerted a hold on the minds and imaginations of both filmmakers and moviegoers. It remains to be seen whether she will continue to exert that hold, and whether we will remain as interested in her personal life, as we move into the future of filmmaking.

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