1998 was the only year that two performers were nominated for Academy Awards for playing the same character in two different films: Judi Dench was nominated (and won) for Best Supporting Actress for playing Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Cate Blanchett was nominated for Best Actress for portraying Elizabeth I in this film.
The costuming and shot composition of the coronation scene is based on Elizabeth's coronation portrait. For example, Elizabeth is shown wearing her hair long. This is historically accurate, as the real Elizabeth was giving the public a sign of her virginity.
According to an interview with director Shekhar Kapur in the dvd special features, Cate Blanchett was chosen to portray Elizabeth after he saw her in several scenes of a promotional video for the movie Oscar and Lucinda.
In the movie Elizabeth is unaware that Robert Dudley is married. She was in fact a guest at his wedding to Amy Robsart during her brother's reign. He repeatedly asked to divorce Amy so he could marry Elizabeth, but she refused to let him. When Amy died of a broken neck from a fall down the stairs, Robert was believed to be the murderer. He was acquitted, but the scandal made it impossible for them to marry.
Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) recites "My true love hath my heart" to Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), a sonnet written by Sir Philip Sidney, son-in-law of Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), trusted advisor to the queen.
Christopher Eccleston's character the Duke of Norfolk doesn't actually do much in the film, despite being the principal villain. So, in order to create a sense of action for him, the director chose to show Norfolk in motion as much as possible.
The card before the end credits states, "Elizabeth reigned for another 40 years... Walsingham remained her most trusted and loyal adviser to the end". By "the end", the film-makers apparently mean Sir Francis Walsingham's death, as he died in 1590, 13 years before the Queen. Whatever his loyalty, Elizabeth tended to resist his advice, most famously regarding the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.
As well as both having Queen Elizabeth as a main characters in both movies, Shakespeare in Love (1998) also shared cast members Geoffrey Rush and Joseph Fiennes with this film. Interestingly enough, they were both nominated for Best Picture in 1999, and Shakespeare in Love was the victor.
The scene where Walsingham is dining with Marie of Guise and the spurned Duke of Anjou -- and the Duke tells Walsingham that he cannot marry Elizabeth because she is really a man -- was in fact a nod to the legend of the Bisley Boy. In said legend, the child Elizabeth was sent away to a village called Bisley to avoid the plague, but she died and was replaced by a pretty boy child -- who then went on to become Queen Elizabeth 1st -- thus suggesting that Elizabeth is actually male.
First English speaking movie debut for ex-soccer star Eric Cantona. It was rumored that both stars Christopher Eccleston and Angus Deayton actually wanted the producers to cast Cantona in a small French role in the film following his retirement from football in 1997 because: 1. Cantona began to study acting during his infamous 9 month ban in 1995. 2. Eccleston and Deayton were Manchester United fans themselves.
Sir Richard Attenborough made a highly acclaimed film on the life of Mahatma Gandhi in 1982. As coincidence would have it, one of the most acclaimed directors and thinkers of India, Shekhar Kapur made a movie on the life of the monarch of Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth in 1998.
Thomas Howard, AKA Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston) and Sir William Cecil, AKA Lord Burghley (Richard Attenborough) actually had a common relative. Norfolk's mother was Frances de Vere, whose nephew Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, was married to Burghley's daughter Anne Cecil. It has also been suggested that Edward de Vere was the true author of Hamlet (usually considered to have been written by William Shakespeare), and that the characters Hamlet, Ophelia and Polonius were based on himself, Anne, and William, respectively. Christopher Eccleston has played Hamlet on stage, and Richard Attenborough appeared in the 1996 film Hamlet (1996).