The Virgin Queen explores the full sweep of Elizabeth's life: from her days of fear as a potential victim of her sister's terror; through her great love affair with Robert Dudley; into her ...
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The Virgin Queen explores the full sweep of Elizabeth's life: from her days of fear as a potential victim of her sister's terror; through her great love affair with Robert Dudley; into her years of triumph over the Armada; and finally her old age and her last, enigmatic relationship with her young protégé, the Earl of Essex. Written by
I'm afraid invidious comparisons are inevitable when two of the four major television channels choose to bring out 'mini-series' on the life of the same monarch within the same year. This is the BBC's offering, better-funded, better-researched (or so it was claimed) and filmed in the UK instead of Eastern European locations. Sadly -- and I speak as a devotee of Aunty Beeb -- it simply isn't a match for Channel 4's earlier production "Elizabeth I". Not only is it not *as* good, by the end of the series it wasn't even *good*. (Too much attention paid to the technicalities of the ageing make-up on the principals and too little to the characterisation, perhaps?)
I think it simply tries to bite off more than it can chew. Channel 4 succeeded because they cast a middle-aged actress of great experience to portray Elizabeth in her later years. Anne-Marie Duff is a convincing wispy Princess, but her character doesn't seem to acquire the necessary gravitas as she supposedly ages. And the final two episodes felt badly rushed, in particular the decision to gloss over the entirety of Elizabeth's reign post-Essex in the course of a single voice-over, and her death-scene in a few sentences. There is too much prurient focus on Elizabeth's virginity and very little on the Virgin Queen's real-life record as mistress of statesmanship and manipulator extraordinaire -- she knew how to project herself as larger than life, but the BBC doesn't seem to know how to do the same, leaving the great speeches to fall limply. Channel 4's rendition of the great Tilbury speech ("I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king -- and a King of England too") brought the hairs up to thrill at the back of my neck. This one was something of an anti-climax.
Historical accuracy, for all that much-vaunted research, seemed dubious, from Essex's haircut to Queen Mary's death. This is light-weight stuff, without the insight into character that would justify such liberties in the name of dramatic licence. I'll believe in Channel 4's adult version of the relationship between the greying Elizabeth and Leicester before I'll believe the aged-up immaturity shown here, between a couple who never seem to progress beyond teenage crushes and jealousies. We see little of the Queen, and a lot of the virgin -- more soap-opera than history.
Ambitious, but ultimately thin and unsatisfactory. All surface and no depth.
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