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Reviews & Ratings for
"The Virgin Queen" More at IMDbPro »

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34 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

Elizabethan drama, literally

Author: kurt_messick from Bloomington, Indiana
5 December 2005

This is a very interesting programme, produced in Britain and originally shown on the PBS series, Masterpiece Theatre.

This miniseries was directed by Coky Giedroyc, a veteran of television productions in Britain, including another royal-themed miniseries, 'William and Mary', in 2003. Giedroyc brings an interesting modern twist to the series - rather than filming things in majestic, sweeping camera pans with classical music as a background, and rather than having the dialogue (and acting) be in a stilted, falsely formal style, Giedroyc incorporates modern music with medieval and Celtic flavouring to it (both of which have experienced a renaissance of sorts in the past decade), and the situations are decidedly modern without being out of place in their own times.

This presents the life of Elizabeth from her young adulthood under Queen Mary, as a supposed participant in intrigues against the Catholic Queen, through to her death after serving decades on the throne of England as the Virgin Queen, the queen who never married. In fact, the miniseries plays a tantalising game with Elizabeth's virginity, showing her desires (as well as those around her) without ever giving up the game of 'was she or wasn't she?' Anne-Marie Duff plays the part of Elizabeth, and does a remarkably able job for such a complex figure. Duff won the Irish Television award and was nominated for the BAFTA award for best actress in a television drama in another series, 'Shameless', last year.

Duff is joined by Tom Hardy, who plays the role of Robert Dudley, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth. Dudley is also an extraordinarily complex role, as he played several sides in the political struggles during Elizabeth's early reign, and was part of a family well experienced in regal intrigue - Robert Dudley's family had tried to manage the reign of Elizabeth's brother Edward, engineer the accession of Lady Jane Grey (placing Guildford Dudley on the throne with her), and is sometimes referred to as 'the uncrowned kings of England'. In fact, perhaps the most stunning single scene in this miniseries is after Elizabeth has elevated Robert Dudley to the earldom of Leicester, and during her illness, he sits upon the throne as the protector of the realm. Hardy is well suited to this role, and plays it with skill.

The sets are appropriate to their time period, neither too ornate nor too medieval; the costumes also have a touch of modernity to them, but are still primarily of the period. The situations presented give good insight into the overall pattern of Elizabeth's reign and some of the principal concerns during that time period, although to compress such a long reign into such a short time frame as a four-hour miniseries by necessity means that the history has had to be selectively chosen. Elizabeth faced problems from without and within, many of which were far more complex and pressing than her marriage issue. In the end, Elizabeth made the right decision for the time, if not for the future.

This is a great production for television, and holds up well against other major productions featuring the Virgin Queen Elizabeth of a few years ago.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A different look at Queen Elizabeth's life

Author: jennaroadman from United States
10 June 2006

Retelling a story in history in the framework of film can be tricky business and Masterpiece Theatre's The Virgin Queen doesn't attempt to adhere to accuracy in the slightest. But, if you're like me, you would love to experience the story of Queen Elizabeth a thousands times over in a thousand ways, and this film richly succeeds in it's own right.

I have never seen such accurate costuming, beautiful sets or clever a soundtrack in any Elizabethan film (Oh my God, the soundtrack). Royal stoicism is put aside in lieu of emotive imagery. More than many films of this historical powerhouse, I appreciate the attention paid to the human side of Queen Eliazabeth--her vanity, weakness for the opposite sex (considering her royal responsibilities), and infamous indecisiveness.

I could have done without the laughably overblown Casa Nova characterization of Lord Robert Dudley (Tom Hardy, ). He came off as a retired Backstreet Boy, looked far too young for the part, and portrayed none of the cultivated finesse that those familiar with the real man know, in-turn, leaving the audience wondering what about this man is worth the scandal.

If you have any interest in a new take of Elizabeth's life since the 1998 film Elizabeth, I truly recommend this mini-series. For a more historically accurate glance of the time period in England, check out BBC's Elizabeth (1971) starring Glenda Jackson.

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

One of the most accurate portryals so far....

Author: KateCTU from United Kingdom
1 March 2006

Having read the previous comments I would concur with what has been said, but here in the UK this was shown as 4 90 minute episodes, not 60 minutes as inferred in the previous post.

I loved everything about this production even down to the usage of the group the 'Medieval Baebes' (who perform mainly medieval AND Tudor/Renaissance popular music) which gave one goosebumps when you think that this music was probably well loved and performed by the real Queen and her courtiers.

If you check out the BBC Drama website it gives the background as to how the costumes were made to look in period and yet so modern and also the locations used. It was quite refreshing to see a British produced history series actually filmed in the UK and not in one of the old Eastern bloc countries as with the Channel 4 'Elizabeth I' and that other history series with Ann Marie Duff playing a character 'Charles II: The Power and the Passion'

Well done will not surprise me if another BAFTA is not forthcoming for this production. Keep up the good work!

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17 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Not recommended for historical accuracy

Author: mama-sylvia from Wyoming
20 November 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The authors disagree with most conventional histories of Elizabeth in small but significant elements. The most important was their portrayal of Amy Dudley's death as a suicide, since the cloud her death left over Robert Dudley affected his relationship with Elizabeth for the rest of his life. They portray Lettice Devereaux as a scheming vixen, Mary of Scotland as being framed for conspiracy against Elizabeth, the Earl of Essex as a manic-depressive, and portray Elizabeth as seriously intending marriage when most evidence shows she was shrewdly playing suitors against each other to benefit England. On the other hand, many of the intriguing and baffling elements of her reign are accurately presented, including her intelligence, her scheming to survive her sister Bloody Mary's reign, her vanity, her tendency to blind partiality towards her favorites, and the astonishingly poor military ability of those favorites. Rather engaging story and will hold the interest of those not familiar with Tudor England, but seriously disappointing to those of us who think the story supported by historical documentation is enthralling enough.

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24 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

...and along comes another...

Author: Igenlode Wordsmith from England
13 February 2006

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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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Duff shines as Elizabeth

Author: parsifalssister from United States
5 November 2010

Another version of a Tudor, Elizabeth I, the Gloriana, done up quite splendidly by the BBC.

The strongest aspect, as I viewed it, was neither the story, the costumes or the scenes, but the bold performance of Anne Marie Duff. She glows as a young Elizabeth, and displays strength and vanity as her aging self. Yes, the make-up could have been better, or as one suggested an alternate older actress, but the pace of Duff's performance was incrementally finer, than finer still, as she reached deeper into her character. And if one seeks out a miniature of the Queen, one sees a remarkable resemblance between the Queen and the actress.

Dudley, portrayed by Hardy, was a good foil; his perhaps son, but certainly step son, Essex portrayed by Hans Matheson, were interestingly cast, not so much by the actors but rather for the dramatic interpretation brought to each character. It is only bested by the old Bette Davis version of Elizabeth and Essex in spotlighting how the Virgin Queen sought male affection, but rebuffed any control but her own.

What burden the Queen, a bastard, a princess, and then a monarch must have endured in her private life, a life often dismissed for her political reign, or exaggerated for her fancy of her childhood friend, Robbie.

A most worthy addition to the pantheon of Tudor drama.

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Makes the Elizabeth of History Gloriously Human--Early Half is Best.

Author: kayaker36 from Queens, NY
16 January 2008

This is well plowed ground. For years the role of England's Elizabeth I was owned by Glenda Jackson. Australian Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren and now Anne-Marie Duff have essayed in the last ten years to portray Gloriana on the screen.

This version is more watchable, more accessible, more **alive** than any before.

Glenda Jackson was too sour and too butch--attended by a fawning and effeminate Dudley. Jeremy Irons looked like he had risen from the grave playing Robert Dudley to Helen Mirren's Elizabeth in that BBC production focusing on her middle years. Horrid is the only word to describe Ms. Mirren's appearance. The Cate Blanchett movie version tries to portray Elizabeth as a kind of early feminist--a concept that would not exist for many centuries. Dudley is squeezed into a tiny corner and hardly is a presence at all.

This production adopts as its center the long relationship between Elizabeth and Dudley. As "Robbie" Dudley, handsome, boyish Tom Hardy has swagger and sex appeal. He is not the least bit intimidated by his childhood playmate "Bess" now being the Queen. In one of this production's many telling moments, he is seen stroking the royal neck discreetly but not furtively even as Elizabeth receives the ambassador of the King of Spain. Agreed, Dudley seems to age little compared to Elizabeth, who gets older in appearance if not in demeanor. The relationship is accordingly more credible in the early parts of the series when both are in their twenties.

A few nitpicking pedants have pointed up some historical inaccuracies of a very minor nature. They in no way detract from the impact of this splendid version of history with its colorful sets, fine costumes, excellent acting and unforgettable musical score.

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31 out of 57 people found the following review useful:

What a disappointment.

Author: barnet55-1 from United Kingdom
30 January 2006

I was really looking forward to this as Elizabeth is my favourite historical personage. However it's turned out to be a festival of historical inaccuracies, anachronisms and above all, poor casting.

The death of Mary Tudor didn't take place as was depicted, and in episode one Chancellor Gardiner was shown announcing Mary's death to Elizabeth in 1558, but Gardiner died three years before that in 1555. In the second episode Elizabeth used the quote "To err is human, to forgive, divine", which was written by Alexander Pope over 100 years after Elizabeth's death! Anne-Marie Duff, fine actress though she is, hasn't the fire and authority to play Elizabeth as she should be played. Sam Hardy is too wimpish for Dudley, which needs an actor with a commanding presence to play him. Jeremy Irons was just right for the part in the Channel 4 production "Elizabeth I" last year. Ian Hart is too young for Cecil, and Dexter Fletcher, who normally plays "cheeky Cockney" type roles, isn't right in the part of the Duke of Sussex either.

The scenes after Elizabeth's coronation were conducted in a room which was Jacobean, and the Victorian standing candelabra at the side of the throne were an anachronism. The stakes which the Protestant bishops Latimer and Ridley were tied to were nicely finished instead of being just a plain tree trunk as they would have been in reality - surely Mary's government would have thought that a bit of a waste when all they're going to do is get burnt? And to cap it all, they were burned in their best frilly nightshirts!

Lazy research by the writer, anachronistic quotes which seem to have escaped the script editor and lines no self respecting actor should have allowed to pass their lips have all combined to make The Virgin Queen a very poor example of a historical drama, which the BBC usually do so well (Charles II was excellent). Call me picky, call me pedantic, but if you're going to make a drama on one of the most famous women who ever lived, for god's sake get it RIGHT!

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Not the best of Bess

Author: pdwebbsite from United States
9 February 2010

Priming up to teach Renaissance history I've looked into just about every Elizabeth I movie around--from Bette Davis to Helen Mirren. I endured the dry Glenda Jackson series for its historical perspective, enjoyed the brief comedic overacting of Dame Dench in Shakespeare in Love, totally skipped Cate Blanchett's version due to the reviews openly praising this Hollywood take on known history.

As to this newer version, I couldn't bear to finish it, and I usually don't quit movies. The editing seemed to delight in snatches, rendering this as apatched together series of Elizabeth commercials. The lighting was dark, which didn't help. Robert Dudley was portrayed as being way too young. He should have been reserved for the Earl of Essex part. There were other aspects I didn't care for, but the Robert Dudley part needed to be more nailed down seeing how important he was to Elizabeth's reign.

Helen Mirren's version to me presents the most personable, the one that really brings out the personage of the queen. The politics in that version were more defined as well. I don't understand why the BBC thought to try and trot out another version of Elizabeth I when so many exist already. Aren't there any other monarchs worth looking into?

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Looking at something else...

Author: katstap from Canada
21 December 2013

You can read the other reviews to see all the debates over the historical accuracy, the choice of Duff as Elizabeth I, and the fact that all we see are movies about Elizabeth and not other interesting choices. So I've decided to give a review on something a little different...

The costumes were pretty accurate for the time period, with some obvious differences in colour choices and the lack of abundance of embroidery (embroidery was a way for people to immediately tell how much money you had and what class you were in - sometimes the wearer would also have their family crest or symbols embroidered as well). The colours situation is just that back then, the dyes were not as stable as they are now and tended to fade quickly and were not as rich and bright as they were portrayed in here.

I have to admit, what kept me going in the second half of the series is the use of make up and effects on the actors. The aging effects were MAGNIFICENT!! While the women seemed overly done and looked like something out of Star Wars or Star Trek, the white make up they used to cover the aging had the adverse effect of aging them further. The vanity of the day is nothing short of today (minus the ability for Botox or anti-aging creams), and they believed their makeup would make them look younger, while today looking at them, it could send children running from the room in terror.

If you're looking for something to pass the time, or you happen to be a lover of period pieces, take a looksie at The Virgin Queen. Every film or television show has it's merits and downfalls, but the visual brilliance should never be overshadowed.

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