During the sixteenth century, the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots engages in over two decades of religious and political conflict with her cousin, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England, amidst political intrigue in her native land.
When Elizabeth Tudor comes to the throne, her (male) advisers know she has to marry. Doesn't she? Thus starts a decades-long political/ matrimonial game, during an age of high passions and high achievement.
Henry VIII of England discards one wife Catharine of Aragon, who has failed to produce a male heir, in favor of a young and beautiful woman, Anne Boleyn, whose one-thousand-day reign as Queen of England ends with the loss of her head on the block. Henry weds Anne and soon she gives him a child. The girl, Elizabeth, is a bitter disappointment to Henry, who desperately wants an heir. Anne promises Henry a son "next time," but Henry is doubtful. Shortly thereafter, rumors begin that the King's eye has already wandered. One Jane Seymour is at court for a moment. The Queen has her sent away, but, if Anne will bring Jane back to court, the King promises to sign the Act of Succession to insure that Elizabeth will be Queen.Written by
This fine movie comes so close to excellence ; Genevieve Bujold gives a performance full of power and passion as the French-educated courtesan who won the admiration , love and finally enmity of England's most colorful King. Richard Burton, as Henry, rides rough-shod over all who oppose him in his pursuit of marital bliss (and a male heir). The supporting cast interacts beautifully - my only regret is that the part of the usurped Queen Katherine (Irene Papas) is given little screen time and portrays her as more abrasive than abject (historically, Katherine made a touching appeal to her husband at the trial of the validity of their marriage). Other historical elements such as the schism with the Church of Rome and the political machinations of members of the court have been downplayed in order to concentrate on the love story. Thus this movie should be viewed as a costume drama rather than an accurate representation of historical events. In spite of these and other inaccuracies I still heartily recommend this movie as a spirited rendering of Royal lust in "Merry Olde England" and on a broader level as a kind of morality play showing how the pursuit of one's hearts desire is often more rewarding than the achievement of one's ambition (or, as Henry and Anne both learned to their cost, when you get what you want you may then realize that you don't really want what you get).
For another view of this same era see the film version of Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons" - I also strongly recommend "Henry VIII and His Six Wives", starring Keith Michell and adapted to a movie from a six-part TV series (which I believe is also available as a boxed set).
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