Thursday, 22 September 2011
Elizabeth on Film
The Guardian runs a regular column reviewing historical films and considering their accuracy - covering everything from Spartacus to The Social Network. Recently the author has reviewed several films with Elizabethan themes, including Shakespeare in Love (Entertainment: A-, Accuracy C+), Young Bess from 1953 (E: C+, A: B) and 1999's Elizabeth. The latter comes in for a particular roasting because although it is undeniably entertaining (A-), it plays extremely fast and loose with historical accuracy (E) - indeed it gets a lower rating than the recent Cuban-Missile-Crisis-based X-Men: First Class (D+!)
Problems include: portraying Lord Burghley as a 75 year old at the start of her reign when he was in fact in his 30s, over-emphasizing her romantic interest in Robert Dudley, and including him in an amalgamation of various Catholic plots against her, which was highly unlikely as he was a staunch Protestant. The film-makers would argue that their job is to emphasize the dramatic nature of Elizabeth's insecure and lonely position, but clearly a large historical health-warning is needed at the beginning of the film for those who might consider it a reliable source for research... PS: Here is a detailed list of many of the factual errors from the film plus other useful information in an FAQ. PPS: The film's sequel: "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" isn't very accurate either, as Alison Weir explains here...