I was (and remain) a huge fan of the Showtime historical drama series The Tudors. One of the great disappointments surrounding the series is that it wasn’t really about “The Tudors” at all, but only concerned itself with the life of English king Henry VIII. I was really hoping that, after his death in the show, they would go on to the fascinating life of Queen Elizabeth, her struggle with Mary Tudor (aka “Bloody Mary” because of her persecution of Protestants) to ascend to the throne, and her subsequent struggle against Mary, Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
However, one can sort of reconstruct what two Elizabethan seasons of The Tudors might have been like with some historical dramas that detail aspects of the virgin Queen’s life.
First is Elizabeth (1998), starring Cate Blanchett. It starts with an around-the-bend Mary Tudor bringing her half-sister Elizabeth back into the succession and deals with the virgin Queen’s efforts to control the clergy in England and with various lovers and attempts to get her married so an heir can be born. Blanchett does an excellent job of portraying Elizabeth, and this is one of the shining examples of the modern costume drama genre.
Second is Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), with Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth and Vanessa Redgrave as Mary. It is a prototypical 1970’s film, with lots of excellent costuming and on location shooting. Timothy Dalton plays Mary’s eventual husband, Lord Darnley, and Patric McGoohan plays her half-brother, Lord Moray. It’s a surprisingly fun film, portraying Elizabeth in particular as a very calculating and manipulative monarch.
Third and last is Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), once again starring Cate Blanchett. This film is centered on the later years of Elizabeth’s reign, and in particular deals with the attack of the Spanish Armada. I think it suffers from a lack of enough John Dee and too much speculation about Elizabeth’s lovers.
Put ’em together and I think you have the makings of a couple of seasons of pretty good television.
REMINDER: Castle of the Mad Archmage, my homage to Gary Gygax’s original megagundeon, is now available for both Old-School RPGs and the Pathfinder Role Playing Game! More than 13 levels and 1,500 rooms. Get your copy today!