Who’s the Best Queen Elizabeth I on Screen?


On this day in 1533, Elizabeth was born to Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor. She would become Elizabeth I, Queen of England, reigning from 1558 to 1603, an era of unique prosperity and artistic creativity known today as the Elizabethan Age. And, of course, Queen Elizabeth I has long been a favorite in historical costume movies and TV. We’ve written extensively about different actresses portraying this iconic monarch, from Glenda Jackson to Cate Blanchett even to Miranda Richardson. But it’s finally time to put them all up to a vote.

Who’s your favorite Queen Elizabeth I? Pick from these listed, and then discuss why in the comments! And if we’ve left off some minor player who you think is worth fighting for, tell us why.



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Three historical costumers who decided the world needed a podcast and blog dedicated to historical costume movies and everything right and wrong with them.

17 Responses

  1. MoHub

    This was difficult. While Glenda Jackson is my definitive Elizabeth, I just had to give my vote to Miranda Richardson’s Queenie. And Quentin Crisp was a close contender as well.

  2. aquitainequeen

    Judi Dench, because she was only in Shakespeare in Love for seven minutes and still managed to kill it. Plus you could cut yourself on her razor sharpness.

  3. Susan Pola

    I gave my vote to Dame Glenda Jackson as her portrayal was from the death of Henry VIII to her death. It brought her an Emmy. Dame Judi is sort of tied. She captured the elder Elizabeth with very little screen time and won an Oscar.

  4. Maria D.

    My favorite is Cate Blanchett because they caught the beauty, political turmoil, and just general feel for the period so well. I think they also caught the character of Elizabeth really well – she went from being ignored to being in danger and then to being Queen and even then her life was in danger – they took her from young woman to mid life and dealt with the fact that while she was given the moniker “virgin queen” – she was alone through choice and political situation

  5. Liutgard

    Glenda Jackson, hands down. And I can only imagine that most of the votes for others are from those who haven’t seen _Elizabeth I_. Cate Blanchett is too pretty. Dame Judi was good, but looks nothing like. Miranda Richardson was fun, but rather silly compared to the others. I think the only really close contender to Jackson is Helen Mirren.

    Not that I have an opinion or anything… ;-)

  6. Adina

    For me it was Ann Marie Duff. I think Cate Blanchett did a fantastic job, but some parts of the movie just rubbed me the wrong way.

  7. Bea

    There’s this great collection (“Sunfall”) of SF short stories by CJ Cherryh. In it, one story includes the ghost of ER I, just briefly. Just one scene. And she’s the turning point for the protagonist:
    “Elizabeth is our name, in fine round tones!”
    “I pleased Elizabeth and others copied me.”
    I always like to imagine who could possibly do that role now….

  8. Charity

    This is SO MEAN. How dare you ask me to choose?!

    I voted for Mirren. I thought she was amazing.

    She edges out Glenda Jackson for me, because I have a hard time sitting through costume dramas from that period. So “staged.” And much as I adore Blanchett, those movies are just so inaccurate…

  9. Janette

    Cate Blanchett and Miranda Richardson deserve honourable mentions, the former made a dodgy film watchable and Queenie was so memorable but there has only ever been one true Elizabeth. (Sorry Elizabeth Tudor you were out Elizabethed by the wonderful Glenda Jackson who did not act the role she was the role.).

  10. LadySlippers

    Oh my (so not fair!!!).

    I haven’t watched some of these films in ages and others I have not seen at all. I’m truly ashamed of the last comment since I share my birthday with The Faerie Queene herself and I’m a bona fide Elizabethan nut. I’m torn between Anne-Marie and Cate because I like how both (especially Anne-Marie) captured the insecurity of the young Elizabeth. Dame Judi was fabulous….. But Bette Davis was tremendous too (I haven’t seen Bette’s films in decades but I can remember being riveted by her portrayal of Elizabeth — now whether it was accurate I cannot recall! lol).

    But I clearly need to brush up on my on screen portrayals of my favourite Queene…. What a horrible task I have before me… ;-)

  11. M.E. Lawrence

    Cate, physically. (I didn’t like those two movies much; I thought they wasted her talent, although C.B.’s very first scene was gorgeous.) Glenda for her intelligence and fire.

    • Liutgard

      I think Cate’s face is more like Elizabeth’s, but no one can beat Glenda for her posture and carriage. She was a Queen to her fingertips- really inhabited the role with her body. If anyone ever won Coronet or Crown (SCA) for me, I’d be watching _Elizabeth R_ on loop for weeks before I stepped up- if only to drum the posture into me! (I have tired middle-aged woman posture.)

  12. Deborah Parkes

    Glenda Jackson is my favourite Elizabeth I, no doubt about it. I actually wrote to her about 5 years ago telling her how amazing she was in Elizabeth R and how much I love Tudor and Elizabethan history and costume and she autographed a photo I sent with the letter and even wrote a little message to me saying “Thank you for your charming letter”.