We’ve talked about this series before. We’ve praised Glenda Jackson for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I. But we have yet to do a proper deep-dive into Elizabeth R (1971) — the BBC miniseries that aired on PBS Masterpiece Theatre and was the gateway drug for me and countless other fans of 16th-century costume and history.
What is so great about this old series? Let me sum up: Six well-written, well-acted episodes that tell the story of Elizabeth’s ascension and reign in a factual and dramatic fashion, plus hundreds of costumes that meticulously recreate portraits of Queen Elizabeth. If there’s anything wrong with it, well, I guess you could complain that it’s on video not film, most of it is shot with tight interiors, and a total 510 minutes is a little short for over 50 years of history, plus one woman, even the great Glenda, kind of stretches credulity at looking both 16 and 70 (she was in her 30s at the time). But that’s all you can nitpick, fuckers! Otherwise, this miniseries is the gold standard against which all historical TV and most historical movies should be judged. Here’s why…
Read all of this review of Elizabeth R (1971) here!
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I opine that the miniature is of Robert Devereux bc of the scraggly and long beard that he wears and not Leicester. The women’s miniature maybe one of Elizabeth herself based on a miniature by Hilliard and derived from possibly a Gheerants portrait. The series is my go to Elizabeth and Dudley series and my go to Elizabeth I. Nothing comes close. Mirren is a second.
Quite possibly Devereux in the miniature tho’ it doesn’t track as much with the plot at that point. The woman’s miniature does look like several done of QEI, but there’s also ‘unknown’ portraits & various women, so hard to say.
Elizabeth had several dear female friends, Catherine Carey Knollys, Catherine Carey Howard, countess of Nottingham, and Margery Norreys among others. Interestingly all these women had a connection to Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth loved and trusted her Boleyn relations, especially the Careys who were her nearest relatives as the children and grandchildren of her aunt Mary Boleyn.
The picture of Glenda bare shouldered in her corset, red wigged and crowned and enjoying her ciggie is so badass. I’m amazed that picture isn’t more widely known. It’s iconic.
When Elizabeth was entertaining Mary Stuart’s ambassador James Melville she treated him to a regular fashion show donning dresses of various styles, different everyday. She asked him which he preferred and he pleased her by saying the Italian gown that allowed her to show her natural hair. . Why they would change that anecdote to the French ambassador I don’t know.
There is a persistent story that Elizabeth lost her hair as she aged. It is very likely that it thinned dramatically as she probably inherited the male pattern baldness gene from her father, but scattered references to her hair late in her life suggest she kept some.
I know I’m late to the party but I just discovered your blog and am now obsessed with it. I absolutely LOVE this adaptation, which I first watched while in undergrad, and The Great Glenda, as I fondly refer to her in my heart, is by far my favorite Elizabeth (She is literally the only good part of that ’71 Mary, Queen of Scots movie). AND she was an MP?! If I were a generation younger I might say I “stan” her.