TBT: Seven Seas to Calais (1962)


Trodding well-worn ground with Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I, Seven Seas to Calais (1962) is an Italian production that mixes up the obvious history with both the required swashbuckling and pirates and some unexpected history. That’s why I’m here — there’s a significant side plot about Mary Queen of Scots.

Tom Hanks - really?

Yeah, well, I have my obsessions. We all do. Coincidentally, this side plot is driven by fictional character Malcolm Marsh, Raleigh’s first mate, who’s played by Keith Michell. He’s best-known for playing Henry VIII in the BBC’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) miniseries. In Seven Seas to Calais, he has a love interest at QEI’s court, a French woman named Arabella (Edy Vessel). Because Queen Elizabeth was totally into having French ladies in waiting, OK.

Friends, Rachel - sure

Arabella gets mixed up with a courtier named Babington who asks her to take a little gift to Mary of Scotland when she visits. Because even though Mary is imprisoned by Elizabeth, apparently all the French ladies are allowed to visit, OK, right.

Jon Stewart -exasperated

Yes, this leads to the infamous Babington Plot that was MQoS’ downfall, but in this flick, it happens literally under Elizabeth’s nose and Sir Walter Raleigh saves the day. Seven Seas to Calais is as much a history lesson as The Tudors or Reign today, with standard-issue 1960s historical costumes. There’s nothing new under the sun. But it’s all shiny, and Irene Worth is a decent Elizabeth (if not as impressive as Flora Robson or Bette Davis), while Rod Taylor is reliably dashing as Raleigh.

1962 Seven Seas to Calais

Drake cuts a fine figure.

Seven Seas to Calais (1962)

Most of the film is off at sea.

Seven Seas to Calais (1962)

While back at court, Arabella-of-the-Heavy-Eye-Makeup gets sucked into the Babington Plot.

Seven Seas to Calais (1962)

Mary Queen of Scots and her ladies wear the requisite caps (and no, that’s not a tiger-print stomacher, it’s just a weird, modern brocade). Bonus floating ruff.

Seven Seas to Calais (1962)

Queen Elizabeth, smugly satisfied in the end.


Are you into the swashbuckling or does playing fast & loose with history in these classic films bug you?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Facebook Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

6 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    I really haven’t stopped laughing at how preposterous this whole movie is/was. Why even Elizabeth Gloriana is off. The opening pic shows grey not red hair….
    You get the picture.
    Thanks for the cheering up. I’ve got relatives who were effected by Harvey.

  2. Yanina

    That Arabella girl must have time traveled, her makeup and hair tell as much.
    Swashbuckling staff is my guilty pleasure, I just love watching both the epic sword fights and how the heroes miraculously stay well-coiffed and splendidly clothed even when chasing through the woods or living in a humble hut (wish I had such untouchably groomed hair after morning travel to the office, yeah). My favourites are French swashbuckers with Jean Marais – Le Bossu (The Hunchback), The Captain, The Miracle of Wolves and Secrets of Paris. Kind of a beautiful escapism with good deal of giggling along the way.

  3. Damnitz

    I think compared to contemporary Italian productions, that one was really authentic and the ating was really decent. I noticed that once all left the room and Drake (Rod Taylor) closed the room to be alone with the queen – that was a strange hint.
    Mario Girotti (later Terence Hill) in a typical role of that stage of his Long career as a innocent terrible youngster Barbington. One year later he had a bigger role in “The Leopard”.
    The Story is laughable and the ships are not better.

  4. Lesley

    While I agree with you, I don’t like historical movies or miniseries that change the facts around for the sake of adding drama. A well written screenplay doesn’t need padding and certainly there was enough drama and adventures to do 10 movies, but it wasn’t about Sir Walter Raleigh. It was about Sir Francis Drake.