Elizabeth: The Golden Age

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Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Elizabeth golden poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Written by
Produced by
Cinematography Remi Adefarasin
Edited by Jill Bilcock
Music by
Distributed by Universal Pictures (international)
StudioCanal (France) [1]
Release dates
  • 12 October 2007 (2007-10-12)(United States)
  • 2 November 2007 (2007-11-02)(United Kingdom)
Running time
114 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • United States
  • India
  • English
Budget$55 million
Box office$75.8 million

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a 2007 biographical period drama film directed by Shekhar Kapur and produced by Universal Pictures and Working Title Films. It stars Cate Blanchett in the title role and is a fairly fictionalised portrayal of events during the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth I, a sequel to Kapur's 1998 film Elizabeth . The film co-stars Geoffrey Rush (reprising his role from the previous film), Clive Owen, Jordi Mollà, Abbie Cornish, and Samantha Morton. The screenplay was written by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst, and the music score was composed by Craig Armstrong and A. R. Rahman. Guy Hendrix Dyas was the film's production designer and co-visual effects supervisor, and the costumes were created by Alexandra Byrne. The film was shot at Shepperton Studios and various locations around the United Kingdom.


The film premiered on 9 September 2007 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It opened in wide release in the United States on 12 October 2007, premiered in London on 23 October 2007, and opened wide on 2 November 2007 throughout the rest of the UK and Republic of Ireland. At the 80th Academy Awards, the film won Best Costume Design and Blanchett received a nomination for Best Actress.


In 1585, Catholic Spain, ruled by King Philip of Spain (Jordi Mollà), is the most powerful country in the world. Seeing Protestant England as a threat, and in retaliation for English piracy of Spanish ships, Philip plots to take over England and make his daughter, Isabella, the Queen of England in Elizabeth's place. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) of England is pressured by her advisor, Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), to marry – if she dies childless, the throne will pass to her first cousin, once removed, Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton), who is Catholic.

English explorer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) is presented at Queen Elizabeth's English court, having returned from the New World. Queen Elizabeth is attracted to Raleigh, enthralled by his tales of exploration, and asks Bess Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish), her most favored lady-in-waiting, to observe him. Bess also finds Raleigh attractive and they begin a secret affair. With tensions strained between England and Spain, Elizabeth seeks guidance from her astrologer, Dr. John Dee.

Jesuits in London conspire with Philip to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Queen Mary, in what King Philip calls "The English Enterprise", historically known as the Babington Plot. From her imprisonment, Queen Mary sends secret correspondence to the Jesuits, who recruit Anthony Babington to assassinate Elizabeth. Walsingham continues to warn Queen Elizabeth of Spain's rising power and of the Catholics' plots against her, but unlike her predecessor and half-sister Mary I of England, Elizabeth refuses to force her people to share her religious beliefs.

Walsingham's Catholic brother, who knows of the plot against Elizabeth, is jailed, leading Walsingham to reveal Spain's plan to Queen Elizabeth, who angrily confronts the Spanish diplomats. The Spanish ambassador feigns ignorance, accuses Queen Elizabeth of receiving Spanish gold from pirates, and insinuates that she has a sexual relationship with Raleigh. Enraged, Elizabeth throws the Spaniards out of court. Meanwhile, Philip is cutting down the forests of Spain to build the Spanish Armada to invade England. Mary writes letters condoning the plot.

Babington storms into a cathedral where Elizabeth is praying and fires a pistol at her, though Elizabeth is unharmed as there was no bullet in the gun. As Elizabeth learns of Mary's involvement in the plot, Walsingham insists Mary be executed to quell any possible revolt. Elizabeth reluctantly agrees. Mary is tried for high treason and beheaded; Walsingham realizes this was part of the Jesuits' plan all along: Philip never intended for Mary to become queen, but with the Pope and other Catholic leaders regarding Mary as the true Queen of England, Philip uses Mary's death to obtain papal approval for war. The "murder" of the last legitimate Catholic in the line of succession gives Philip the pretext he needs to invade England and remove Elizabeth, leaving the way to the English throne free for his own daughter.

Bess reveals to Raleigh that she is pregnant with his child, and pleads with him to leave. Instead, the couple marries in secret. When Elizabeth confronts Bess, she confesses her pregnancy and that Raleigh is her husband. An infuriated Elizabeth berates Bess, reminding her that she cannot marry without royal consent. She banishes Bess from court and has Raleigh imprisoned for the crime of seducing a ward of the Queen.

As the Spanish Armada begins its approach up the English Channel, Elizabeth forgives Bess and sets Raleigh free to join Sir Francis Drake in the battle. The ships of the Armada vastly outnumber England's, but a storm blows the Armada toward the beaches, endangering its formation and becoming vulnerable to English fire ships. Elizabeth, atop her coastal headquarters, walks out to the cliffs and watches the Spanish Armada sink in flames as the English prevail.

She visits Raleigh and Bess and blesses their child. Elizabeth appears to triumph personally through her ordeal, again resigned to her role as the Virgin Queen and mother to the English people.



Principal photography began 28 April 2006 and completed on 1 August 2006.

Historical background

In 1558, King Philip II of Spain's second wife, Queen Mary I of England, died. They had wed in July 1554, a year after Mary's accession to the English throne, but the English Parliament had refused to grant him much real power as co-monarch of England. [2] On Mary's death he tried unsuccessfully to persuade her sister and successor, Elizabeth I, to marry him.

For many years Philip maintained peace with England, and even defended Elizabeth from the Pope's threat of excommunication. This was a measure taken to preserve a European balance of power. Ultimately, Elizabeth allied England with the Protestant rebels in the Netherlands. Further, English ships began a policy of piracy against Spanish trade and threatened to plunder the great Spanish treasure ships coming from the New World. English ships went so far as to attack a Spanish port. The last straw for Philip was the Treaty of Nonsuch signed by Elizabeth in 1585 – promising troops and supplies to the rebels. Although it can be argued this English action was the result of Philip's Treaty of Joinville with the Catholic League of France, Philip considered it an act of war by England. With the Pope's blessing, he launched the Spanish Armada to attack England, Protestantism, and Elizabeth herself. Sir Walter Raleigh, whom the Queen favored, married Elizabeth Throckmorton, a ward of Elizabeth's court, after learning she was carrying his child. Elizabeth I had both of them arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, but later released them.

Dramatic licence

This representation of a historical period is heavily fictionalised for the purposes of entertainment. The film's lead Cate Blanchett was reported as saying: "It's terrifying that we are growing up with this very illiterate bunch of children, who are somehow being taught that film is fact, when in fact it's invention". [3] Some of the simpler fictions are:

Claims of anti-Catholicism

The film depicts an important episode in the violent struggle between the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation that polarised European politics. Several critics (some cited below) claimed the film was "anti-Catholic" and followed a traditional English view of their own history. A British-based priest, Father Peter Malone, declared the film to be jingoistic in his review.[ citation needed ]

In the US the National Catholic Register , film critic Steven D. Greydanus compared this film to The Da Vinci Code , and wrote: "The climax, a weakly staged destruction of the Spanish Armada, is a crescendo of church-bashing imagery: rosaries floating amid burning flotsam, inverted crucifixes sinking to the bottom of the ocean, the rows of ominous berobed clerics slinking away in defeat. Pound for pound, minute for minute, Elizabeth: The Golden Age could possibly contain more sustained church-bashing than any other film I can think of." Greydanus asked: "How is it possible that this orgy of anti-Catholicism has been all but ignored by most critics?" [4]

Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star-Ledger said: "This movie equates Catholicism with some sort of horror-movie cult, with scary close-ups of chanting monks and glinting crucifixes." [5] Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune complained of what he saw as "ugly anti-Catholic imagery", [6] and Bob Bloom of the Lafayette Journal & Courier agreed that anti-Catholicism was one of the film's "sore points". [7]

Monsignor Mark Langham, Administrator of Westminster Cathedral, was criticised by some Roman Catholics for allowing scenes to be shot there; although praising the film as a "must see", he suggested that "it does appear to perpetuate the myth of 'killer priests'". [8] [9]

Historian Franco Cardini, of the University of Florence, alleged "the film formed part of a 'concerted attack on Catholicism, the Holy See and Papism' by an alliance of atheists and 'apocalyptic Christians'". [10] [11] "Why put out this perverse anti-Catholic propaganda today, just at the moment when we are trying desperately to revive our Western identity in the face of the Islamic threat, presumed or real?" [12]

Director Shekhar Kapur rejected this criticism of his film, saying: "It is actually very, very deeply non-anti-Catholic. It is anti extreme forms of religion. At that time the church in Spain, or Philip had said that they were going to turn the whole world into a very pure form of Catholicism. So it's not anti-Catholic. It's anti an interpretation of the word of God that is singular, as against what Elizabeth's was, which was to look upon her faith as concomitant." [13] [14] "The fact is that the Pope ordered her execution; he said that anybody who executes or assassinates Elizabeth would find a beautiful place in the kingdom of heaven. Where else have you heard these words about Salman Khan or Salman Rushdie? That's why I made this film, so this idea of a rift between Catholicism and Protestants does not arise. My interpretation of Elizabeth is an interpretation of greater tolerance [than] Philip, which is absolutely true. It's completely true that she had this kind of feminine energy. It's a conflict between Philip, who had no ability to encompass diversity or contradiction, and Elizabeth who had the feminine ability to do that." [15]

Kapur extended this pluralist defence to his own approach: "I would describe all history as fiction and interpretation ... [A]sk any Catholic and they'll give you a totally different aspect of history ... History has always been an interpretation ... I do believe that civilisations that don't learn from history are civilisations that are doomed to make the same mistakes again and again, which is why this film starts with the idea of fundamentalism against tolerance. It's not Catholic against Protestant; it's a very fundamental form of Catholicism. It was the time of the Spanish Inquisition and against a woman whose half of her population was Protestant, half was Catholic. And there were enough bigots in her Protestant Parliament to say, 'Just kill them all', and she was constantly saying no. She was constantly on the side of tolerance. So you interpret history to tell the story that is relevant to us now." [16]

Filming locations


Elizabeth: The Golden Age: Music from the Motion Picture
Elizabeth, The Golden Age soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedOctober 2007
Recorded AIR Studios, Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Genre Soundtrack
Label Decca
A. R. Rahman chronology
Azhagiya Tamil Magan
Elizabeth: The Golden Age: Music from the Motion Picture
Jodhaa Akbar
Craig Armstrong chronology
World Trade Center
Elizabeth: The Golden Age: Music from the Motion Picture
The Incredible Hulk: Original Motion Picture Score

The original score was composed by A. R. Rahman and Craig Armstrong. Kapur was thrilled to have both Rahman and Armstrong working together on the music, saying it was fascinating to watch "two people with totally different backgrounds and cultures" interact. [17]

Blanchett had travelled to India in the early 2000s, coming away with several Indian sounds, and badgered Kapur to get Rahman to score Hollywood movies. Antonio Pinto was mentioned as being a collaborator during production, but later Armstrong joined the project. In January 2009, he expressed regret that other compositions from A. R. Rahman were not used in the film, feeling that "the score of Golden Age was not half as good as it could have been." He expressed hope to hear these pieces appear in another project. [18]

"Opening" from the score was used in the BBC's coverage of the Single's Finals at the 2008 Wimbledon Championships. "Storm" is heard in a trailer of the 2013 film Man of Steel . [19]

Track listing

1."Opening" A. R. Rahman 1:31
3."Now You Grow Dull"A. R. Rahman0:57
4."Horseriding"A. R. Rahman1:38
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
6."Bess and Raleigh Dance"A. R. Rahman2:34
7."Mary's Beheading"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
8."End Puddle / Possible Suitors"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
9."War / Realisation"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
10."Destiny Theme"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
11."Smile Lines"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
12."Bess to See Throckmorton"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
13."Dr Dee Part 1"A. R. Rahman3:18
14."Horseback Address"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
15."Battle"A. R. Rahman3:29
16."Love Theme"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
17."Divinity Theme"A. R. Rahman5:08
18."Storm"A. R. Rahman3:00
19."Walsingham Death Bed"
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
  • A. R. Rahman
  • Craig Armstrong
Total length:48:10

Home media

The film was released on Region 1 on DVD and HD DVD 5 February 2008.[ citation needed ] It was released on Blu-ray in 2009 and bundled with the first film.[ citation needed ]


Critical reception

Although Cate Blanchett's performance was highly praised, the film received generally mixed to negative reviews from US critics. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 35% of critics gave the film a positive rating, based on 167 reviews; the average rating is 5.1/10. The critics consensus reads, "This sequel is full of lavish costumes and elaborate sets, but lacks the heart and creativity of the original Elizabeth." [20] On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 45 out of 100, based on 35 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". [21] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, the same grade as its predecessor. [22]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian , gave the film 1 star out of 5, remarking on the film's historical revisionism and melodrama. He writes: "Where Kapur's first Elizabeth was cool, cerebral, fascinatingly concerned with complex plotting, the new movie is pitched at the level of a Jean Plaidy romantic novel". [23]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2½ stars out of 4, saying 'there are scenes where the costumes are so sumptuous, the sets so vast, the music so insistent, that we lose sight of the humans behind the dazzle of the production'. Ebert did, however, praise many of the actors' performances, particularly that of Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I. He said 'that Blanchett could appear in the same Toronto International Film Festival playing Elizabeth and Bob Dylan, both splendidly, is a wonder of acting'. [24] Blanchett portrayed Bob Dylan in the film I'm Not There and was nominated for an Academy Award for her roles in both movies.

Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave the film 3 stars out of 4, writing '... as a pseudo-historical fable, a romantic triangle and a blood-and-thunder melodrama, the film can't be faulted' and 'This isn't historical fabrication, it's mutilation. But for all its lapses, this is probably the liveliest, most vibrant Elizabethan production since Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet .' [25] while Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe said, "Historians might demand a little more history from Elizabeth: The Golden Age. But soap opera loyalists could hardly ask for more soap." [26]

Michael Gove, speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight Review , said: 'It tells the story of England's past in a way which someone who's familiar with the Whig tradition of history would find, as I did, completely sympathetic. It's amazing to see a film made now that is so patriotic ... One of the striking things about this film is that it's almost a historical anomaly. I can't think of a historical period film in which England and the English have been depicted heroically for the last forty or fifty years. You almost have to go back to Laurence Olivier's Shakespeare's Henry V in which you actually have an English king and English armies portrayed heroically'. [27]

Box office

Elizabeth: The Golden Age grossed $6.1 million in 2,001 theatres during its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, ranking #6 at the box office. [1] In the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland the film entered at No. 4 and earned £1.3 million ($2.7 million) on its opening weekend. [28] As of February 2009 the worldwide total was $74.2 million, including $16.4 million in the US and Canada and $57.8 million elsewhere. [29] In contrast, the film's predecessor, Elizabeth, grossed $30 million in the United States and Canada, and a total of $82.1 million worldwide. [30]

Awards and nominations

The film received two Academy Award nominations, winning the Academy Award for Costume Design for Alexandra Byrne. Cate Blanchett was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film, becoming the first female actor to receive another Academy Award nomination for the reprisal of the same role. [31]

Academy Awards [32] Best Actress Cate Blanchett Nominated
Best Costume Design Alexandra Byrne Won
Art Directors Guild Awards [33] Excellence in Production Design for a Period Film Guy Hendrix Dyas Nominated
Australian Film Institute Awards [34] Best International Actress Cate BlanchettWon
British Academy Film Awards [35] Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated
Best Costume Design Alexandra ByrneNominated
Best Makeup and Hair Jenny ShircoreNominated
Best Production Design Guy Hendrix Dyas and Richard RobertsNominated
British Society of Cinematographers [36] Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Remi Adefarasin Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards [37] Best Actress Cate BlanchettNominated
Costume Designers Guild Awards [38] Excellence in Period Film Alexandra ByrneNominated
Empire Awards [39] Best Actress Cate BlanchettNominated
Golden Globe Awards [40] Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Irish Film & Television Awards [41] Best International ActressNominated
Satellite Awards [42] Best Art Direction and Production Design Guy Hendrix Dyas and David AlldayWon
Best Costume Design Alexandra ByrneWon
Screen Actors Guild Awards [43] Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Cate BlanchettNominated

At the 11th Pyongyang International Film Festival held in September 2008, one of the awards for special screening were conferred upon the film.[ citation needed ]

See also

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