Saturday, 3 April 2010

Elizabeth 1, the Film

My mini break from Thursday afternoon until Sunday evening was very rewarding and amazingly inexpensive with £38 for three nights ensuite accommodation with double bed and a further night for £9 had I wished to make use of the extra day. I was more relaxed than ever before about preparing for the trip, even watching a film and having a nap before departing. There was the mini disaster of messing up the AOL logging on system as a consequence of trying to use the computer with Wifi while away and which led to having to spend time and a little money being brought back on line with the assistance of AOL. I was very impressed with the way I was taken slowly through what had happened and what had gone wrong and how to put it right. I believe I can tie in my mobile phone to the computer using the internet and this will be my priority to learn once I have completed the work associated with the trip, from writing the Blogs which are finished and uploaded, making two volumes with each having 3 sets covering the notes, the photos and other information about the visits, and up loading two new sets of photos 101 Beverley and Hull 101 which is underway at the present time.
Monday was a quiet and unplanned day at home, getting up to put the refuse wheelie bin and the environmental box out and then go for good shop in the afternoon, deciding on some chopped beef for stir frys buying two 500 gram packs for £6 and dividing into four portions, freezing three. Also purchased was a pack of chicken pieces, divided into three portions, eating one in the evening with baked beans, I was out of tomato, bought some more coffee, salad and fruit. Beforehand I had another copy of an important internal key.

I did not go to see Elizabeth 1553 1603, the Golden Age in theatre because I suspected it was a commercial entertainment which would add nothing to my knowledge, a view shared by the majority of critics at the time. Indeed there was strong criticism of playing fast and loose with the known history but I did add the DVD to my internet/mail service and viewed with an open mind. It is a lavish sumptuous production. Whereas the first film was full of darkness this film contrasts the Golden age light of Elizabeth's middle years with the darkness of Spanish intrigue and inquisition. The film used the Cathedrals of Wells and Ely and Winchester which have light stonework and everything around was designed to project the sense of optimism with the threat coming from Spain who wished to place the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots ion the throne.

Care Blanchette gives her usual well worked performance as the Queen for second occasions having herself changed from a young girl to a wife and mother and full of the reality of life's experiences. She communicated the emptiness inside her as she devoted herself to the fortunes of England, yearned to find a man who could match her spirit and to be a mother. There is no reference to how she became the woman alone, to the fact that her father died when she was 13 and that she was brought up Henry's last wife Catherine Parr who married Edward Seymour who had married the last wife of Henry who formed a great attachment to Elizabeth with several sources suggesting that best their relationship was unhealthy. He was arrested charged with plotting to marry Elizabeth and beheaded. There is also only a fleeting reference to past love and what is generally agreed as her having had a passion for the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, a married man, soon after she became Queen, after having experienced like in prison and under house arrest. When his wife died in questionable circumstances, the scandal was such that marriage was not out of the question. She is also known to have had a relationship subsequently with the Earl of Essex Robert Deveraux. She kept marriage as an alliance to another Monarch or would be head of state as an option.

All this makes it puzzling for the film to concentrate on the relationship between the Queen and Sir Walter Raleigh although it is accurate that he did have a relationship and marry in secret one of her closest courtiers Elizabeth Frogmorton with her permission for which they were both sent to the Tower of London for a time, but this happened when she was in her late fifties and not early forties which is period in which the film is set.

The second historical atrocity is the suggestion that Philip of Spain wanted to conquer England the expression devastate the country is used in the film after Elizabeth had Mary Queen of Scots Beheaded. He did want to restore Catholicism and had the support of the Pope and there is no double that life would have been very difficult for Protestants subsequently but he there was no intention to take direct rule and have everyone speaking Spanish. The film suggests that the of the Battle was Sir Walter Raleigh who led the fire ship which did the damage and caused the Armada to fail in 1588. There is no evidence that he participated in the sea battles. While the fire ships were a fact in the decision to withdraw the Spanish Fleet, the main problem the Spanish and was how to counteract the manoeuvrability of the English fleet who could inflict serious damage and then n get themselves out of the range of their guns. While it correct that the Spanish Fleet was significantly greater than he actual English Navy 130 to 34, the English Admiral had under his command a total of 197 ships with the rest armed merchant men. It is correct as stated in the film that the response of the Spanish was to cut cables rather than raised anchors and flee in all directions to avoid being caught in the fire ships and the decisive battle took place the following day when encouraged by previous skirmishes the English fleet decided to engage the enemy for the first time. What happened that day has tended to be forgotten. The Spanish realising that they were not invincible decided to disengage not realising that the English had nearly run out of ammunition. With over 100 ships intact and the main army waiting on the French coast to come across on barges, the Spanish Commander decided to call it a day not because they were beaten but because victory without a significant loss of casualties became uncertain.

There are those who see the film as a clever piece of propaganda comparing Elizabeth 1 with Elizabeth 2 both facing dark and evil threats from overseas but where with courage and truth of spirit and purpose the nation will prevail against whatever overwhelming forces and odds it has to face.

Final word must go to Sir Francis Drake who I suspected the film's director and writers had confused with Raleigh. It was Drake who was Elizabeth's official pirate master, raiding Spanish vessels for their treasure and understandably upsetting the Spanish court especially as they knew the unprovoked aggression was sanctioned by Elizabeth. He was a mercenary adventurer who started off as a slaver and he played a significant part in persuading the Spanish to withdraw the Amada, weakening the Spanish fleet first by entering the port of Cadiz and destroying 30 of the assembled ships a year before the "official" war commenced. He was Vice Admiral of the English fleet on Armada Day.

I particularly enjoyed one of the short films on the DVD which showed how for once instead of making half or quarter size models and using computer generated graphics with the actors using blue screens, a full size replica was built half English and half Spanish, then authentically decorated and aged and held in a frame which could created the sense of movement on the waves, and then set of fire to represent the successful fire ship.

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