Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen (review)

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Now, this is what history should be, full of passion and intrigue and drama! Lush in every possible way — visually, emotionally, even musically — this British TV production, which aired on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater in the U.S., is an absolutely riveting retelling of the reign of the most famous daughter of Henry VIII. Anne-Marie Duff’s (Doctor Zhivago) Elizabeth is a truly regal presence — intelligent, aggressive, sly, capricious — but also a genuinely human one, in a way that portraits of towering historical figures often fail to capture: she’s conflicted, in pain, torn between a real sense of duty to her nation and desire of all kinds. For even as she fights her advisors and her Parliament for the right to rule alone, without a man at her side, she longs for the one man she has always loved, and can never have, the married commoner Robert Dudley (Tom Hardy: The Reckoning). Rarely has the concept of history as the culmination of small acts by individuals been so convincingly depicted. As is typical of the Masterpiece Theater series on DVD, there are no extras, but the feature attraction is plenty to keep viewers enthralled.

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