I am recovering from the most hellish cold I have had in years. It’s not Covid, but aside from the not-insignificant infection factor, it might as well be. I am well stocked with *quils of every sort, and I still feel lousy. Despite this, I continue to ruminate on the movie I saw on the plane coming back from the Edgars. Yes, I went to the Edgars and had a fabulous time, with the exception that I couldn’t get my shoes to fit properly and teetered on unstable feet for four hours. It was nice to see that younger people were getting awards and that the nominations and awards were handed out to a diverse group of writers. I thank Laurie R. King for inviting me to sit at her table, and only after the event did I realize that I was sitting with a host of publishing giants. Anyway, my stay in New York was brief, my four days with my daughter and her husband was less brief, and I connected with one of my dearest friends. How do these people have the nerve to live on an opposite coast from me?
What is the point here? The flight from NYC to San Francisco is always long. I watched three movies, the most irritating of which was Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett. Really, you say. Yes, the acting was great. The production values wonderful. So why the large frown? Let me count the ways! They SO bastardized the history that I wanted to leap out of my seat and scream, NO, THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED! But as I had my seat belt tightened to the point of it almost being a tourniquet—I am a very nervous flyer—I stayed put and merely screamed in silence. Not sure one can do that but bear with me.
First of all, you don’t need to mess with this history. It is filled with drama enough. The strongest aspect of this film is that you see Elizabeth move from a girl to a woman. Of course, in the real history, she is tested again and again over time. She is a seasoned political warrior by the time she ascends the throne, but, regardless, I think that it was a compelling aspect of the film.
What wasn’t compelling was the jettisoning of William Cecil as a doddering old man put out to pasture by the far more conniving Francis Walsingham. Nonsense. Cecil was KEY to Elizabeth’s success. He and Walsingham were a formidable duo—not to mention fervent Protestants, which Elizabeth never was. Walsingham was, yes, her spymaster, but Cecile was her right hand for decades, and bears all the responsibility in the subsequent trial and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Second, Mary of Guise wasn’t fighting with the English. She had enough on her hands with the Scottish lords who were trying to usurp her authority and stamp out Catholicism, which is the reason why French troops were garrisoned in Scotland. Far more of a threat was her daughter’s, Mary, Queen of Scots, claim to the English throne. This was a big deal. A few scenes with the Walsingham and the Guise brothers would have had as much an impact politically as did the scenes with Mary of Guise, although it would be hard to combat Fanny Ardent’s beauty. By the way, Mary of Guise died of congestive heart failure, not by poison. If one wanted to hype the beauty factor, why not include a few scenes with Mary, Queen of Scots, who was a reputed stunner, and who’d been brought up to be purely ornamental as opposed to Elizabeth, whose sense of queenship and rule were evident by even the age of 25. By having a few scenes in France, it would have signaled that this was a global conflict. We have a smidgen of that with the scenes with the pope and Elizabeth’s eventual excommunication, but Mary, Queen of Scots’ claim to the throne was legitimate in the eyes of many (like everyone) except the English.
Last but not least and perhaps the most egregious was the trashing of Robert Dudley. I hated how they tagged on storyboard at the end, masquerading as “fact” that she was never alone with him again. Total nonsense. In FACT, Robert Dudley was another mainstay in Elizabeth’s life until his death. He was her general at Tilbury when she made her famous speech. He died like four days after the rout of the Spanish Armanda. She was devastated by his death. What destroyed their relationship was the death of his wife, Amy Robsart. He was never able to climb out from under the suspicion that he had her murdered so he could marry Elizabeth. I think that’s dramatic enough, isn’t it?
So perhaps I know too much about English Tudor history. Fair enough. But it took me out of the story and the rationale for the jettisoning of the real history didn’t make sense to me. Like I said. You don’t need to make up stuff about this period of history. It’s overflowing with intrigue enough. Also, no one goes about murdering ambassadors. Even in this bloodthirsty age, you kicked them out of the country.