Sunday, June 08, 2008

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age is the sequel to the 1998 film Elizabeth, which loosely (in terms of historicity) told the story of the coming to power of Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII. Cate Blanchett resumes her role as the title character and delivers another powerfully acted performance. The film is also visually stunning as is the costume design.

The film focuses on the titanic struggle between the emerging Kingdom of England and the Spanish Empire under King Philip II of the House of Hapsburg. It includes the failed coup against Elizabeth which was to bring Mary I of the House of Stuart, popularly known as "Mary, Queen of Scots," who was executed after the plot's failure. The film's climax revolves around the failed naval attack on England by the famed Spanish Armada. Hollywood ads drama to the already dramatic historical events and includes a side romance between Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh, the stuff of popular stories.

As with many Hollywood historical productions, the details are lost in the interest of drama and straightforwardness. Philip II was simultaneously facing threats from England, France, Dutch rebels, and the Ottoman Empire to the east which still dominated the Mediterranean Sea. Following the defeat and destruction of much of his naval armada, Philip fared fairly well in the resulting conflict with England and reigned during the golden age for Spanish imperialism and expansion in the New World (the Americas.) The film has been criticized by Roman Catholic groups for portraying the Church in a negative light. However, the political role, often devious, of the Church in Renaissance Europe, when the continent was split between Catholic and Protestant kingdoms and monarchies, is a historical fact.


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