Elizabeth R charts the life of Queen Elizabeth I of England, from her days as a young woman through her 45-year reign as queen to her death in 1603. The six episodes, each with a running time of approximately 85 minutes, focus on: the events that lead to Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne; her close relationship with Robert Dudley (Robert Hardy); Elizabeth’s near-marriage to France’s Duke of Anjou (Michael Williams); the treason plot involving Mary, Queen of Scots (Vivian Pickles); the defeat of the Spanish Armada; and her complex relationship with the much-younger Earl of Essex (Robin Ellis).
The best episodes are those involving the men in Elizabeth’s life, specifically Dudley, the Duke of Anjou, and Essex. Each of them love the Queen in their own way, but they are thwarted by rumor (Dudley), politics (Anjou), or greed (Essex). It helps immensely that these historical figures are portrayed by a trio of fine actors.
|Robert Hardy as Dudley.|
|Michael William as the Duke of Anjou.|
|Robin Ellis as Essex.|
|Jackson as the young Elizabeth.|
Elizabeth R won a total of five Emmys, including ones for outstanding drama series and costumes. Although it's easy to see why it was held in high esteem, the series is nonetheless inconsistent. The episode about the defeat of the Spanish Armada is flat, mostly because the show's budget required that the battle scenes not be shown (but described by a character after the fact). Although Jackson has a powerful scene near the end, the episode about the treasonous Babington Plot is so convoluted that it's often hard to follow the historical events.
Still, Elizabeth R remains a must-see for fans of historical drama. It is, based on my limited research, remarkably accurate...and the acting is often sublime.