Parlando: The COC Blog


Elizabeth I — The Role of a Lifetime

Helen Mirren, Elizabeth I, Cate Blanchett

Queen Elizabeth I is one of history's most dramatized monarchs. Her lasting legacy, and fascinating personal life, has inspired countless works for the stage, page and screen. From epic historical dramas to irreverent comedies and even sci-fi, many notable performers have made the character of the Virgin Queen their own.

When Sondra Radvanovsky makes her role debut as Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux on April 25, she'll add her name to that list! To celebrate this iconic role, we've narrowed down a selection of our favourite on-screen Elizabeths through the years.

Judi Dench - Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Legendary British actress Judi Dench holds the record for giving the second-shortest performance in history to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was only in the film for eight minutes, but they were memorable ones! Making the most of her screen time, Dench captured the monarch's acerbic wit and showcased the glorious Elizabethan fashion. How could anyone forget her opulent peacock gown?

Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Judi Dench wasn't the only actress nominated that year for playing Elizabeth I. Cate Blanchett earned wide acclaim and was nominated for Best Actress for playing the title role in Elizabeth. The dramatic biopic captured the terror of Mary I's bloody reign and the uncertainty of Elizabeth's early years on the throne. Blanchett reprised the role in 2007, as a slightly older and self-assured monarch at the height of her power.

Helen Mirren - Elizabeth I (2005)

It is a rare accomplishment for an actress to play both Queen Elizabeths in her career, so we had to include Helen Mirren on this list. This two-part HBO mini-series shows an aging Elizabeth navigating political powerplays, assassination attempts and the threat of invasion. Behind closed doors, she relies on the friendship and advice of her first love, Robert Dudley (Jeremy Irons), while beginning a flirtation with his dashing, yet hot-headed, step-son Robert Devereux (Hugh Dancy).

Bette Davis - The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) and The Virgin Queen (1955)

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex also depicted the stormy and ultimately tragic relationship between Elizabeth and Robert Devereux. As Elizabeth I, Bette Davis led a cast of Hollywood legends including the ultimate swashbuckler Errol Flynn as Essex and Olivia de Havilland as Lady Penelope Gray. Like Cate Blanchett, Davis returned to the role for The Virgin Queen, about Elizabeth's later relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh (Richard Todd). She was so committed to this role that she even shaved her head to achieve an authentic Elizabethan hairline.

Miranda Richardson - Blackadder II (1986)

Not every portrayal of Elizabeth has been as serious as the baity roles above. Miranda Richardson's "Queenie" in the the second season of the much-loved British comedy Blackadder isn't anything like the Elizabeth we've come to know through history. She's silly, petulant and if you get on her bad side, watch out for your neck!

Doctor Who (2013)

And last, but not least, the character of Elizabeth I has even crossed over into sci-fi! Everyone's favourite Time Lord became quite close with the queen during his journeys through the universe.


Who do you think played Elizabeth I best? Let us know in the comments!


Banner photo credits: Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I; Queen Elizabeth I portrait; Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.

Posted by Kristin McKinnon / in Roberto Devereux / comments (1) / permalink

Martha (4/12/2014 4:00:00 AM)
I'd have to say that Cate Blanchett will always be my queen, but of course who can deny the doctor who creation! Amazing article!

Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001



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