Elizabeth I (2005 TV series)

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Elizabeth I
Title screen with Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons
Written byNigel Williams
Directed byTom Hooper
StarringHelen Mirren
Jeremy Irons
Patrick Malahide
Toby Jones
Hugh Dancy
Barbara Flynn
Ewen Bremner
Ian McDiarmid
Theme music composerRob Lane
Country of originUnited Kingdom
United States
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes2
ProducerBarney Reisz
CinematographyLarry Smith
EditorsBeverley Mills
Melanie Oliver
Running time223 minutes
Production companiesHBO Films
Channel 4 Television Corporation
Company Pictures
Budget£5.5 million[1]
Original release
NetworkChannel 4 (UK)
Release29 September (2005-09-29) –
6 October 2005 (2005-10-06)

Elizabeth I is a two-part 2005 British-American historical drama television serial directed by Tom Hooper, written by Nigel Williams, and starring Helen Mirren as Elizabeth I of England. The drama covers approximately the last 24 years of her nearly 45-year reign. Part 1 focuses on the final years of her relationship with the Earl of Leicester, played by Jeremy Irons. Part 2 focuses on her subsequent relationship with the Earl of Essex, played by Hugh Dancy.

The series originally was broadcast in the United Kingdom in two two-hour segments on Channel 4. It later aired on HBO in the United States, CBC and TMN in Canada, ATV in Hong Kong, ABC in Australia, and TVNZ Television One in New Zealand.

The series went on to win Emmy, Peabody, and Golden Globe Awards.


Part 1

In 1579, Elizabeth I refuses to marry. Her chief advisor, Lord Burghley, and her spymaster, Francis Walsingham, plan to have her wed the Duke of Anjou in order to cement an English-French alliance against Spain while her favourite, the Earl of Leicester, opposes the plan due to his own long-standing affections for her. Upon arriving in England, the Duke meets and courts Elizabeth, gaining her favour. She angrily banishes Leicester from court when she learns he is married and decides not to marry the Duke due to negative popular opinion towards the match.

Seven years later, Elizabeth welcomes Leicester back. Walsingham gathers evidence to prove that Elizabeth's Catholic cousin Mary, Queen of Scots is plotting to have her killed. Elizabeth is reluctant to have Mary executed because of the war it might ignite between England and Spain. During a secret meeting at her prison, Mary gives Elizabeth her word that she does not want her dead. Elizabeth hesitantly gives Leicester command of the English campaign to assist the Dutch against Spain, which fails, giving Spain control of Holland. Once it is proven that Mary has in fact been conspiring against Elizabeth's life, Mary is judged guilty of treason and executed.

After negotiations between England and Spain fail, a fleet of Spanish ships are sent for England. Elizabeth gives Leicester command of the land forces and rides with him and his stepson the Earl of Essex to Tilbury, where they expect the Spanish to attempt a landing and where Elizabeth delivers a speech to the troops. The Spanish Armada is ultimately defeated, but Leicester falls gravely ill just as they learn of the English victory. Later, on his deathbed, Leicester bids Essex to take care of Elizabeth.

Part 2

By 1589, Elizabeth has made a favourite of Essex and falls in love with him. She is openly outraged when he takes part in an English military expedition to Lisbon against her wishes, but she forgives him in spite of his failure to take the city from the Spanish. She grants him 10 percent of a tax on sweet wines and a seat on the Privy Council, of which Lord Burghley's son Robert Cecil was also recently made a member. Essex and Cecil develop a rivalry, as illustrated by the affair of Elizabeth's physician Dr. Lopez, who is hanged based on evidence brought forth by Essex of his participation in a Spanish plot against Elizabeth, evidence proven questionable after the fact by Cecil.

Essex's political ambitions begin to clash with his devotion and loyalty to Elizabeth. As Elizabeth finds her young lover's behavior becoming increasingly worrisome, she draws closer to Cecil, who is named Secretary of State following the death of Walsingham. Essex is publicly hailed upon his return to England after taking Cadiz from the Spanish, but his relationship with Elizabeth begins to deteriorate. She and Cecil suspect Essex of secretly communicating with James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, a potential successor to the English throne. After Burghley's death, Elizabeth sends Essex to Ireland to put down a rebellion but he instead makes a truce and returns to England alone. Elizabeth puts Essex under house arrest.

Essex and his followers fail to start a rebellion in London and are captured. At his trial, Essex accuses Cecil of collaborating with Spain but has no evidence to prove this, and he is found guilty of treason and beheaded. Some time later, Elizabeth becomes listless, going for three weeks without eating before making her way to her bed and requesting a priest, saying she is minded to die.


Eight actors receive billing in the opening credits of one or both parts of Elizabeth I:

The full cast of characters of each part is listed in the closing credits of each part. Apart from those receiving star billing, those in Part 1 include:

Apart from those receiving star billing and Salaman as Dr Lopez, those in Part 2 include:


According to director Tom Hooper, Mirren "came onboard before the script was written because the feeling was that it was only worth doing if she would play it."[2] Hooper and Mirren had previously worked together on the police procedural drama Prime Suspect 6 (2003). The project on Elizabeth I was originally going to be two hours and focus on her relationship with the Earl of Essex, but Mirren "felt that there should be more politics" according to writer Nigel Williams.[1] The series was filmed in Vilnius, Lithuania, where the massive sets were constructed inside a sports arena[1] that was abandoned in the 1970s.[3] The Whitehall Palace set was constructed to scale from original plans.[1]


Critical response

At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, Elizabeth I received an average score of 81% based on 21 reviews.[4]

David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Mirren's performance "is powerful enough to shatter your television screen, not to mention any notion you might have had that if you've seen one Elizabeth—Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson or Cate Blanchett, for example—you've seen them all." He added that Irons, who he felt "has sometimes settled into craggy self-parody in lesser films [...] invests Leicester with as much depth and complexity as he can, and he is every bit Mirren's equal onscreen."[5]

Brian Lowry of Variety felt that the second part was better than the first, praised Mirren's performance and wrote that "[director] Tom Hooper, who previously directed Mirren in Prime Suspect 6, indulges [writer Nigel] Williams' penchant for long, theatrical monologues, which require a little getting used to in the slow early going. Gradually, however, as with the best British costume drama, the narrative becomes absorbing."[6]

Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times wrote that Mirren is "one of the few actresses working today who can actually convincingly play a historical figure in her 40s" and that Elizabeth I was more historically accurate than Elizabeth (1998), though she felt that "[the miniseries'] interpretation, like so many others, wallows in the painful self-pity of a powerful, aging woman who craves true love". While the miniseries is visually "no match for the 1998 movie" to Stanley, she concludes that Elizabeth I offers "a richly drawn portrait of a powerful woman who is both ruthless and sentimental, formidable and mercurial, vain and likable."[7]


Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
British Academy Television Craft Awards Best Costume Design Mike O'Neill Nominated [8]
Best Make-Up and Hair Design Fae Hammond Nominated
Best Original Television Music Rob Lane Won
Best Production Design Eve Stewart Nominated
Broadcast Awards Best Drama Series or Serial Nominated
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Best Actress Helen Mirren Nominated [9]
Golden Nymph Awards Outstanding Actress – Mini Series Won [10]
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Miniseries Nominated [11]
Best Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Helen Mirren Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Hugh Dancy Nominated
Jeremy Irons Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Barbara Flynn Nominated
Best Direction of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Best Writing of a Motion Picture or Miniseries Won
Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture or Miniseries Nominated
Peabody Awards Company Pictures and Channel 4
in association with HBO Films
Won [12]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Miniseries George Faber, Suzan Harrison,
Charles Pattinson, Barney Reisz,
and Nigel Williams
Won [13]
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Helen Mirren Won
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie Hugh Dancy Nominated
Jeremy Irons Won
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Tom Hooper Won
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special Nigel Williams Nominated
Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie Leon McCarthy, Eve Stewart, and Sarah Whittle Won
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Doreen Jones Won
Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Samantha Horn and Mike O'Neill (for "Part 2") Won
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special Fae Hammond and Su Westwood (for "Part 2") Won
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie Beverley Mills (for "Part 1") Won
Melanie Oliver (for "Part 2") Nominated
Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie Ken Campbell and Paul Hamblin (for "Part 1") Nominated
Royal Television Society Awards Drama Serial Nominated [14]
Satellite Awards Best Miniseries Nominated [15]
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Hugh Dancy Nominated
Best Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Helen Mirren Nominated
Television Critics Association Awards Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials Nominated [16]
Women's Image Network Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie Helen Mirren Won
American Cinema Editors Awards Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Non-Commercial Television Beverley Mills (for "Part 1") Nominated [17]
American Film Institute Awards Top 10 Television Programs Won [18]
Costume Designers Guild Awards Outstanding Made for Television Movie or Miniseries Mike O'Neill Won [19]
Critics' Choice Awards Best Picture Made for Television Won [20]
Golden Globe Awards Best Miniseries or Television Film Won [21]
Best Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Helen Mirren Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Jeremy Irons Won
Producers Guild of America Awards David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television Suzan Harrison, George Faber,
Charles Pattinson, and Barney Reisz
Won [22]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Jeremy Irons Won [23]
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Helen Mirren Won
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Broadcast Program,
Commercial or Music Video
David A.T. Bowman, Jimmy Kiddell,
Russell Horth, and Gurel Mehmet (for "Part 1")
Won [24]


  1. ^ a b c d Williams, Sally (10 September 2005). "Monarch of the moment". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  2. ^ Cohen, David S. (11 June 2006). "Leading ladies split HBO love". Variety. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  3. ^ O'Hare, Kate (12 July 2008). "'Elizabeth I' Tells Tale of One Queen and Two Robins". Zap2it. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Elizabeth I". Metacritic. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  5. ^ Wiegand, David (21 April 2006). "Bloody good drama as Helen Mirren stirs up passions in 'Elizabeth I' film". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
  6. ^ Lowry, Brian (15 April 2006). "Elizabeth I". Variety. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  7. ^ Stanely, Alessandra (21 April 2006). "'Elizabeth I': The Flirty Monarch With an Iron Fist". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  8. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Television Craft in 2006". BAFTA. 2006. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  9. ^ "Nominations for BPG Awards 2006". Broadcasting Press Guild. 3 March 2006. Retrieved 3 March 2006.
  10. ^ "2006 Gracies Golden Nymph Awards Winners" (PDF). Golden Nymph Awards. Retrieved 12 June 2008.
  11. ^ "10th Annual TV Awards (2006)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  12. ^ "Elizabeth I". Peabody Awards. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Elizabeth I". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  14. ^ "RTS Programme Winners 2006". Royal Television Society. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  15. ^ "International Press Academy website – 2006 11th Annual SATELLITE Awards". Archived from the original on 1 February 2008.
  16. ^ "2006 TCA Awards nominees". Television Critics Association. 31 May 2006. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  17. ^ McNary, Dave (11 January 2007). "Cinema Editors announce nominations". Variety. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  18. ^ "AFI Awards 2006". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on 17 October 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  19. ^ "9th Costume Designers Guild Awards". Costume Designers Guild. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  20. ^ Olsen, Mark (14 January 2007). "'Departed,' Scorsese win Critics' Choice awards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 January 2007.
  21. ^ "Elizabeth I – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  22. ^ McNary, Dave (3 January 2007). "PGA announces nominees". Variety. Archived from the original on 30 August 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  23. ^ "The 13th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Screen Actors Guild Awards. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  24. ^ Gregg Kilday (9 January 2007). "VES works up effects noms". The Hollywood Reporter. Lynne Segall. Retrieved 7 February 2020.

External links