Cultural depictions of Elizabeth I of England

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Elizabeth I, by Steven van der Meulen, 1560s

Elizabeth I of England has inspired artistic and cultural works for over four centuries. The following lists cover various media, enduring works of high art, and recent representations in popular culture, film and fiction. The entries represent portrayals that a reader has a reasonable chance of encountering rather than a complete catalogue.

Art, literature, drama and music[edit]

Allegoric representation of Elizabeth I with the goddesses Juno, Athena & Venus/Aphrodite, by Joris Hoefnagel or Hans Eworth , ca 1569
  • Elizabeth's own writings, which were considerable, were collected and published by the University of Chicago Press as Elizabeth I: Collected Works.
  • The Portraiture of Elizabeth I glorified her during her reign and masked her age in their later portraits. Elizabeth was often painted in rich and stylised gowns. Elizabeth is sometimes shown holding a sieve, a symbol of virginity.[1]
  • Elizabeth was also praised through the music of her court during tournaments, progresses, plays, masques and other court pageantry. [2]
  • The birth of Elizabeth is proclaimed and her baptism is shown in scenes of William Shakespeare's play King Henry VIII.
  • One of Elizabeth's nicknames was "The Faerie Queen", after the poem in her honour by Edmund Spenser.
  • Elizabeth is a principal character in the play Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller (1800).
  • The three-volume Gothic romance novel, The Recess, by Sophia Lee.
  • Elizabeth is a character in the 1821 novel Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott.
  • The young Elizabeth is a minor character in Mark Twain's novel The Prince and the Pauper.
  • 20th century American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Maxwell Anderson dramatized episodes of Elizabeth's life in two of his most popular plays, Elizabeth the Queen (1930) and Mary of Scotland (1933).
  • Margaret Irwin wrote the Good Queen Bess trilogy based on Elizabeth's youth: Young Bess (1945), Elizabeth, Captive Princess (1950), and Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain (1953).
  • Mary M. Luke wrote a definitive Tudor trilogy: Catherine the Queen (1968), A Crown for Elizabeth (1970), and Gloriana: The Years of Elizabeth I (1973), with the latter two books focusing on Elizabeth's youth and reign.
  • All the Queen's Men by Evelyn Anthony (1960)
  • No Great Magic by Fritz Leiber (1963): depicted as a series of time-traveling impostors.
  • Vivat! Vivat Regina! by Robert Bolt (1970)
  • The Queen and the Gypsy by Constance Heaven (1977)
  • My Enemy the Queen by Victoria Holt (1978)
  • Queen of This Realm by Jean Plaidy (1984)
  • Legacy by Susan Kay (1985)
  • Much Suspected of Me by Maureen Peters (1990) on the early life of Elizabeth I.
  • Proud Bess by Maureen Peters (1990) on first years of Elizabeth's reign.
  • England's Mistress by Maureen Peters (1991) Elizabeth Tudor has survived uncertainty and danger in order to ascend the throne vacated by the death of her fanatical half-sister Mary. She has drawn about her men such as Leicester and Cecil, her Minister of State. But her throne is menaced from across the border by the Queen of Scots.
  • I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles (1994).
  • To Shield the Queen, a series of eight books featuring Ursula Blanchard, Lady in waiting to Elizabeth, by Fiona Buckley (1997–2006).
  • Elizabeth's story is told for children in Elizabeth I, Red Rose of the House of Tudor, a book by Kathryn Lasky in the Royal Diaries series published by Scholastic (1999).
  • Author Karen Harper has written a mystery series about Elizabeth. Included in this series are nine fictional novels. They are: The Poyson Garden (2000), The Tidal Poole (2000), The Twylight Tower (2002), The Queene's Cure (2003), The Thorne Maze (2003), The Queene's Christmas (2004), The Fyre Mirror (2006), The Fatal Fashione (2006), and The Hooded Hawke (2007).
  • Beware, Princess Elizabeth is a novel for children by Carolyn Meyer (2001).
  • Author Robin Maxwell wrote three novels figuring Elizabeth: Virgin: Prelude to the Throne (2001); Elizabeth's story is spliced with her mother's in The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. The story of the historic Arthur Dudley, who pretended to be a son of Elizabeth and Lord Robert Dudley, is embellished in The Queen's Bastard (1999).
  • Author Philippa Gregory portrayed Elizabeth as a character in five out of her six books on the Tudors. She is seen as a baby and a child in The Other Boleyn Girl (2001), a child in The Boleyn Inheritance (2006), a young woman in The Queen's Fool (2003), a young queen in The Virgin's Lover (2004)and as an older queen in "The Other Queen" (2008).
  • A historical fantasy of Elizabeth's life, featuring elven guardians, is recounted in This Scepter'd Isle (2004), Ill Met by Moonlight (2005), and By Slanderous Tongues (2007) by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis.
  • An aged and dying Queen Elizabeth was a central character in the 2005 Marvel Comics series Marvel 1602.
  • A Storm of Angels, a 2005 Doctor Who audio drama, featured Kate Brown as the Gloriana of a parallel history
  • Queen Elizabeth I: A Children's Picture Book by Richard Brassey (2005)
  • Queen Elizabeth I and Her Conquests by Margret Simpson (2006)
  • The 2007 book Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir about Lady Jane Grey features Elizabeth as a young woman.
  • The 2008 book The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir features Elizabeth as a young girl from the death of her mother to her coronation and her relationships with her half siblings and her father.
  • In the 2007 Broadway musical The Pirate Queen, an Irish chieftain, Gráinne O'Malley, challenges Elizabeth I's takeover of Ireland.
  • Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age books Ink & Steel and Hell & Earth are set in the final decade of Elizabeth's reign and feature her prominently.
  • Elizabeth the Queen, a play by Maxwell Anderson
  • Elizabeth Rex, a play by Timothy Findley (2000)
  • The Princeling, Volume 3 of The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. The fictional Nanette Morland is her servant and mentor, having previously been a close friend, servant and confidante of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn.
  • Virgin and the Crab - Sketches, Fables and Mysteries from the Early Life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor, a novel by Robert Parry (2009) speculates on the early relationship between the young Elizabeth and her 'noble intelligencer.'
  • The novel The Bones of Avalon (2010) by Phil Rickman describes Elizabeth visiting John Dee. It is also about her entourage and about a plot to undermine her reputation and power in order to prepare to have her eventually replaced by Mary, Queen of Scots. John Dee as the book's hero is assigned to prevent all that.
  • Elizabeth I (2011) by Margaret George is a novel that tracks the latter years of Elizabeth's life from 1588 until her death.


Theatre, film and television portrayals[edit]

There have been numerous notable portrayals of Queen Elizabeth on stage, film and television; in fact, she is the most filmed British monarch.[3][4] George MacDonald Fraser wrote "no historic figure has been represented more honestly in the cinema, or better served by her players".[5]



In the cinema, Elizabeth has been portrayed by:


On television, Elizabeth has been portrayed by:

Video games[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ For a catalogue of contemporary portraits, see: Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I by Roy C Strong, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1963.
  2. ^ Butler, Katherine (2015). Music in Elizabethan Court Politics. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. ISBN 9781843839811. 
  3. ^ FilmCrunch: Cate Blanchett to Reprise Royal Role
  4. ^ Famous People and their Lives: Queen Elizabeth I
  5. ^ Fraser, George MacDonald: The Hollywood History of the World, Fawcett, 1989, p. 69–70
  6. ^ Neil Genzlinger, NY Times review.Retrieved January 17, 2009

Further reading[edit]

  • Fraser, George MacDonald. The Hollywood History of the World. Fawcett, 1989. ISBN 0-449-90438-5.
  • Howard, Maurice. "Elizabeth I: A Sense Of Place In Stone, Print and Paint," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Dec 2004, Vol. 14 Issue 1, pp 261–268
  • Sue Parrill and William B. Robison, The Tudors on Film and Television (McFarland, 2013). ISBN 978-0-7864-5891-2.
  • Starkey, David. Elizabeth (2000) ISBN 0-09-928657-2
  • Watson, Nicola J., and Michael Dobson. England's Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy (2002) ISBN 0-19-818377-1.

External links[edit]