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, entertainment, and media[edit]

Allegoric representation of Elizabeth I with the goddesses Juno, Athena, and Venus/Aphrodite, by Joris Hoefnagel or Hans Eworth , ca 1569

There have been numerous notable portrayals of Queen Elizabeth in a variety of art forms, and she is the most filmed British monarch.[1][2] George MacDonald Fraser wrote "no historic figure has been represented more honestly in the cinema, or better served by her players".[3]



  • 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.[4]
  • The installation artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Elizabeth.[5]


Fictional entities[edit]

  • Queenie (Blackadder), a caricature of the historical Elizabeth I of England, in the historical sitcom Blackadder II


In the cinema, Elizabeth has been portrayed by:


  • Elizabeth's own writings, which were considerable, were collected and published by the University of Chicago Press as Elizabeth I: Collected Works.

Novels and series[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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)
  • The Armor of Light by Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett (1988)
  • 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).
  • An alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove featuring Elizabeth is entitled Ruled Britannia was published in 2002.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Plays and audio dramas[edit]



  • Elizabeth was also praised through the music of her court during tournaments, progresses, plays, masques and other court pageantry.[8]


  • In the 2007 Broadway musical The Pirate Queen, an Irish chieftain, Gráinne O'Malley, challenges Elizabeth I's takeover of Ireland.



On television, Elizabeth has been portrayed by:

Video games[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cate Blanchett to Reprise Royal Role". FilmCrunch. 
  2. ^ "Famous People and their Lives: Queen Elizabeth I". Famous. 
  3. ^ Fraser, George MacDonald (1989). The Hollywood History of the World. Fawcett. pp. 69–70. ISBN 0-449-90438-5. 
  4. ^ For a catalogue of contemporary portraits, see: Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I by Roy C Strong, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1963.
  5. ^ "Place Settings". Brooklyn Museum. Retrieved August 6, 2015. 
  6. ^ Kapur, Shekhar (Director) (1988). Elizabeth. 
  7. ^ Genzlinger, Neil Genzlinger. "Theater Review". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  8. ^ Butler, Katherine (2015). Music in Elizabethan Court Politics. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. ISBN 9781843839811. 

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]