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Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||6 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||85 minutes|
|Original network||BBC 2|
|Original release||17 February –|
24 March 1971
|Preceded by||The Six Wives of Henry VIII|
Elizabeth R is a BBC television drama serial of six 85-minute plays starring Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I of England. It was first broadcast on BBC2 from February to March 1971, through the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Australia and broadcast in America on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. The series has been repeated several times, most recently from 17 February 2021, by BBC Four to celebrate the show's fiftieth anniversary.
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The production was filmed at a variety of locations including Penshurst Place which doubled as the queen's castle grounds and Chiddingstone in Kent, though all the interiors were recorded at the BBC Television Centre.
The first episode was broadcast on February 17, 1971, beginning on screen with the year 1549 as the setting, with the then Princess Elizabeth's difficult ascent to the throne of England nine years later. The final episode was shown on March 24, 1971, the 368th anniversary of the Queen's death on March 24, 1603. It was repeated almost immediately in response to audience demand.
The series followed the successful Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), with several performers reprising their roles in Elizabeth R (all in the first episode) from the earlier series, notably Bernard Hepton as Cranmer, Basil Dignam as Bishop Gardiner and Rosalie Crutchley as Catherine Parr.
In February 1972, Elizabeth R first aired in the United States on Masterpiece Theatre, then hosted by Alistair Cooke on PBS. In the summer of 1972, it was rebroadcast with commercials on the New York local station WOR-TV Channel 9.
Glenda Jackson's performance in the title role won her two Emmy Awards - for Best Actress in a Drama Series and Best Actress in a Movie/TV Special (for the episode "Shadow in the Sun"). The series itself won the Emmy for the Best Dramatic Series in 1972 (the first British TV series ever to win the American TV award, before Upstairs, Downstairs carried the award two years later). At around the same time, Jackson also played the part of Elizabeth in the film Mary, Queen of Scots (1971).
Costume designer Elizabeth Waller won an Emmy for her designs; she recreated many of the historical Elizabeth's actual gowns, adapting them from a number of the Queen's official portraits. They later went on display at Hampton Court Palace.
Elizabeth R featured many well-known British actors, including Malcolm McFee, Michael Williams, Margaretta Scott, John Woodvine, James Laurenson, Angela Thorne, Brian Wilde, Robin Ellis, Robert Hardy, and Peter Egan.
The series was parodied in Monty Python's Flying Circus in an absurdist sketch where a Japanese film director, disguised unconvincingly as Luchino Visconti, forces his cast to perform as Queen Elizabeth's court while sitting on motor-scooters and speaking Engrish. Therefore, the title was changed to "Erizabeth L".
Note: This list is incomplete.
- Glenda Jackson - Elizabeth I of England
- Robert Hardy - Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
- Ronald Hines - Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley
- Stephen Murray - Sir Francis Walsingham
- John Shrapnel - Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex
- Bernard Horsfall - Sir Christopher Hatton
- Robin Ellis - Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
- Jason Kemp - Edward VI of England
- Daphne Slater - Mary I of England
- Vivian Pickles - Mary, Queen of Scots
- Hamilton Dyce - Amyas Paulet
- Rachel Kempson - Kat Ashley
- Peter Jeffrey - Philip II of Spain
- Margaretta Scott - Catherine de' Medici
- Michael Williams - François, Duke of Anjou (and Alençon)
- James Laurenson - Jean de Simier
- Jill Balcon - Lady Cobham, Lady-in-Waiting
- David Collings - Anthony Babington
- Bernard Holley - Gilbert Gifford
- David Nettheim - Thomas Phelippes
- John Graham - William Davison
- John Woodvine - Sir Francis Drake
- Peter Howell - Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham
- John Nettleton - Sir Francis Bacon
- Angela Thorne - Lettice Knollys
- Hugh Dickson - Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
- Nicholas Selby - Sir Walter Raleigh
- Clifford Rose - Thomas Egerton, 1st Viscount Brackley
- John Ronane - Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley
- Bernard Hepton - Archbishop Cranmer
- Basil Dignam - Bishop Gardiner
- John Ruddock - Archbishop Whitgift
- Rosalie Crutchley - Catherine Parr
- Brian Wilde - Richard Topcliffe
- David Garfield - John Ballard
- Peter Egan - Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
- Hayden Jones - Charles Blount, 8th Baron Mountjoy
- Patrick O'Connell - Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone
- Sonia Fraser - Elizabeth Wriothesley, Countess of Southampton
- Shirley Dixon - Penelope Rich, Lady Rich
- Judith South - Frances Radclyffe, Countess of Sussex
- Raf De La Torre - John Dee
- Stanley Lenore - Tyrwhit
- Nicolette Bernard - Lady Tyrwhit
- Kevin Brennan - Bridges
- Julian Holloway - Antoine de Noailles
- Brendan Barry - Simon Renard
- Robert Garrett - Thomas Wyatt the Younger
- Alan Foss - Sir Henry Bedingfield
- Philip Brack - John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland
- Ian Barritt - Fowler
- Blake Butler - Parry
- Richard Parry - Guard
- Sarah Frampton - Lady Jane Grey
- Robert Barry - Lord Guildford Dudley
- Michael Culver - John Tregannon
|No.||Title||Original air date|
|1||"The Lion's Cub"||17 February 1971|
|The fragile succession heralds dangerous times for the young Princess Elizabeth. Having narrowly avoided implication in Sir Thomas Seymour's attempted abduction of her sickly half-brother, the boy King Edward VI, she becomes an unintentional figurehead for a Protestant rebellion led by Thomas Wyatt the Younger when her half-sister Queen Mary I, a devout Roman Catholic, succeeds to the throne.|
|2||"The Marriage Game"||24 February 1971|
|The new Queen Elizabeth I is 25 years old - and unmarried. Her counsel—particularly the man she trusts most, Sir William Cecil—urges her to marry quickly (to ensure the succession, among other valid reasons). Only Lord Robert Dudley, at first her Master of the Horse, and eventually the Earl of Leicester, seems to interest the queen.|
|3||"Shadow in the Sun"||3 March 1971|
|Elizabeth meets her most eligible suitor yet: Francis, Duke of Alençon, the younger brother of the French king. A marriage will cement France's sought-for alliance with England. Despite the Puritans' rousing opposition in the country (which her zealously anti-Catholic councillor Sir Francis Walsingham secretly approves of), Elizabeth seems taken with the witty and flower-tongued Francis. As her duties as queen clash with her feelings as a woman, Elizabeth faces her toughest decision.|
|4||"Horrible Conspiracies"||10 March 1971|
|As long as the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots lives, she is the focus of plotters and revolutionaries. Despite a harsh clampdown against conspiring Roman Catholics, Mary (in domestic exile and Elizabeth's prisoner for nearly twenty years), inspires an earnest attempt to overthrow Elizabeth. Elizabeth fears Mary's death will condemn her in the eyes of God.|
|5||"The Enterprise of England"||17 March 1971|
|The infirm King Philip II of Spain is eager to avenge the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, (and incidentally, make good on his inheritance from Mary as the Catholic claimant to the English throne - which Mary bequeathed to him). Philip urges an unprepared fleet, commanded by the incompetent Duke of Medina Sidonia, to sail on England. Even as Elizabeth rebukes the hawks (privateers) in her council (both Walsingham and Sir Francis Drake), with hopes of peace, the Spanish Armada appears on the horizons of England. Her fate and the future of the country now lie in the hands of Drake, and the Navy.|
|6||"Sweet England's Pride"||24 March 1971|
|Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex is the people's champion. He and Charles Howard were successful in capturing and sacking the Spanish seaport of Cadiz. Essex is given a great opportunity to rise in power by being made Lord Deputy of Ireland and quelling the uprising led by O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, but he squanders his army, makes an inglorious truce with O'Neill, and returns to England without permission. After his unsuccessful uprising against the queen in London, he is executed. The old queen shines in her final address to Parliament, but dies soon afterward. Her last action is a nod to Robert Cecil to his query about her successor being King James VI of Scotland.|
- Kent Film Office (12 August 1971). "Elizabeth R (1971)".
- History of the BBC at BBC.com
- "Elizabeth R". BBC. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
- "A repent series of Elizabeth R'". Beverley Times (WA : 1905 - 1977). 4 January 1974. p. 2. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
- Curtis, Bryan (20 October 2005). "Masterpiece Theatre: Thirty-five years of unflinching refinement". slate.com. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
- Mills, Nancy (24 June 1995). "Queenliest Member of Parliament". Los Angeles Times.
- Television Academy. "Glenda Jackson". emmys.com. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
- IMDB entry for Mary, Queen of Scots
- "Elizabeth R Masterpiece Theatre". Television Academy. Retrieved 4 November 2020.
- BBC Handbook 1972 (PDF). London: BBC. 1972. p. 41. ISBN 0 563 12141 6.
- Cushman, Robert. "Queens Counsel". Harpers and Queen. March 1971: 49 – via Proquest.