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Buckingham Palace | © Diliff / WikiCommons
Buckingham Palace | © Diliff / WikiCommons
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Top Films Portraying Britain’s Longest Ruling Queens

Picture of Sara Koller-Alonso
Updated: 21 December 2016
Great Britain has had 66 monarchs: only five of those were Queens. In film, British monarchs have made a key focus, specifically the longest ruling Queens: Elizabeth I, Victoria and Elizabeth II. These three Queens have all influenced their country in grand ways, and one still does so today. Adding up all their reigns, they jointly served their country for over 170 years and counting.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Elizabeth I reigned during England’s Golden Age, the late 16th century. A time when Shakespeare was at his height and Britain was expanding its empire across the globe. There was a previous film made by the same director, Shekhar Kapurm. Elizabeth: The Golden Age is about Elizabeth’s reign as the Queen of England. The 2007 version features some fine acting talent, such as the award-winning actress Cate Blanchett who is joined by Geoffrey Rush and Clive Owen.

Elizabeth I took the throne in 1585 and ruled the country during troubling times where her leadership skills were questioned. Many planned to kill her and England was at war with Spain. The Queen managed to take charge against all odds and ruled for 45 years. She was also responsible for the expansion of the British Empire into foreign territories, known as the Commonwealth; currently including 15 countries, which Queen Elizabeth II continues to overlook.

Elizabeth I in coronation robes | © Dcoetzee / WikiCommons
Elizabeth I in coronation robes | © Wiki Commons

Queen Elizabeth’s sister Mary was nicknamed Bloody Mary, which is where the drink has taken its name. Elizabeth was known as the Virgin Queen. She received this nickname since she had no children of her own and no love interests. Many historical scholars claim that this was due to her father, Henry VIII, and the multiple wives he had, which left young Elizabeth with a distorted image of marriage. We might want to remember that Henry VIII was also the first King to introduce divorce in order to marry Anne Boleyn, the mother of Elizabeth.

The film features incredible costumes, seeing Cate Blanchett dressed in all colours of the spectrum. They were made by Alexandra Bryne who won an Academy Award for her costumes, and rightfully so.

All in all, what can be learned about Queen Elizabeth I in this film is that she was the first grand Queen of England. Just like the current Queen, who bares the same name, she managed to make smart decisions at a young age that influenced the course of her nation.

Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth | © The Coincidental Danny / Flickr
Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth | © The Coincidental DannyFlickr

Young Victoria

Young Victoria, as the title indicates, focuses on the youth of Queen Victoria. The film, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, especially emphasises the relationship between Victoria and Prince Albert, played by Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend.

She also had a difficult upbringing, losing her father at the age of one. Victoria was raised by her mother who kept her isolated from other people. Her mother was so eager to get power that she even tried to force Victoria to sign the Kensington System. This legal document would help the Duchess of Kent seize power, instead of her daughter. The future Queen was smart and never signed these papers. This is why after the unexpected death of her uncle, William VI, the 18-year-old Victoria was named Queen overnight.

The second part of the film focuses on Victoria’s struggle to reign as Queen, learning how to make smart decisions. She looked for allies close by that could help her, like the Prime Minister. After many disagreements she decided to go at it alone.

Portrait of Queen Victoria | © Sir Gawain / WikiCommons
Portrait of Queen Victoria | © Wiki Commons

It was soon after that the Queen met Prince Albert and they instantly fell in love. It only took five days after they first met until Victoria asked him to marry her. It seems odd that a woman would propose? Back then it was the law. Their relationship was one for the storybooks, and together the couple had nine children. Queen Victoria respected her husband, which is why she continuously sought after his advice. She even had a second door made so that they could enter meetings at the same time.

The film ends with their first child being born and them existing happily together. However, as we know, Prince Albert died in 1861. After 21 years together his death left Queen Victoria in terrible mourning. For her remaining 40 years of reign she would only wear black and never marry again.

Young Victoria has a very uplifting spirit and just like the film about Elizabeth I it uses very rich sets and extraordinary costumes. This time Sandy Powell designed the costumes and also won an Academy Award. The most important costume was the wedding gown, since Queen Victoria was the first bride to wear white. This tradition still remains today.

Portrait of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children | © Dcoetzee / WikiCommons
Portrait of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children | © Wiki Commons

The Queen

Unlike the previous films mentioned, The Queen, directed by Stephen Fears, is about a Queen who is still alive today. She is brilliantly portrayed by no other than Dame Helen Mirren, Hollywood royalty herself. The film is set in 1997 and captures the aftermath of the tragic car accident that killed Lady Di, a mourning period for the British nation.

The storyline follows the newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Queen, the public and other royal family members. The Queen was feeling intense pressure from Tony Blair and the media who were waiting for her reaction. They urged the Queen to break the silence and return to embrace her mourning country.

Portrait of Lady Diana Spencer | © The Coincidental Danny / Flickr
Portrait of Lady Diana Spencer | © The Coincidental DannyFlickr

As Elizabeth II states in the film; ‘I prefer to keep my feelings to myself, foolishly I believed that was what the people wanted from their Queen’. Her absence was misinterpreted as a lack of compassion. As Cherie Blair states; ‘they screwed up her life; let’s hope they don’t screw up her death.’ At this point in the film this claim appears to be true. However, the smartly written screenplay has an answer to Mrs. Blair. The Queen emphasises that she will address this matter ‘privately and with dignity’.

The Queen has an almost ghostly touch to it, perhaps fitting to the topic of choice. The misty glow and solemn shots of the Queen trekking her lands and walking her dogs appear to be a biopic from another decade. However, these events only happened around 20 years ago.

This film is a rare glimpse into the private life of the woman we only know from our coins and postcard stamps. Even the title bares no criticism and leaves us with a blank description of what the core of this film is about: The Queen. All previous films mentioned bared the name of the Queen. This film does not need it since she is the most relevant and longest ruling Queen of Great Britain.

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II | © Fir0002 / WikiCommons
Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II | © Wiki Commons

Three Queens, ranging from Elizabeth I to II who span across five centuries, turn out to have a lot in common. All become Queen at a very young age, influenced their country immensely through smart political and strategic moves and reigned for at least 40 years. When the next great Queen will reign again is uncertain, but until then — God Save the Queen!