History of the World According to the Movies: Part 21 – The Elizabethan Age


From the historic travesty Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age where dramatic license runs wild and real history comes to die. I mean you’d be better learning real history from a Renaissance Fair than in this historic disasterpiece. Yet, like Braveheart, this got Oscar nominations nevertheless. Also, there’s no way in hell Elizabeth looked like that in her fifties.

Of course, my last post didn’t cover the whole Tudor age since Hollywood makes a lot of movies in this era since the Tudors produced both Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. However, between their, Henry VIII’s other children Edward VI and Mary I also ruled England for those eleven years which were eventful but short. Nevertheless, Elizabeth I ascended the throne 1558 and would rule for over forty years which would signal the English Renaissance in its full flower. England soon became interested in settling colonies in the Americas with Roanoke (which failed), Shakespeare wrote his plays, the Church of England as we know it began to take shape, Mary, Queen of Scots lost her head, and the English defeated the Spanish Armada. Elizabeth I was an astute monarch who helped bring England onto the world stage and led a true golden age. However, she never married and died childless which meant that her throne went to the King of Scotland at the time named James VI (I’ll get to this somehow). Nevertheless, this post will be long since one Indian director made a couple of films called Elizabeth and Elizabeth: the Golden Age that offend me both as a Catholic, a film lover, and history buff, which I should list accordingly. Apparently these were very popular in Great Britain but do make me worried since I believe filmmakers should have at least some concern with facts like people’s life dates for instance. Shekhar Kapur apparently seems to take as much of a dramatic license as Mel Gibson. Still, here are some of the movie inaccuracies from the Elizabethan Age.

Edward and Mary:

Edward VI:

Edward VI was sickly child all his life. (He was said to be good in health until a teenage bout with measles which weakened his immune system.)

The Duke of Northumberland pressured a dying Edward VI to have his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey succeed him. (Lady Jane’s succession was Edward’s own idea dating before his final illness so he could stop the Catholic Mary from getting the throne. Yet, the marriage between Lady Jane and Guilford Dudley was the Duke of Northumberland’s idea.)

Edward VI died of tuberculosis. (He died of a chest infection but we’re not sure whether it was TB or not.)

Lady Jane Grey and Guilford Dudley:

Guilford Dudley was a virgin with a passion for social justice and he and Lady Jane actually loved each other. (In reality, he was a total asshole who had a temper tantrum when Jane refused to make him king after her coronation. They hated each other and Jane never wanted to marry Guilford in the first place. She was so repelled by him that their marriage was never consummated and she refused to see him on the night before his execution. I’m sorry, but that Lady Jane movie starring Cary Elwes and Helena Bonham Carter is just a load a crap because Guilford and Jane’s relationship was anything but a romantic love story. Rather, it was a match made in hell {and definitely their parents’ idea}. )

Lady Jane Grey and Guilford Dudley lived as man and wife in their own house. (Though they did get married, they never lived as a married couple the short time they were together {Jane was obliged to live with her in-laws and became convinced they were trying to murder her}. Jane would be crowned a month after their wedding {and would refuse Guilford to be crowned king}. Nine days later, they’d both be in prison in separate towers, never to contact each other again. Of course, their marriage would’ve been a disaster anyway.)

The Wyatt Rebellion was a plot to put Jane Grey back on the throne. (It was a plot to put Elizabeth on the throne.)

Guilford Dudley was youngest of three sons. (He was the youngest of five sons who’ve all survived to adulthood.)

Jane Grey was a precocious and talented scholar with zeal for social reform. (Yes, she was a very intelligent young lady. However, monarchs were never interested in social reform during the 1500s. In fact, those interested in social reform were commoners, who were executed trying to instill it by themselves.)

Lady Jane Grey didn’t want to marry Lord Guilford Dudley because she was in love with Edward VI. (She was actually in love with a guy named Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. That and the fact Dudley was a total jerk she had nothing in common with.)

Mary I:

Mary Tudor was fat. (She was said to be rail thin at least until cancer bloated her. Her and Elizabeth weren’t considered very attractive, especially toward the ends of their reigns.)

Mary I was a cruel tyrant who was worthy of her “Bloody Mary” nickname. (She executed less people than anyone else in her dynasty. She was mostly hated for marrying Philip II. Also, she was capable of inspiring great loyalty, especially to her friends and servants.)

Mary I died from a phantom pregnancy. (She died from cancer three years after experiencing a false pregnancy {which might have been a tumor that caused recurring abdominal swelling}.)

Princess Elizabeth:

Robert Dudley was with Elizabeth when she was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. (He was already in prison by this time with his four brothers since his brother Guilford was married to Lady Jane Grey. Yet, all the Dudley brothers save Guilford {who’d be executed} would all be released by 1555.)

Elizabeth was under house arrest at Hatfield for four years. (It was at Woodstock, but I doubt if there was brown acid there.)

Elizabeth was addressed as “Princess Elizabeth” during the reign of her half-sister. (She had been declared a bastard and stripped of that title.)

Princess Elizabeth’s first crush was Lord Thomas Seymour yet she was a knowing nymphet who tempted him. (Her first crush was probably her childhood friend Robert Dudley. Still, Elizabeth did live with Catherine Parr after she married Thomas Seymour who she had been in love with throughout her marriage to Henry VIII. However, her relationship with Thomas Seymour at the time bordered more on sexual abuse. I mean the guy would go into Elizabeth’s room half-naked every morning chasing her around the bed and spanking her butt {for non-disciplinary reasons} as well as even tried to kiss her at least once. Oh, and Elizabeth was 14 at the time. Nevertheless, Elizabeth tried getting up early so she would already be dressed when he turned up. Thus, she was certainly not that into him at all. Also, Catherine Parr was once seen to have held Elizabeth fast while Seymour ripped the girl’s dress apart. Still, in Young Bess, they seem to make Seymour’s attentions on her seem to be the result of Elizabeth’s tempting him, which weren’t.)


Bishop Stephen Gardiner was a Catholic fanatic who had people in his diocese executed and supported Mary I’s marriage to Philip II. (He was considered a moderate who didn’t have anyone executed and actually opposed Mary I marrying Philip II.)

The Duke of Norfolk was a Catholic conspiracy plotter who urged Mary I to kill Elizabeth before she succeeded the throne. (The Duke of Norfolk was vague about his religion and never considered himself other than Anglican and only got involved in the conspiracies against Elizabeth much later.)

John Fekenham was an old man when he tried to convert Jane Grey to Catholicism. (He was only in his thirties.)

Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burned with an unnamed woman. (They weren’t executed with anyone else.)

Elizabethan Age:

Elizabeth I:

Elizabeth I received a marriage proposal from Henry Duke of Anjou. (He never met and never proposed to her. Also, he was married to someone else.)

Elizabeth I was a major slut. (If she was, she had a clever way of hiding it even though many reputable historians continue to assert that she was a virgin for various reasons or that she wasn’t sexually active during her reign. First, she knew if it could be proven that she wasn’t a virgin, she would lose all her power. Second, she wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to have sex since she was constantly surrounded by maids, courtiers, and other servants as well as had several bed maids so she never slept alone. Besides, she had no way of being certain which of these people were spies for one of her many enemies and could destroy her with a report of any sexual indiscretion. Not to mention, many historians said she was too politically savvy to be caught with her pants down, unlike like some politicians today. Thus, there’s pretty much a plausible historical case that Queen Bess wasn’t getting any.)

Elizabeth I met Mary, Queen of Scots. (They never met in person. Still, Mary, Queen of Scots would later have a grandson who’d suffer the same fate for different reasons.)

Elizabeth I cut her hair to show she was a virgin. (She didn’t and wore a wig to hide her thinning and graying hair as well as wore make up to conceal her smallpox scars, which she did later in her reign.)

Elizabeth I reprimanded a council member for divorcing twice. (Obtaining a divorce was almost impossible at the time {and Henry VIII knew that very well, though he wasn’t technically seeking a divorce}.)

Elizabeth I consulted with Dr. John Dee on matters around the time of the Spanish Armada. (He was abroad at the time and would return after the Spanish Armada.)

Men in Elizabeth I’s court wore long cloaks and carried swords in the Queen’s presence. (Weapons were forbidden in court {except by the Royal Guard} and Elizabeth I had banned long cloaks in case an assassin was hiding a weapon under it.)

Elizabeth I never married over her love for Robert Dudley. (Sure it’s very likely Robert Dudley was the love of her life. However, there are several explanations for this and she probably had other reasons not to marry Dudley other than him having a wife or two. Not only that, but the time when Dudley was in between marriages she chose not to. This might’ve been due to the fact that Dudley’s first wife died under suspicious circumstances which didn’t help his reputation. Also, the cult of the Virgin Queen wasn’t used to full effect until over 20 years after she became queen with her last serious marriage proposal. Thus, it was much more likely that Elizabeth I chose not to marry because staying single was good politics as well as being a Protestant queen in the 16th century didn’t provide her with a lot of options in the marriage market.)

Elizabeth I was a calculating and vicious queen. (She was actually quite intelligent and charming.)

Elizabeth I was the same age as Henri III. (She was 18 years older than him.)

Elizabeth I set up Lord Darnley with Mary, Queen of Scots. (She forbade the match since Mary and Darnley were half-cousins.)

Elizabeth I wore a suit of armor. (She never did.)

Elizabeth I’s funeral procession was led on the frozen Thames. (She died in the spring of 1603.)

The Pope excommunicated Elizabeth I early in her reign which made her a fair target for Catholic assassins. (He excommunicated her in 1570 which severed official Roman Catholic ties to England {not an act by British bishops who really had no say anyway}. Still, Elizabeth I didn’t really care about what her people believed in as long as they didn’t do anything treasonous. Her 1570 excommunication only made Elizabeth I more likely to execute Catholics only because she didn’t want them to be more loyal to the Pope than her.)

Elizabeth I was almost assassinated during the river pageant early in her reign. (This happened in 1578 but it was a salute gone wrong and no one was killed.)

Elizabeth I was a dimwitted nymphomaniac as a young woman. (She was neither since she was a very competent ruler as well as an intellectually distinguished woman of her age who knew the value of keeping it in her pants.)

Elizabeth I’s relationship with Robert Dudley was physically abusive. (Tempestuous and fascinating in power balance maybe, but it was never physically abusive.)

Elizabeth I was reluctant to see the Earl of Essex beheaded. (She was a lot more keen than she was in Elizabeth and Essex.)

Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester:

Sir Robert Dudley was a traitor, a conspirator, and a Catholic convert who was banished for being involved in a Catholic plot. (Dudley was a devoted Puritan and remained faithful to his Queen throughout his life. Oh, and he was banished because of a scandal over the mysterious death of his wife Amy who fell down the stairs under suspicious circumstances.)

Elizabeth I didn’t know that the Earl of Leicester was married. (She attended his wedding. Also, he married his first wife while Elizabeth’s dad was still king and they both knew each other since they were kids.)

Sir Robert Dudley was not present in the Tilbury camp during the Spanish Armada Crisis. (He was a Lieutenant General during the whole affair and would die shortly after. Oh, and Elizabeth I actually took his death hard.)

Robert Dudley had an affair with Lettice Knollys. (She was married to Walter Devereux and had many children with him including Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex another favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. Oh, and she married Robert Dudley in 1578.)

Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley:

Sir William Cecil was old enough to be Elizabeth I’s dad. (He was only 13 years older than her.)

Sir William Cecil was made Lord Burghley when Elizabeth I retired him. (She ennobled him as a reward for his services 13 years into her reign and he remained her most loyal adviser until his death.)

Lord Burghley was alive around the time of the Earl of Essex’s execution in 1601. (He died in 1598.)

Sir Francis Walsingham:

Sir Francis Walsingham was a ruthless and scheming middle aged man who killed a young boy, was a proponent of torture and sexually ambiguous. (He was only a few years older than her and wasn’t much of a schemer as he’s depicted in the Cate Blanchett movie nor did he ever kill a young boy {or anyone}. Oh, and he wasn’t a key figure in English politics until after he was recalled from France since he spent his early years in court as a servant to Sir William Cecil. On a personal note, he was very religious, happily married, and had a daughter who married Sir Philip Sidney and Robert Devereux. Still, he was a proponent of torture.)

Elizabeth I visited Sir Francis Walsingham when he was dying. (She let him die in poverty and simply didn’t visit him.)

Francis Walsingham had trapped and executed the Duke of Norfolk. (Walsingham was in France when Norfolk was executed.)

Francis Walsingham locked up six bishops to guarantee passage of the Act of uniformity to secure the Queen’s act, which won by five votes. (No such action ever took place {actually Sir William Cecil got them to agree through more complex means}. According to Movie Mistakes Cecil, “effectively became the first government whip, using many techniques, the most important being a procedural device that limited debate to that which was justified by Scripture alone. The Catholic MP’s walked out in protest. The two ringleaders of the protest were taken to the Tower of London.” Also, Elizabethan bishops didn’t wear black mitres either.)

The Babington Plot:

Alvaro de la Quadra was assassinated in retaliation for the Babington Plot. (He died in 1564, 22 years before the Babington plot ever took place.)

The Babington Plot ended with Anthony Babington aiming a pistol at Elizabeth I in St. Paul’s Cathedral. (It was thwarted in the planning stages and was one of the main reasons Mary, Queen of Scots was executed.)

The Spanish Armada:

The English lost ships during their clash with the Spanish Armada. (No single ship was lost.)

The Spanish Armada battle took place off the coast of England. (It was off the coast of France.)

The English defeat of the Spanish Armada was due to the English navy efforts. (The Spanish Armada campaign was disastrously mismanaged {by the Spanish} yet they could’ve won easily as the English ran out of ammo. Yet, they were shipwrecked by powerful storms off the West coast of Ireland.)

William Shakespeare:

Shakespeare’s inspiration Viola was a woman who aspired to be an actress in one of his plays. (The romance of Shakespeare in Love never happened. Also, he may have been bisexual since his sonnets focus on a young boy and a Dark Lady.)

Macbeth was performed before Hamlet. (Hamlet was performed before Macbeth.)

Shakespeare didn’t author his plays but was given them by Edward de Vere. (There’s some debate over this but it’s plausible. Also, a PBS special argued this quite convincingly. My guess is these guys probably collaborated.)

Richard III was played on the eve of the Essex Rebellion. (It was Richard II.)

William Shakespeare wrote the King James Bible. (It’s very likely he didn’t, but if he did, he wasn’t the sole collaborator.)

Sir Walter Raleigh:

Sir Walter Raleigh was the hero of the English Campaign against the Spanish Armada. (Sir Francis Drake was since it was his moment of triumph. Raleigh was kept in Ireland at that time on special business.)

Elizabeth I knighted Sir Walter Raleigh to keep him in England and against his will. (It was a reward for his services. Also, he was knighted on a ship and not against his will.)

Sir Walter Raleigh was a pirate who was imprisoned around the time of the Spanish Armada. (Drake was the pirate. Also, Raleigh only was imprisoned by Elizabeth I several years after the Spanish Armada.)

Sir Walter Raleigh had an easily understandable accent. (His strong West Country accent made it difficult for some courtiers to understand him and made him an object of ridicule. For instance, Elizabeth I called him “Water” because of it. Also, Drake had the same accent.)

Sir Walter Raleigh had an affair with Bess Throckmorton around the time of the Spanish Armada. (This happened three years after the English defeated the fleet. Oh, and she was secretly married to him as well as had his child. Not to mention, Elizabeth I didn’t know about Raleigh’s secret marriage and family until several months after his child Damerei was born. The infant died during Raleigh’s imprisonment in the Tower of London.)

Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to Europe. (The Spanish Conquistadors did in 1570 while Raleigh was at Oxford, which were cultivated in Peru for thousands of years. Francisco Pizzaro would’ve been a better candidate.)

Sir Walter Raleigh introduced tobacco to Europe. (Maybe in England but the person who introduced tobacco to Europe was actually Christopher Columbus himself. In fact, it had already been considered a wonder drug as well as smoked when Raleigh was six years old.)

Sir Walter Raleigh discovered “Virginia” which he named after Elizabeth I. (Sure he sent a mission to establish a settlement in Roanoke Island around 1584 {which failed and is off the coast of today’s North Carolina} but he never set foot in the New World. Also “Virginia” was derived by the name of the Roanoke chief “Wingina” which was modified by Queen Elizabeth I to “Virginia.”)

Sir Walter Raleigh returned home from Virginia. (The first successful English colony in Virginia was founded as Jamestown in 1607, four years after Elizabeth I died. Seriously?)

Sir Walter Raleigh was cool, sardonic, and proud. (He was 19 years younger than Elizabeth I as well as a major suck up constantly seeking more financial rewards from the queen to finance his lavish wardrobe. Also, he had a pair of gem encrusted shoes worth £6000 at the time {and would make Imelda Marcos look like a cheapskate}. Also, he’d probably not cover mud puddles with his cloak for her since he may not have wanted to get shit all over it.)

Elizabeth I put Sir Walter Raleigh in jail for marrying one of her ladies in waiting. (Yes, but Throckmorton was forbidden to enter a relationship without the queen’s approval. Raleigh and Throckmorton were in a relationship and had a baby together before the queen knew anything about it.)

Sir Walter Raleigh and his wife spent the rest of their lives in the New World. (They remained in England for the rest of their lives. Also, even after Walter’s execution in 1618, it’s said Bess had his disembodied head embalmed and kept it in her house until she died. Sometimes it’s said she even showed it off to dinner guests.)

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex:

The Earl of Essex and Elizabeth I had a romantic relationship. (Historians interpreted it as a mother-son relationship, grand romance, or both.)

The Earl of Essex was an advocate of freedom and democracy. (Sure he was popular, but he wouldn’t be any advocate for democracy or freedom.)

The Earl of Essex showed up with an army to take Elizabeth I’s throne. (He only came by himself and covered in mud. Also, his rebellion was more of a temper tantrum.)


Kat Astley was the same age as Elizabeth I. (She was 30 years older than her and served as her governess as well as the closest thing she had to a mom at the time.)

Robert Cecil was a supercilious counselor at Elizabeth I’s court. (He was her chief counselor whom she’d refer to as “my dwarf” since he was small and had a curved spine.)

Bishop Stephen Gardiner, the Earl of Arundel, and the Duke of Sussex were executed for plotting against Elizabeth I. (Gardiner died before Elizabeth took the throne, the Earl of Arundel was sentenced to the Tower of London and died in prison, and the Duke of Sussex was a loyal supporter of hers who was never implicated in any plots or executed.)

Sir Thomas Elyot was drowned by Ballard for being a reverse mole. (He died on his Cambridgeshire estates in 1546.)

The Duke of Norfolk was a cold, power-hungry, and calculating mastermind Catholic in his thirties trying to overthrow Queen Elizabeth. (Yes, he was involved in plots to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I which consisted of marrying Mary, Queen of Scots {without the Queen’s permission} and the Babington Plot {these happened within 14 years apart from each other}. However, he was just a naïve and gullible co-conspirator. Oh, and he was 22 year old Protestant {as we know} when Elizabeth succeeded the throne but was 36 at his execution. Interestingly, he was also Elizabeth’s first cousin through her mother’s side. As one blogger noted, “Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, came from a long line of men with a tendency for pissing off the monarch and getting imprisoned or executed, and decided not to break with tradition.”)

John Ballard was a co-conspirator in the Ridolfi plot with the Duke of Norfolk. (He wasn’t but he was considered an initiator in the Babington Plot and was executed for his involvement in it in 1586. Oh, and he was a Jesuit.)

Lettice Knollys died by a poison dress meant for Elizabeth I. (She outlived Elizabeth by 31 years.)

Christopher Marlowe was alive in 1598. (He died in 1593.)

Ben Jonson’s dad was a glass maker. (He was clergyman while his stepdad was a bricklayer.)

Francis Drake brought potatoes to the Old World. (The Spanish brought them from Peru.)

Men in the Elizabethan era used rapiers as a weapon of choice. (They despised it, and preferred good old long swords.)

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