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Elizabeth: The Golden Age

2007, 120 minutes

A mature Queen Elizabeth endures multiple crises late in her reign including court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada, and romantic disappointments.

In 1585, Roman Catholic Spain ruled by King Philip II of Spain|Philip II (Jordi Molla) is the most powerful country in Europe. Seeing Protestant England as a threat, and in retaliation for English piracy of Spanish ships, Philip intends to make war. He plans to take over England, and make his daughter Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain|Isabella the Queen of England in Elizabeth's place. In England, Elizabeth I of England|Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) is being pressured to marry by her advisor, Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush). She is aging and, with no child, the throne will pass to her next of kin, Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton). The Queen is presented with portraits of appropriate suitors, but Elizabeth refuses to marry, particularly to the Charles II, Archduke of Austria|Archduke Charles of Austria (Christian Brassington), who has become infatuated with the Queen. Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) is presented at Elizabeth's court, having returned from the New World, and offers her potatoes, tobacco, two Native Americans, and gold from Spanish ships that he claims were "unable to continue their journey". The Spanish ambassador protests. Elizabeth commands that the Native Americans be treated well, and refuses to accept the gold. Elizabeth is attracted to Raleigh, enthralled by his tales of exploration, and asks Elizabeth Raleigh|Elizabeth Throckmorton (Abbie Cornish) (nicknamed Bess), her most favored lady-in-waiting, to observe him. Bess also finds Raleigh attractive and secretly begins an affair with him. Elizabeth meanwhile seeks guidance from her astrologer, Dr. John Dee (mathematician)|John Dee (David Threlfall) who predicts that two empires will go to war. However, he cannot predict which will triumph over the other, leaving Elizabeth to ponder her and England's fate. Society of Jesus|Jesuits in London conspire with Philip to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, in what Philip calls "The English Enterprise," and which is known to history as the Babington Plot. Walsingham discovers the plot. From her imprisonment Mary sends secret correspondence to the Jesuits, who recruit Anthony Babington (Eddie Redmayne) to assassinate Elizabeth. Walsingham continues to warn Elizabeth of Spain's rising power and of the Catholic plots against her. However she, unlike her predecessor and sister Mary I of England|Mary I, refuses to force her people (half of whom remain loyal to Catholicism) to share her beliefs. Even then, those conspiring against Elizabeth are being hunted and murdered, including Bess's cousin, whom Bess had failed to protect. After learning of her cousin's torture and death at Walsingham's hands, Bess turns to Raleigh for comfort. The barely hidden closeness of Bess and Raleigh causes tension between them, testing her desire to keep him in England and increasing his desire to go back to the New World. Walsingham's brother, a Papist, knows of the plot against Elizabeth. It is revealed that Walsingham had known of the plot all along, intercepting letters, and his brother is jailed. He reveals the plot to Elizabeth, who angrily confronts the Spanish diplomats. The Spanish ambassador feigns ignorance and accuses Elizabeth of receiving Spanish gold from pirates and insinuating a sexual relationship with Raleigh. A sword fight nearly ensues between the queen's male escorts and the Spanish contingent. She throws the Spaniards out of court. Meanwhile, Philip is cutting the forests of Spain to build the Spanish Armada to invade England. Mary, Queen of Scots, writes letters condoning the plot. Babington storms into a cathedral where Elizabeth is praying and points a gun at her. Elizabeth opens her arms, seemingly fearless. He pulls the trigger, and the gun fires. At first Walsingham is unable to discern why the gun was harmless, though it is later revealed by the traitor in the torture chamber that there was no bullet in the gun. Elizabeth learns of Mary's involvement, and Walsingham insists she be executed to quell any possible revolt. Elizabeth is reluctant, but nevertheless agrees. Mary is tried for high treason. She is beheaded, ascending the block in a blood-red dress, red being the Catholic liturgical colour for martyrs. Walsingham sees that this was part of the Jesuit's plan all-along. Philip had never intended Mary to become queen. Since the Pope and other Catholic leaders regarded Mary as the true Queen of England, Philip uses Mary's death to obtain papal approval for war. In England, Raleigh asks to leave for the New World, which Elizabeth forbids, instead knighting him and making him Captain of the Royal Guard. Bess discovers she is pregnant with Raleigh's child and, after telling him the news, she pleads with him to leave. He chooses not to, and the couple marry in secret. At the same time, Elizabeth awakes during a dream as the wedding is taking place. She confronts Bess a few weeks later, who confesses that she is indeed pregnant with Raleigh's child, and that Raleigh is her husband. An enraged Elizabeth berates Bess, reminding her that she cannot marry without royal consent. Feeling betrayed, the queen banishes Bess from court and has Raleigh imprisoned for the crime of seducing a ward of the Queen. Walsingham arranges for his brother, William, who is eleven years Francis' junior, to be released and taken to France on the condition that he must never return to England. The Armada begins its approach up the English Channel, and Elizabeth forgives Bess and sets Raleigh free to join Sir Francis Drake in the battle. Elizabeth gives her Speech to the Troops at Tilbury seated on a war horse wearing full plate armour. The Spanish ships and army vastly outnumber England's, but at the last moment, a Protestant Wind|major storm blows the Armada towards the beaches, endangering their formation and ships. They drop anchor, and the Armada becomes a sitting duck for English fire ships. Elizabeth, back at her coastal headquarters, walks out to the cliffs and watches the Spanish Armada sink in flames. Philip's plan is shattered. Elizabeth visits Walsingham on his deathbed, telling her old friend to rest. She then visits Raleigh and Bess and blesses their child. Elizabeth seemingly triumphs personally through her ordeal, again resigned to her role as the Virgin Queen and mother to the English people. [<a href='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth:_The_Golden_Age'>Plot summary provided by WikiPedia</a>]


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