The early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England and her difficult task of learning what is necessary to be a monarch.
This film details the ascension to the throne and the early reign of Queen Elizabeth the First, as played by Cate Blanchett. The main focus is the endless attempts by her council to marry her off, the Catholic hatred of her and her romance with Lord Robert Dudley.
Elizabeth Tudor becomes queen of a divided and dangerous England in 1558. She is roundly perceived as weak by threats from within and abroad, and she is strongly advised to marry by counsel William Cecil. But she will be married only to her country. Intelligent and cautious, she must choose where to place her trust: with her shrewd secretary Walsingham, a master of espionage, or her secret lover, Sir Robert Dudley.
When catholic Queen Mary dies the succession goes to Elizabeth, the Protestant half-sister Mary was not prepared to execute. The new queen finds herself surrounded by advisors, some supportive but some plotting to restore the Catholic line by almost any means. She is also under pressure to marry and produce an heir, but her lover Lord Robert Dudley is not considered suitable. Elizabeth realises she has some decisions to make, the most important being who rules England.
It's 1553 and King Henry VIII has died. His sickly son Edward VI reigns for a short while before dying so his eldest daughter, Mary, a childless Catholic, has ascended to the throne. Under Mary's reign, Protestants, known as heretics, are being burned to death. Mary is ill and her half sister, Protestant Elizabeth, is next in line to the throne. Regardless of Mary being queen, she would never allow a Protestant to rule England. Although there is rumor of a Protestant uprising, Mary knows that Elizabeth is not behind this maneuver, yet Mary brings Elizabeth in under possible charges of treason. Elizabeth denies all and denies Mary's wish to uphold the Catholic faith once on the throne. Upon Mary's death in 1558 and Elizabeth's ascension to the throne, England is weak and in disarray. Many are out to unseat Elizabeth, 'a heretic'. To ensure her security on the throne, Elizabeth has to show some leadership, which includes, according to some of her many advisors, establishment of a single Protestant based Church of England, marriage to a suitable husband and the production of an heir. That husband however is not to be Lord Robert Dudley, Elizabeth's lover. Elizabeth needs to learn which of her advisors to listen to as some are not out for her best interest.
- The story of Elizabeth's ascendency to the throne, the plot of the movie is full of palace intrigues, attempted assassinations and executions. The movie starts with England divided by faith, Protestant vs. Catholic. The queen, Mary Tudor has no heir and her Catholic supporters fear the succession of her half-sister Elizabeth, a Protestant. They convince the queen to have Elizabeth arrested and put in the Tower of London but the queen hesitates and eventually refuses to sign her death warrant. It is announced that the queen is pregnant but it turns out to be a tumor and she dies of it a while later. Her Catholic supporters are forced to give the throne to Elizabeth. Elizabeth's first few years are shaky as she is not versed with the art of finesse and "rules from the heart instead of the mind". There is also the question of her succession as she is yet unmarried and her death without heir would mean the throne falling back into Catholic hands. She has many suitors but she eventually rejects them all. And aided by Sir Francis Walsingham she manages to kill all her enemies and ascends the throne as the "Virgin Queen."