Handsome adventurer, navigator and statesman Walter Raleigh (Richard Todd) gains an audience with Queen Elizabeth I (Bette Davis) because he wants ships to sail to the New World and make a name for England.
Impressed by his courage and good looks, the Queen appoints him Captain of her Guard but brushes aside his request to leave England.
A young lady in waiting, Beth Throgmorton (Joan Collins), is strongly attracted to Raleigh and he to her. They fall in love and secretly marry.
But Good Queen Bess also shows her desires – offering him ships for his voyage and a knighthood. Raleigh bends to her will to achieve his goal.
The Queen subsequently learns that Beth, now pregnant, will accompany her husband abroad. In her fury, She orders Sir Christopher Hatton (Robert Douglas) and his aide Chadwick (Jay Robinson) to arrest both Raleigh and Beth, and Lord Derry (Dan O’Herlihy) is killed trying to protect Beth.
Beth pleads with the Queen for Raleigh’s life but to no avail. Finally, the Queen visits Raleigh in the Tower of London and suddenly relents. At the fade-out, Raleigh’s ship, the Golden Fleece, sets sail, blessed by the Queen.
Bette Davis is terrific in the title role, and her tremendous tour de force more than atones for the few liberties taken with history. This was Joan Collins’ first film under contract to 20th Century Fox. She would appear in nine further films for the studio.
The interiors and exteriors are magnificent and, together with spectacular swordplay and forthright dialogue, effectively round off the thrilling CinemaScope-cum-Technicolor portrait.
Queen Elizabeth I
Sir Walter Raleigh
Lord Leicester (Robert Dudley)
Sir Christopher Hatton
Leslie Parrish (as Marjorie Hellen)