1 9 7 1 (UK)
6 x 90 minute episodes
First airing on 17 February 1971, Elizabeth R was further proof that the BBC ruled supreme when it came to the art of producing high-quality historic period drama. Seven months in the making, the six-episode series aired to almost instant universal acclaim.
The show was an almost direct sequel to the earlier BBC triumph, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Glenda Jackson was simply outstanding as the Virgin Queen – she played her from ages 15 to 70 – and the quality of production was confirmed when the series won a well deserved five Emmy awards in the US, following a widely successful airing on PBS stations across America in 1973.
Each day, Jackson and other actresses in the cast – including Daphne Slater as her half-sister Mary Tudor and Rachel Kempson as her governess – spent three hours being made up and climbing into some of the 380 elaborate costumes, costing £14,000.
Charting the life of the Tudor monarch from effervescent princesshood to grotesque balding death prior to handing over the throne to the Stuarts, the series was historically accurate to an almost pedantic degree.
Trouble was taken to make the settings authentic too. When Elizabeth entered the Tower of London through Traitors’ Gate, it was the real thing. The producer arranged for it to be raised for the first time in a hundred years.
Bearing all the hallmarks of BBC drama production at its very finest, Elizabeth R is regarded as a high watermark in quality television production.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Earl of Essex
Duke of Alencon
Sir Francis Drake
Sir Walter Raleigh
Mary, Queen of Scots
Earl of Southampton