This movie is based on the early years of Elizabeth's reign. We are in England (1554), Henry VIII is dead and the country is divided into Catholics and Protestants. Henry’s eldest daughter Mary, a fervent Catholic, is queen, but she’s childless and her husband is dead. So the Catholics’ greatest fear is the succession of Mary’s protestant half-sister, Elizabeth.
They are afraid that Elizabeth can become queen. She is a menace because she’s an heretic, so they decide to process her and accuse her of heresy, to plot against her majesty the queen and to stir up a rebellion benefiting from it. Therefore they put the princess under arrest and take her to the Tower, a kind of prison.
A night the queen’s knights take Elizabeth to the her majesty. Here the queen explains the situation to the girl: her husband is dead, her son has been poisoned and she’s dying because of a cancer. So she will sign her death warrant for Elizabeth (because she doesn’t want her heretic sister to be queen), unless the princess promises her to support the catholic faith when she’ll be dead. But she’s a coherent girl so she says that she can’t keep this promise.
Then Mary dies without signing the warrant and Elizabeth is crowned as new queen of England. But the country is in a difficult situation: it is under strong pressure, there’s a power struggle, there’s no money and there’s not a permanent army. Her reign divided and bankrupt is perceived as weak and under threat of France and Spain. For the future stability and security of the crown she has to marry the king of Spain or the French Henri, Duke of Anjou and to produce an heir. So the film shows Elizabeth being courted by suitors who she rejects because she is clearly in love with messier Robert with whom she flirts.
But there’s a problem because her reign is threatened by the Duke of Norfolk, the pope, her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, and her mother Marie of Guise who brings French troops into Scotland to attack Elizabeth's forces. Her main goal was a close alliance between the powerful French Catholic nation and small Scotland, which she wanted to be Catholic and independent of England.
on this subject the queen’s councilors suggest to set up a new army and to destroy Scotland before it destroys the reign because war is never a good thing but sometimes it is necessary. Unfortunately they lose because the army is made of children who are not experienced soldiers. But Marie de Guise affirms she won’t attack the country anymore on condition that Elizabeth marry her nephew the duke of Anjou and she accepts. So she meets this man that seems to be completely disrespectful and vulgar. He’s interfering, rude and tactless.
But during a night of celebrations the queen endures an attack. While she’s chatting lovingly with lord Robert they shoot an arrow and she’s almost hit. On the occasion of this episode her councilor reaffirms that for her safety she needs to get married. But she refuses because actually she’s in love with lord Robert with whom she flirts. But she can’t marry him because she finds out that he’s married so she gets angry.
Monsignor Alvaro offers help to lord Robert and proposes him to become allied with the Spanish but he refuses because he doesn’t want to betray his Elizabeth. But when the queen cuts off her relations with him (because she finds out that he’s already married) he decides to accept the Spanish ambassador’s proposal, to make new friends and to save his love that is in danger. So he tries to convince the queen to marry the king of Spain, but she refuses because she doesn’t take orders from anyone.
Lord Walsingham finds out that they want to betray Elizabeth. So assisted by her 'spymaster' the queen decides to punish the threats both internal and external, unflinchingly ordering the execution of those that she considers dangerous to her rule. Among the traitors there’s also lord Robert which the queen chooses to keep alive.
Disappointed by lord Robert’s behavior the woman resolves to marry nobody except England; so she has her hair cut by her servant and she becomes a virgin. In this way Elizabeth reigned for another 40 years, Walsingham remained her most trusted and loyal advisor to the end. She never married and never saw lord Robert in private again even if on her deathbed she was said to have whispered his name. By the time of her death England was the richest and most powerful country in Europe and her reign has been called the golden age
Roman Catholicism was enforced in England and Wales during the reign of Mary I. Protestants were persecuted and some of them were executed as heretics. In fact the film begins with some people burnt alive for being against the catholic church and the pope. However, all this changes on the death of Mary and the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558 that sweeps aside Roman Catholicism. Her coronation was a signal for many Protestant refugees to return to their homeland. In fact Sir Francis Walsingham, a famous protestant, had just come back from exile to protect and serve the queen. Nevertheless the queen thinks there’s no difference between Catholics and protestants. All of them are believer and they love God so there’s no reason to wage war. So she proposes to unify the Anglican Church with Act of Uniformity, that passed by only five votes.
The queen seems be pregnant because she has not her period and she produces breast milk.
In this period marriages are linked to politic reasons.
Mary of Guise is assassinated by Walsingham, who acted on unofficial orders from Elizabeth.
Elizabeth feels that such relations could give a man too much power over her.
Elizabeth is the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn who had her head cut off by her husband.