the excellent series Becoming Elizabeth, by Starzplay, is worthy of many superlatives. signed by Anya Reiss and with a script written only by women, it brought a humanity to the trajectory of Elizabeth I, so popular in film, TV and on stage. The Queen of unparalleled importance in the history of the United Kingdom, had a naturally troubled childhood and adolescence, given that her mother was convicted of treason and beheaded, after inspiring the frightening Henry VIII to break with the Catholic Church to marry her. As “Daughter of Anne Boleyn”, Elizabeth lived in constant fear for her life, justifiably so.
The series, as I said here in CLAUDIA’s column, revisits a period that the queen tried to cover up in her narrative, when she would have been sexually abused at age 14 by her stepfather, with the cover of her stepmother, Henry VIII’s widow, Katherine Parr. The series – boldly for the present day – kind of defends the version that Elizabeth I officially denied, that she had an affair with Thomas Seymour, but who remained officially chaste to likewise keep her head on her shoulders (in other words, not be executed). But that’s not the most interesting.
The director wanted, and succeeded, to humanize the relationships between Elizabeth and her half-siblings, Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Edward, son of Jane Seymour. Historians differ on how the three acted based on the conflicts that drove them apart later, however, in Becoming Elizabeth there is love and complicity between them, feelings that are eroded and spoiled by the politics of the Court, especially the religious one.. The proposal is to understand how Elizabeth came to be one of the most astute monarchs of all times, as it was the events of her youth that marked her for posterity. In this way, by the way, we also understand Edward and Mary, the two brothers who became opponents on account of their Faith (his Protestant and hers Catholic). In particular, the series rescues the moral of such a hateful character in the pages of history, perhaps a reason why a great actress never wanted to play.
For movie fans, we can remember that Romola Garai starred next to Keira Knightley the film Desire and Atonementin 2007 and those passionate about Jane Austen remember how their Emma Woodhouse in Emma, in 2008, was also sensational. At the time, she was referred to as “the new Keira Knightley” or the “new Kate Winslet”, but unlike the two she was not dedicated to Hollywood but to a consistent career on the English stage. be starring Shakespeare beside Sir Ian McKellenpieces with Dame Helen Mirren or modern texts, the actress is dedicated to feminist causes and has an exemplary career.
And no one better than her to bring this new look at such an unsympathetic character. The life of Mary Tudor, later Mary I, was not easy. The only child of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, she witnessed as a teenager the painful and humiliating separation from her parents, suffered with her stepmother, Anne Boleynwas considered a bastard so that her sister, Elizabeth I, would have priority, and then went through the same process with her brother, King Edward VIwhen the father married Jane Seymour.
She was estranged from her mother, she had her Catholic faith as a risk factor for being murdered, she was rejected from all sides. Child prodigy, since a teenager she was prone to depression, she was often sick. Almost like a servant to her sister (then to her brother), she always found a space of comfort in her faith, resisting steadfastly the pressure to convert to Protestantism. Despite religious differences, as shown in the series Becoming Elizabeth, Henry VIII’s three sons were linked to the struggle for survival, but we follow how precisely to keep themselves alive, the brothers move away and become enemies.
When he ascended the throne at age nine, Edward proved as fanatical about his faith as his older sister. Thus, in his short reign, Edward came to fear Mary who, in the event of her death, would be a direct heir and bring the Catholic faith back to the United Kingdom. He tried to prevent it, putting the cousin Jane Gray in succession, but the coup failed. The people still loved Princess Mary and supported her when she needed to take up arms to have what was rightfully hers. Although, as Queen Mary I she was immediately unpopular and feared. In his short reign, he was ruthless when it came to faith, having “infidels” burned, among other things. In the series, this conviction takes on a new look after what she herself witnesses and lives before being crowned.
We won’t see the bloody period in Becoming Elizabeth, that could be easily Becoming Mary because it reveals for the first time the traumas accumulated by her in her trajectory. Insecure about Elizabeth’s often dubious position, she becomes paranoid about her sister’s intentions., but we also finally understand the reason why he didn’t have her killed, even with a lot of political pressure to eliminate her. In a sensitive and precise performance, we see Mary from Romola Garai creating a negative version of Elizabeth’s intentions, bit by bit, in the face of every choice she makes (or fails to make).
It is fair to say that Mary I’s mental health was not the best, who died at age 42, possibly of ovarian cysts or uterine cancer, without children or love from her husband, sister or subjects. His legacy was connected to his blind faith, his emotional instability and his violent religious persecution.. Above all, linked to your unhappiness. And Elizabeth learned from her mistakes to remain neutral, single, and alert, always.
Having said all this, it is true that Romola Garai, undeniably beautiful, does not look like the paintings of Queen Mary I in her later years, but in Becoming Elizabeth stole the show. One more reason for those who like History and period series, not to miss it.