Vanessa Redgrave in Anonymous

Vanessa Redgrave in Anonymous

Queen Elizabeth I has been a historical figures of great interest when it comes to movies - with a whole host of actresses playing the monarch over the years.

This week sees mother and daughter Vanessa Redgrave & Joely Richardson both play Elizabeth I in Roland Emmerich's Anonymous.

So to celebrate the release of the DVD we take a look some of the actresses who have taken on this role:

- A generation of comedy fans grew up with Miranda Richardson in mind whenever they thought of Queen Elizabeth I, though her portrayal of the Virgin Queen was played largely for laughs in the second series of Blackadder, which aired in 1986.

Wilful, waspish, lethally dangerous when crossed, she was probably not so different from the powerful monarch.

- Dame Flora Robson delivered a more traditional performance as the mighty sovereign, a woman who had the heart and stomach of a king so she said, and proved it when she presided over Drake’s naval victory against the fearsome Spanish Armada.

Robson starred opposite Laurence Olivier in Fire Over England in 1937, and reprised the role alongside Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk (1940).

- Errol Flynn clearly enjoyed the whole Elizabethan vibe, for he starred opposite Bette Davis’s Queen Liz the year before in The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex (1939), a romantic drama unhindered by historical fact in its anachronistic shenanigans. 

True to their meritocratic leanings, American distributors renamed the film Essex & Elizabeth.  Reem. Sixteen years on Bette Davis returned to the role in The Virgin  Queen.

- English actress and former MP for Hampstead & Highgate Glenda Jackson also portrayed Elizabeth twice, once opposite Vanessa Redgrave in the title role of Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) and again that same year in the BBC2 series Elizabeth R.

- Where so many actresses delighted in returning to the role of Good Queen Bess at various points in her 45 year reign, Dame Judi Dench merely dipped a toe in the water but was richly rewarded for her efforts.

She played Elizabeth in Shakespeare In Love (1998), and despite being on screen for roughly eight minutes won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Such were the high heels she wore under her costume director John Madden dubbed her Tudor Spice.

- The same year that Dench won an Academy Award for Shakespeare In Love, Cate Blanchett was nominated for playing the younger version of the character in Elizabeth (1998).

Nine years later Blanchett was nominated again for reprising the role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).  Good though the Australian actress undoubtedly was, she did not win on either occasion.  

- Dame Helen Mirren scored a unique double whammy when she portrayed Elizabeth I in the Channel 4 mini-series in 2005, winning an Emmy for her efforts. 

By coincidence she was seen on screen soon after as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006), for which she won an Oscar. 

- Queen Elizabeth I was an iconic character in movies from the very beginning of cinema, with the larger-than-life French actress Sarah Bernhardt essaying the role in a 1912 short imaginatively called Queen Elizabeth. 

An alternative title to this French produced tale was Les Amours d’Elisabeth, Reine d’Angleterre.  So a non-virginal depiction, and played by a Frenchwoman - how Elizabeth would have loved that.

- And so to Joely Richardson who embodies the playful younger version of Elizabeth in Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous (2011).

This Elizabeth was far from the sexual abstinent of popular legend too, a raunchy lass who knew what she wanted and invariably got her way. But of course she reigned for decades, so how to portray an older version of Richardson’s Queen......

- ............why not ask Joely’s Mum to come on board and give it a go. Vanessa Redgrave is no slouch in the acting stakes either, and had played Elizabeth’s nemesis Mary Queen of Scots 40 years before, so beautifully embodied all the contradictions of a complex and compromised monarch whose reign offered a tense backdrop to the story of the true author of the plays credited down the years to William Shakespeare.

Anonymous is out now on Blu-ray and DVD