Elizabeth R is an Emmy Award-winning BBC television drama serial of six 85-minute plays starring Glenda Jackson in the title role. It was first broadcast on terrestrial channel BBC Two from February to March 1971, and was later broadcast in America on the premiere season of PBS's Masterpiece Theatre.
This acclaimed series is considered to be a largely accurate historical portrayal of the life and times of Elizabeth I of England unlike some later historical dramas portraying the Tudor dynasty such as The Tudors, The Other Boleyn Girl and Elizabeth, The Golden Age which contain many inaccuracies.
The series was essentially a follow-up to the successful Six Wives of Henry VIII of 1970. Bernard Hepton as Cranmer, Basil Dignam as Bishop Gardiner, John Ronane as Thomas Seymour, and Rosalie Crutchley as Catherine Parr, reappeared in the same roles in Elizabeth R.
Glenda Jackson's tour de force performance in the title role won her 2 Emmy Awards - for Best Actress in a Drama Series and Best Actress in a Movie/TV Special (for the episode "Shadow in the Sun"). The series itself won the Emmy for the Best Dramatic Series of 1972.
Costume designer Elizabeth Waller recreated many of the historical Elizabeth's actual gowns for Glenda Jackson, adapting them from a number of the Queen's famous, official portraits.
Glenda Jackson - Elizabeth
Robert Hardy - Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ronald Hines - Sir William Cecil
Michael Williams - Francois, Duke of Anjou
Robin Ellis - Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex
Stephen Murray - Sir Francis Walsingham
John Shrapnel - Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex
Jason Kemp - Edward VI of England
Daphne Slater - Queen Mary
Vivian Pickles - Mary, Queen of Scots
Hamilton Dyce - Amyas Paulet
Rachel Kempson - Kat Ashley
Peter Jeffrey - King Philip of Spain
David Collings - Anthony Babington
Bernard Holley - Gilbert Gifford
John Woodvine - Sir Francis Drake
John Nettleton - Sir Francis Bacon
Angela Thorne - Lettice Knollys
James Laurenson - Simier
Hugh Dickson - Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Nicholas Selby - Sir Walter Raleigh
Margaretta Scott - Catherine de' Medici
John Ronane - Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley
Bernard Hepton - Archbishop Cranmer
Basil Dignam - Bishop Gardiner
Rosalie Crutchley - Catherine Parr
Brian Wilde - Richard Topcliffe.
Episode 5 - The Enterprise of England
Whispers of war fill the air in Elizabeth's court and in Spain. The infirm King Philip II of Spain is eager to avenge the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, (and incidentally, make good on his inheritance from Mary as the Catholic claimant to the English throne - which Mary bequeathed to him). Philip urges an unprepared fleet, commanded by the incompetent Duke of Medina Sidonia, to sail on England. Even as Elizabeth rebukes the hawks (privateers) in her council (both Walsingham and Sir Francis Drake), with hopes of peace (encouraged by Cecil, who is now Lord Burghley), the Spanish Armada appears on the horizons of England. Her fate and the future of the country now lie in the hands of Drake, and the Navy. England triumphs, but Elizabeth pays a heavy emotional price.