This Day (Elizabeth R Edition)

Published:January 25, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

On this day in 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt led a revolt to protest Queen Mary’s intended marriage to Philip II of Spain (ewwww, a Catholic) and, while he was at it, to put Princess Elizabeth on the throne. Elizabeth denied knowledge of Wyatt’s plans, but the queen ordered her to the Tower of London anyway.

I really love the old Masterpiece Theatre miniseries Elizabeth R (1971), and in the clip above, the princess—played to perfection by Glenda Jackson—faints when she learns her fate; then, upon seeing the spiked heads at the Tower entrance, she loses her cookies.

Elizabeth was freed after three months, but according to the biographer Alison Weir, she thought this “the most traumatic event of her youth; in a speech to Parliament, she recalled, ‘I stood in danger of my life; my sister was so incensed against me.’ She never ceased to render thanks to God for her deliverance, and often spoke of it as a miracle.”

Getting back to Elizabeth R, though: the real miracle is Glenda Jackson. True fact: Jackson later won two Academy Awards and served in Parliament. Another true fact: you can purchase on a jigsaw-puzzle image of her getting the front of her head shaved for the part of Elizabeth. Which reminds me of this famous scene from Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth (1998), in which Elizabeth gives up her attempts to marry and, by cutting off all her hair, transforms into the white-faced Virgin Queen:

Wikipedia begs to differ with Hollywood’s history:

In reality, she never shaved or even cut her hair short. Later in her life, when someone entered her chambers not knowing she was still in bed recorded the queen’s hair as having been “all about her ears”. In the movie, she is shown wearing a wig in the end, and though the real Elizabeth did wear one later in life, it was worn to hide the thin, sparse hair that was the result of her bout with smallpox.

“The more hairy she is before,” observed one catty Englishman to another, “the more bald she is behind.”