Sunday Theatre: The Virgin Queen

8:30pm Monday, January 4 on TV One

Set against some of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes, The Virgin Queen explores the full sweep of Elizabeth I’s long and eventful life (tonight at 8.30pm on TV ONE).

Anne-Marie Duff plays Elizabeth, from the young princess to the successful Queen, who turns England into a major world power.

The actress admits she knew very little about England’s most iconic Queen before taking on the role: “But I was so excited I can’t tell you. It’s some chance isn’t it, especially as a woman, to get to play that kind of a part. I was completely thrilled. I went off and did tons of research and read everything I could – there are so many stories about her. She was a fantastic, exciting, sexy, vibrant woman.”

The drama explores her days of fear as a potential victim of her sister’s terror, and her great love affair with Robert Dudley. Some of the important political and historical events during her reign are highlighted as she balances her personal life with the pressures of being a monarch. Her years of triumph over the Armada, her old age, and her last enigmatic relationship with the young Earl of Essex are also captured.

Writer Paula Milne reveals: “I decided to look at Elizabeth as a character, a stateswoman and public figure using some contemporary references to see if they held up.”

Milne believes Elizabeth I was arguably the first feminist: “She was a nonconformist who was shrewd and intelligent – a leader of men – who refused to marry in spite of the political pressures exerted on her. As well as exploring this area of her character, what also appears ripe for examination is whether her claim to be a Virgin Queen was a clever smokescreen for self preservation, or a recoil from intimacy.”

Director Coky Giedroyc adds: “What I really wanted to do was make a thriller. I wanted to grab people and hit the ground running, and pull people into incredible close-ups of Elizabeth and her breathless journey.”

The cast also includes: Joanne Whalley (Flood) as Queen Mary; Tara Fitzgerald (U Be Dead) as Kat Ashley; Sienna Guillory (Helen Of Troy) as Lettice Knowles; Tom Hardy (Wuthering Heights) as Robert Dudley; Ian Hart (Dirt) as William Cecil; Dexter Fletcher (Hotel Babylon) as Sir Thomas Radcliffe; and Emilia Fox (Silent Witness) as Amy Dudley.

Part two of The Virgin Queen concludes Monday 4 January at 8.30pm.

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