Cultural depictions of Elizabeth I

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Elizabeth I, by Steven van der Meulen, 1560s

Elizabeth I of England has inspired artistic and cultural works for over four centuries. The following lists cover various media, enduring works of high art, and recent representations in popular culture, film and fiction. The entries represent portrayals that a reader has a reasonable chance of encountering rather than a complete catalogue.

Art, entertainment, and media[edit]

Allegoric representation of Elizabeth I with the goddesses Juno, Athena, and Venus/Aphrodite, by Joris Hoefnagel or Hans Eworth , ca 1569

There have been numerous notable portrayals of Queen Elizabeth in a variety of art forms, and she is the most filmed British monarch.[1][2] George MacDonald Fraser wrote "no historic figure has been represented more honestly in the cinema, or better served by her players".[3]



  • The Portraiture of Elizabeth I glorified her during her reign and masked her age in their later portraits. Elizabeth was often painted in rich and stylised gowns. Elizabeth is sometimes shown holding a sieve, a symbol of virginity.[4]
  • The installation artwork The Dinner Party features a place setting for Elizabeth.[5]


There have been numerous depictions of Elizabeth I in satirical drawings. In actual comic books and strips, her appearances include:[6]


In the cinema, Elizabeth has been portrayed by:


  • Elizabeth's own writings, which were considerable, were collected and published by the University of Chicago Press as Elizabeth I: Collected Works.

Novels and series[edit]

  • The three-volume 1783-1785 Gothic romance novel, The Recess, by Sophia Lee.
  • Elizabeth is a character in the 1821 novel Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott.
  • The young Elizabeth is a minor character in Mark Twain's novel The Prince and the Pauper.
  • H. C. Bailey wrote The Lonely Queen (1911), a novel revolving around Elizabeth as a young woman.[8]
  • "E. Barrington" (L. Adams Beck) wrote Duel of the Queens (1930), revolving around the rivalry between Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots.[8]
  • Elswyth Thane Beebe wrote The Tudor Wench (1932), a historical novel covering Elizabeth's life up to her coronation.[8]
  • Elizabeth Goudge produced Towers in the Mist (1938), a novel about Oxford University which features a visit from Queen Elizabeth.[8]
  • Margaret Irwin wrote the Good Queen Bess trilogy based on Elizabeth's youth: Young Bess (1945), Elizabeth, Captive Princess (1950), and Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain (1953).
  • Mary M. Luke wrote a definitive Tudor trilogy: Catherine the Queen (1968), A Crown for Elizabeth (1970), and Gloriana: The Years of Elizabeth I (1973), with the latter two books focusing on Elizabeth's youth and reign.
  • All the Queen's Men by Evelyn Anthony (1960)
  • No Great Magic by Fritz Leiber (1963): this depicted Elizabeth as a series of time-traveling impostors.
  • Vivat! Vivat Regina! by Robert Bolt (1970)
  • The Queen and the Gypsy by Constance Heaven (1977)
  • My Enemy the Queen by Victoria Holt (1978)
  • Queen of This Realm by Jean Plaidy (1984)
  • Legacy by Susan Kay (1985)
  • The Armor of Light by Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett (1988)
  • Much Suspected of Me by Maureen Peters (1990) on the early life of Elizabeth I.
  • Proud Bess by Maureen Peters (1990) on first years of Elizabeth's reign.
  • England's Mistress by Maureen Peters (1991) Elizabeth Tudor has survived uncertainty and danger in order to ascend the throne vacated by the death of her fanatical half-sister Mary. She has drawn about her men such as Leicester and Cecil, her Minister of State. But her throne is menaced from across the border by the Queen of Scots.
  • I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles (1994).
  • To Shield the Queen, a series of eight books featuring Ursula Blanchard, Lady in waiting to Elizabeth, by Fiona Buckley (1997–2006).
  • Elizabeth's story is told for children in Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, a book by Kathryn Lasky in the Royal Diaries series published by Scholastic (1999).
  • Author Karen Harper has written a mystery series about Elizabeth. Included in this series are nine fictional novels. They are: The Poyson Garden (2000), The Tidal Poole (2000), The Twylight Tower (2002), The Queene's Cure (2003), The Thorne Maze (2003), The Queene's Christmas (2004), The Fyre Mirror (2006), The Fatal Fashione (2006), and The Hooded Hawke (2007).
  • Beware, Princess Elizabeth is a novel for children by Carolyn Meyer (2001).
  • Author Robin Maxwell wrote three novels figuring Elizabeth: Virgin: Prelude to the Throne (2001); Elizabeth's story is spliced with her mother's in The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. The story of the historic Arthur Dudley, who pretended to be a son of Elizabeth and Lord Robert Dudley, is embellished in The Queen's Bastard (1999).
  • Author Philippa Gregory portrayed Elizabeth as a character in five out of her six books on the Tudors. She is seen as a baby and a child in The Other Boleyn Girl (2001), a child in The Boleyn Inheritance (2006), a young woman in The Queen's Fool (2003), a young queen in The Virgin's Lover (2004)and as an older queen in The Other Queen (2008).
  • An alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove featuring Elizabeth is entitled Ruled Britannia was published in 2002.
  • A historical fantasy of Elizabeth's life, featuring elven guardians, is recounted in This Scepter'd Isle (2004), Ill Met by Moonlight (2005), and By Slanderous Tongues (2007) by Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis.
  • Queen Elizabeth I: A Children's Picture Book by Richard Brassey (2005)
  • Queen Elizabeth I and Her Conquests by Margret Simpson (2006)
  • The 2007 book Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir about Lady Jane Grey features Elizabeth as a young woman.
  • The 2008 book The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir features Elizabeth as a young girl from the death of her mother to her coronation and her relationships with her half siblings and her father.
  • Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age books Ink & Steel and Hell & Earth are set in the final decade of Elizabeth's reign and feature her prominently.
  • The Princeling, Volume 3 of The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. The fictional Nanette Morland is her servant and mentor, having previously been a close friend, servant and confidante of Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn.
  • Virgin and the Crab - Sketches, Fables and Mysteries from the Early Life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor, a novel by Robert Parry (2009) speculates on the early relationship between the young Elizabeth and her 'noble intelligencer.'
  • The novel The Bones of Avalon (2010) by Phil Rickman describes Elizabeth visiting John Dee. It is also about her entourage and about a plot to undermine her reputation and power in order to prepare to have her eventually replaced by Mary, Queen of Scots. John Dee as the book's hero is assigned to prevent all that.
  • Elizabeth I (2011) by Margaret George is a novel that tracks the latter years of Elizabeth's life from 1588 until her death.
  • The Tournament (2013) by Matthew Reilly, depicts a fictional visit by a 13-year old Elizabeth to the Ottoman Empire with Roger Ascham. Here Elizabeth witnesses a chess tournament, becomes involved in a murder mystery, and meets Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.[9]
  • A Column of Fire (2017) by Ken Follett is the last of a trilogy of books and sees the main protagonist working for Elizabeth, helping her ascend the throne and keeping her safe throughout her reign.




  • Elizabeth was also praised through the music of her court during tournaments, progresses, plays, masques and other court pageantry.[13]


  • In the 2007 Broadway musical The Pirate Queen, an Irish chieftain, Gráinne O'Malley, challenges Elizabeth I's takeover of Ireland.


Radio/audio dramas[edit]

  • Judith Anderson played Elizabeth in the March 10, 1937 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film Mary of Scotland, with Joan Crawford as Mary Stuart and Franchot Tone as Bothwell.[14]
  • On December 17, 1944, the CBS Radio series Matinee Theater broadcast an adaptation of Maxwell Anderson's play Elizabeth the Queen with Judith Evelyn as Elizabeth and Victor Jory.[15]
  • Another adaptation of Elizabeth the Queen was broadcast on the Theatre Guild on the Air on December 2, 1945 starring Lynn Fontanne as Elizabeth.[16]
  • Another version of the Mary of Scotland play was broadcast on the Theatre Guild on the Air on April 28, 1946, starring Helen Menken as Elizabeth and Helen Hayes as Mary Stuart (both of whom had originally played their roles on Broadway).
  • On June 10, 1947, the radio series Favorite Story broadcast "Mary Queen of Scots", the "favorite story" of Bing Crosby, with Benita Hume as Elizabeth and Edna Best as Mary Stuart.[17]
  • Another adaptation of the Anderson play Elizabeth the Queen was broadcast on the NBC radio series Best Plays on November 9, 1952 with Eva Le Gallienne as Elizabeth.[18]
  • On October 11, 1953, the NBC radio series Stroke of Fate broadcast "Queen Elizabeth I" with Judith Evelyn as Elizabeth, a conjecture of what would have happened if the Earl of Essex's plot to depose Elizabeth had succeeded.[19]
  • In 2001, CBC Radio broadcast as part of The CBC Stratford Festival Reading Series an adaptation of Timothy Findley's play Elizabeth Rex with Diane D'Aquila re-creating her stage role as Elizabeth; this production was later released on CD by CBC Audio (ISBN 978-0660185354).
  • A Storm of Angels (2005), a Doctor Who audio drama, featured Kate Brown as the Gloriana of a parallel history.
  • A radio adaptation of Liz Lochhead's play Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 11 February 2011, with Siobhan Redmond as Elizabeth, Gerda Stevenson as Mary and Myra McFadyen as Corbie.
  • Alexandre Mathe played Elizabeth in a 2012 BBC Radio 3 adaptation by David Harrower of Friedrich Schiller's play Mary Stuart.[20]


On television, Elizabeth has been portrayed by:

Video games[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cate Blanchett to Reprise Royal Role". FilmCrunch.
  2. ^ "Famous People and their Lives: Queen Elizabeth I". Famous. Archived from the original on 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
  3. ^ Fraser, George MacDonald (1989). The Hollywood History of the World. Fawcett. pp. 69–70. ISBN 0-449-90438-5.
  4. ^ For a catalogue of contemporary portraits, see: Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I by Roy C Strong, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1963.
  5. ^ "Place Settings". Brooklyn Museum. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kapur, Shekhar (Director) (1988). Elizabeth.
  8. ^ a b c d McGarry, Daniel D., White, Sarah Harriman, Historical Fiction Guide: Annotated Chronological, Geographical, and Topical List of Five Thousand Selected Historical Novels. Scarecrow Press, New York, 1963 (p. 101-2)
  9. ^ "Review: The Tournament by Matthew Reily" Review by Jeanne Greene. Historical Novel Society. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  10. ^
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  12. ^ Genzlinger, Neil Genzlinger. "Theater Review". The New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2009.
  13. ^ Butler, Katherine (2015). Music in Elizabethan Court Politics. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer. ISBN 9781843839811.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]