Elizabeth I may be remembered as one of the greatest monarchs to rule England, but as we can see in a new series on Channel 5 starting next week her life was anything but simple, and enemies could be found around many corners. The series contains three one-hour programmes; which take us from the adolescent princess who sees her mother beheaded by her father, to a Warrior Queen who is wedded to her country. In the series, Elizabeth I is played by the actress Lily Cole, and the views of Queen Elizabeth and her enemies explained by two leading historians Suzannah Lipscomb and Dan Cole.
I was lucky enough to interview Suzannah recently and we spoke about both her interest in history, the new television series and life in Tudor times. Suzannah grew up in Sutton in Surrey and was a frequent visitor to one of the great Tudor Palaces, Hampton Court and that began her interest in history and one that led for a while to her working there.
This series follows on from a series she made in a similar style with Dan Cole on Henry VIII and his wives. In this one, Dan got to voice the thoughts of Henry and Suzannah those of his wives. I asked if there were any more in the pipeline – Suzannah said she thought it was nice to be able to present the dual perspectives in this way, and the programme on Henry VIII was well-received, which led to this new series being commissioned. Hopefully, there will be more series in the future.
With her knowledge of both English and French courts, I asked how the two compared especially as we had seen from the Versailles series, the French King tended to stay in one place. She said Elizabeth made many visits around England during her reign, around forty-five, where she would stay with nobles in the area. Though, as she travelled around there were also places that would hold bitter memories for her, places that she had been held captive during her childhood. As we will see in the first episode.
I also asked if she would like to travel back to Tudor times, and perhaps we have a possible identity of the new Doctor Who! Suzannah replied: “I think our view on life in Tudor times is somewhat rosier than the reality for most. We would have washed rarely as there were fears of what water could do to you. Plus, as a woman many died in childbirth and that is of those that managed to live that long. And of course, in those days there was no coffee and only the rich had sugar! I would love to pop back but only if I could definitely get back to modern times!”
Elizabeth I is on Channel 5 at 9:00 pm on Tuesday 9 May and runs for three weeks, covering Elizabeth’s childhood, her reign both before and after the execution of her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots and the Spanish Armada. Ending with the fight that none of us, even a Queen can’t win – when our age catches up with us.