Friday, August 28, 2009

Addicted to the Royals

--by Hanje Richards

It all started innocently enough. I wanted some movies to watch over the weekend, so I went to the Copper Queen Library and checked out The Queen starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. The action of the film takes place during the week following the death, on August 31, 1997 of Diana, Princess of Wales. One of its accomplishments is to remind viewers of the deep sadness that surrounded that event. It is also about the divergent and potentially ruinous ways the monarch and Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to the resulting torrent of national grief.

A few weeks later, I thought it would be interesting to watch Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth I, so I tried the film Elizabeth I. This film explores the intersection of the private and public life of Elizabeth I in the latter half of her reign, offering a personal look at her allies, her enemies, and her suitors as she struggles to survive in a male-dominated world.

I was hooked. I had to watch everything I could about the Royals. My journey took me next to Marie Antoinette. This movie tells the story of the 14-year-old ill-fated Archduchess of Austria and, later, Queen of France. Marie Antoinette has become one of the most misunderstood and abused women in history.
From there, it was the four-volume set which includes The Six Wives of Henry VIII (a six-part chronicle of England's early 16th century, recounting the turbulent life and times of King Henry VIII through the eyes and travails of his wives) and The Other Boleyn Girl (a modernized, dramatized retelling of Anne Boleyn’s marriage and life with Henry VIII, mixing traditional costuming and settings with contemporary language and idioms).

Next, I devoured Anne of the Thousand Days and Mary, Queen of Scots, which are packaged together in a two-DVD set. Anne of the Thousand Days follows King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in one of history's most famous tragic love affairs in the Academy Award-winning masterpiece starring Richard Burton and Genevieve Bujold. In Mary, Queen of Scots, the battle between Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth, Queen of England comes alive in this epic film.

I followed these with The Duchess, which chronicles the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. She was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life. She was a vibrant beauty and celebrity of her time.

And, last – but certainly not least – I watched 20 episodes of the television series The Tudors in a week and a half. Tudors (Season 1) is a look at the early life of King Henry VIII, beginning after his assumption of the British throne at the age of 19.

In Tudors (Season 2), Henry -- after failing to have his marriage to Katherine annulled -- appoints himself the head of the Church of England. Anne Boleyn insists that Henry remove the Queen from the picture. A royal visit to France finally prompts Anne to consummate her relationship with Henry. After failed attempts to have his marriage annulled, Henry's patience finally wears out and he marries Anne in secret. The king and new queen are disappointed that their first child is a girl, whom they christen Elizabeth.

(Note: I must warn you that The Tudors is a Showtime television program, and there is explicit sex, language, and violence in rather great abundance.)

Okay, so you would think that would be enough of The Royals for one six-month period. But, for me it is not quite enough, so tonight I will be watching Lady Jane, the story of Lady Jane Grey, cousin to Henry VIII, who found herself Queen of England for nine days in 1553, at the age of 16.