Series 1 Episode 2
First Broadcast:

In the latter years of her reign, Elizabeth I must deal with the repercussions of her tumultuous relationship with the young Earl of Essex.

Heroine and saviour of her country after England's glorious defeat of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth's attention is drawn to the Earl of Essex, who returns from battle greeting his queen with adoration and flowers. Walsingham, Burghley and Cecil are dismayed by her obvious desire for him. During a friendly joust between Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh, Cecil attempts to stir Elizabeth's jealousy by telling her about Essex's growing affection for the young and beautiful Frances Walsingham. Essex, wounded and outraged when Elizabeth chooses Raleigh as the victor, vows his undying affection to the queen.

Increasingly the Queen lets her steely rule slip with Essex, whose demands and disobedience escalate until his barefaced ambition becomes too humiliating for Elizabeth and drives her to extreme revenge.

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Elizabeth I on Channel4.com

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Helen Mirren portrays the 'Virgin Queen' in her later years in this major two-part drama by Nigel Williams. Also starring Jeremy Irons, Hugh Dancy, Ian McDiarmid and Patrick Malahide.