This wasn’t bad, by Channel 5’s rather low standards of “docu-dramas”. The only glaring blooper in it was someone addressing Elizabeth as “Your Majesty” before she became queen. It was also quite nice that they’d devoted an entire episode to Elizabeth’s younger years, before (in the episodes to come) moving on to all the old familiar stuff about the Armada, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Dudley et al.
It was a very contemporary take on events, with talk about Thomas Seymour “grooming” Elizabeth. That’s exactly what he was trying to do, but it was an interesting juxtaposition of a term that’s only arisen in the last few years and events going back almost half a millennium. Do we want to put modern interpretations on things, or do we want to see them as they might have been seen at the time? There are no right or wrong answers to that: it’s a good topic for debate! Whatever, Thomas Seymour’s intentions at the time were every bit as wrong as those of people who groom young people today, and undoubtedly had a significant effect on young Elizabeth.
Just going off topic a bit, if we’re looking at the events of Elizabeth I’s reign through modern eyes, the issue of the welfare state is much in the news at the moment, with a General Election coming up, and I’d quite like to see a programme about the Elizabethan period mention the Poor Law system. We always get the Armada, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Dudley, Drake, Shakespeare, and, of course, the Reformation, but the effects of the Reformation – particularly the Dissolution of the Monasteries – on the issue of poor relief, and the reforms made during Elizabeth’s reign as a result, tends to be very neglected. Sorry, that’s got nothing to do with the Channel 5 series, which looks as if it’s going to be same old, same old from now on!
Elizabeth I is one of my great heroines. She’s one of the most important and fascinating characters in our history, and her reign is one of the most important periods in our history. But, and I know I’m always saying this, it is same old, same old, because there’ve been so many popular books, TV series and films about the Tudors that everyone’s heard most of it a zillion times before. This was very watchable, but I would much have preferred to see a programme about, say, Queen Anne, or Edward I, or Edward III, or Stephen and Matilda. Or, given the worrying figures about how many people don’t bother to vote at elections, the struggle for universal suffrage. We’ve got so much history to go at: please would one of the TV channels go at a part of it that hasn’t been done a million times before?! Please?!