In 1912 Sarah Bernhardt was the first actor to portray Elizabeth I on the big screen in a film entitled The Loves of the Queen (1912). Despite its age this film anticipates many of the key issues that reappear in latter films depicting Elizabeth I. Bernhardt’s Elizabeth is a woman torn between her duty as a queen and her love for the earl of Essex. The film opens with Essex bringing news of the Armada’s defeat to the English camp at Tilbury. It then moves to court and becomes a complicated story of personal and political intrigue. Essex’s fate is sealed when the husband of his lover, the countess of Nottingham, finds out about their relationship and gets Essex sent to Ireland. After 11 years away Essex returns to the court. Nottingham, however, tricks the queen into thinking Essex is a traitor. After his trial and execution Elizabeth pays Essex one last visit as he lies in state, discovers that she has been deceived and dies of melancholy.
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