The Virgin Queen stars Bette Davis in her second outing as Queen Elizabeth I. The story revolves around her relationship with Sir Walter Raleigh (Richard Todd) from his arrival at court to gain financing for exploration to his imprisonment for marrying a woman the queen disapproves of. The plot utilises some of the key hallmarks of Raleigh's life but not completely in the right order. As with most films of this type, there is a certain amount of artistic licence taken but it adds up to a coherent film, when I suspect the true story would've been far more complicated.
Let's deal with Richard Todd first. He portrays the fierce, proud Raleigh very well, although his relationship with his eventual wife, played by Joan Colllins, was a little underdeveloped. Raleigh's consistently seen as a step ahead of most other people, able to guess the queen's reactions and work out what will happen next - until the end of the film, that is. However, as hard as Todd tries, he becomes part of the wallpaper when Bette Davis appears on screen. Endowing the queen with the aura of magnificence, her rule is believable and yet painful to watch on occasion. She is witty, bossy, strong-willed to the point of stubborn and almost prouder than Raleigh.
There are two lengthy fight scenes involving Raleigh but, really, all the memorable scenes involve Davis. There is her 'knighting' scene with Todd in her bedroom, which is also the location of her memorable argument with Collins but the final scene as she tends to her business in her office is stunning. After watching Raleigh go up the Thames on his new ship, the queen is left alone and continues working. When the door closes, however, she breaks down as the camera pulls away for the final credits. It's such a short interlude but it brings the film to a bitter-sweet conclusion that lingers in the mind. This is truly Davis's film and from accent to delivery to mannerisms she is flawless.
A note on costumes, locations and décor - all reminiscent of the period if not entirely accurate (I don't profess to be an expert). There are also some splendid supporting performances from Herbert Marshall as Lord Leicester, Dan O'Herlihy as Lord Derry and Romney Brent as the French ambassador. This is an entertaining, sometimes poignant, interpretation of history and I enjoyed it immensely.