The story of the majestic Queen Elizabeth I has been told in countless other productions, including films starring Cate Blanchett and, more recently, Margot Robbie. But finding a detailed history of the monarch as a teenager has been a little harder — until now.
Starz’s Becoming Elizabeth (Sundays at 9pm ET/PT beginning June 12) takes a look at the future ruler’s life starting at age 14, something star Alicia von Rittberg calls “a coming-of-age story set in a political drama.” It begins right after the death of Elizabeth’s father, the imposing Henry VIII, and the ascension of her younger brother Edward (Oliver Zetterström) to king. Also in the mix is older sister Mary (Romola Garai), who along with Elizabeth must maintain good standing in the court in order to remain in line for the throne. Complicating matters is widowed stepmother Catherine Parr’s (Jessica Raine) new husband, Thomas Seymour (Tom Cullen), who takes an interest in Elizabeth.
“This story is incredible, and it’s really contemporary,” explained executive producer George Ormond. “It’s about a young, teenage girl who thinks she’s an adult, who thinks she’s equipped to deal with adult things, and is thrust into this world that’s dangerous and finds herself drawn into this relationship, which raises all sorts of questions about consent and power. And we couldn’t believe that this hadn’t been dramatized before, but it hasn’t. And it feels like it’s a definitive part of how she becomes who she becomes.”
The relationship with Seymour is a touchy one — for one, Elizabeth was a young teenager, with Seymour being an older and married man, and for two, historians believe that the relationship was one-sided, with Elizabeth trying to avoid Seymour’s inclinations. The show makes things a little more consensual, but doesn’t shy away from showing a complicated dynamic. “This relationship she had with Thomas Seymour seemed to touch on such relevant things now as consent and gender imbalance and power imbalance within relationships,” said creator and executive producer Anya Reiss.
The series hints at the queen Elizabeth will become, a defining figure in history and one of the most beloved monarchs in England’s past. The public’s fascination with the Tudor bloodline shows no signs of subsiding, and Becoming Elizabeth offers a different take on the famous family.