9 AM – Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral. The fourteenth century Lady Chapel at Ely is an architectural wonder in itself, easily the largest attached to a British Cathedral. Yet it is a place that still bears the scars of the Tudor age.
Before Henry VIII broke from Rome the huge windows here were filled with stained glass, and the stonework was vividly painted and alive with statues of saints. In the years that followed however Protestant and increasingly Puritan thought was in the ascendancy and the images and colour that filled this place were considered irreligious and idolatrous. As a result the statues were removed or ‘beheaded’, the painting scrubbed from the walls and the glass smashed.
Today some of that grandeur has been restored as the Art department have turned this wonderful building into Elizabeth’s Presence Chamber. This is where the Queen plays the marriage game, keeping the world waiting to see who she might marry and when. For the film this ‘game’ – so essential in telling Elizabeth’s story – presents something of a problem as we have to explain events that took years to unfold in reality within the timeframe of a film. To do this we have created a scene in which Elizabeth is, at one time, presented with four marriage options. This involves compressing time, bringing together four suitors who were not, in fact, all suitable for marriage or considered at the same time. In truth they were not even all alive at the point in time this scene nominally takes place. But by this technique we can explain succinctly the range of Elizabeth’s marriage options, the benefits and drawback they might bring, and demonstrate the increasing tension between the Queen and her ministers as the game dragged dangerously on.
So here this morning four portraits stand on easels, staring across this beautiful, broken room, itself a victim of the turbulent age in which these men lived