Wednesday 24th May, 2006
11 AM – Ely Cathedral. Another wonderful Norman cathedral, built on what was, in the 12th century an ‘island’ in the vast expanse of marsh land known as the Fen. In this flat, watery world the cathedral seemed to float on the wetland, gaining it the title ‘The Ship of the Fen’.
Not surprisingly however, for us this is not Ely but London and we are in Elizabeth’s court where the Queen has been informed of the ‘Impresa di Inglaterra’ – the Enterprise of England. As she strides through the corridors of court she summons the Spanish ambassador to inform his that his services in England are no longer required. The Queen is angry and only a very foolish man would ever cross an angry Elizabeth.
So why are we filming this in a cathedral? It’s a question we were often asked about ‘Elizabeth’. Of course the Queen’s London palaces, particularly Whitehall which had been only recently entirely remodelled by her father Henry VIII was not a series of cavernous stone vaults. But what these cathedral settings give us is a sense of scale – an idea of the grandeur and majesty of the court at one level and of the vulnerability and frailty of humanity set against its cold, stone facades at another. It is also, of course, a chance to celebrate the range and virtuosity of England’s architectural heritage and I’m always in favour of that.