Tuesday 18th July. 10.00 AM – ‘A’ Stage, Shepperton Studios. Our last day filming with Cate, as the Queen takes a rare bath and uses the opportunity to discuss men with Bess.
Elizabeth was considered rather fastidious for her time, bathing more frequently (several times a year) than most. Generally at this period bathing was still considered to be a dangerous pastime which weakened the body and left it open to disease. Indeed bathing was even cited as a possible cause of her bout of smallpox, although we know now that that cannot have been the case.
But as this is Cate’s last day I should perhaps finish by breaking my usual rule and commenting on her Elizabeth. It is the rare privilege of a historian working in film to be able to not simply imagine the past but see it. Of course what we create on set is not history, we cannot go back there and can never reconstruct either the events in their entirety or know truly what it was to live then. But every generation has the right to look back in time and find the elements from then that resonate with now, and use them to tell a story. For each generation that story will be different as it says as much about the present as it does about the past. For me, seeing Cate on set each day has been being in the presence of Elizabeth, despite the lights and cameras and modern world impedimenta which conspire to break the spell. And if she is Elizabeth to me even when surrounded by the 21st century, I’m sure she will be Elizabeth to the audience who see the finished film. An Elizabeth for a new generation, created in an uncertain present to tell a story from a dangerous past.