Catholics condemn 'twisted' Elizabeth film
By Malcolm Moore for The Telegraph
Catholics have reacted angrily to a new film about Queen Elizabeth I, which is released in Britain today, branding it as "anti-papist propaganda". The chorus of abuse for Elizabeth: The Golden Age has been led from Rome, where a historian with close ties to the Vatican said a film that "so profoundly and perversely distorts history cannot be judged a good film".
Prof Franco Cardini said: "The enemy is always the same - Catholicism and above all the Holy See and the pope. The offence is continuous and very dire." He said Elizabeth I was portrayed as a strong and courageous queen "capable of donning armour while being a passionate woman who is in love". Her Catholic adversary, King Philip II of Spain "is naturally a caricature of a ferocious fanatic, who uses his rosary like a weapon and wanders around madly". The defeat of the Spanish Armada, according to Mr Cardini "is portrayed as a shining victory for free thought against the darkness of the Inquisition, of liberty against tyranny and so on".
Mr Cardini said the attacks on the Catholic Church in the film stemmed from a knowledge among other faiths that "without Catholicism, Christianity would lose its true fulcrum". He also pointed out it was to the credit of Philip and the pope that they went to the aid of Venice when it was threatened by the Turks, unlike Elizabeth, who concentrated on destabilising France. The Catholic News Service, which is run by the United States Bishops Conference, said: "With the single exception of Mary, Queen of Scots, all the Catholics in the film are twisted, embittered intriguers."
The National Catholic Register added: "The climax, a weakly staged destruction of the Spanish Armada, is a crescendo of Church-bashing imagery: rosaries floating amid burning flotsam, inverted crucifixes sinking to the bottom of the ocean, the rows of ominous berobed clerics sinking away in defeat." It said that the film was more damaging to the Catholic Church than the Da Vinci Code. The administrator of Westminster Cathedral has also been criticised for allowing scenes to be shot inside. Mgr Mark Langham even greeted the film as a "spectacular and evocative must-see for the autumn", although he acknowledged that the history was "distorted" and that "it does appear to perpetuate the myth of 'killer priests'". Father Ray Blake, of St Mary Magdalen in Brighton, said: "The film damages the Church throughout the world and does a disservice to truth."
Historical inaccuracies in the film include showing Fotheringay Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded, at the end of a Scottish loch, when it was in fact on a flat plain in Northamptonshire. The film also shows a Babington plot assassin trying to fire his pistol at the queen, when in fact the scheme was thwarted much earlier. The makers of the film declined to comment.
[I saw this movie a few weeks ago and couldn’t help thinking that these critical comments where rather over-the-top and not a little hysterical. Of course the film was anti-Catholic! The movie told the story, culminating in the destruction of the Spanish Armada, from the English point of view. As far as I know Protestant England stood alone against largely Catholic Europe. In those far gone days Catholics and Protestants hated each other with a real and deep passion. To portray things otherwise would indeed have been a ‘disservice to the truth’. It was a time of religious war; religious motivated murder and torture and religiously inspired acts of terrorism (including the Catholic plot to blow up Parliament by Guy Fawkes). Some of that animosity was shown in the film. The imagery was sometimes graphic, if not a little heavy handed, but taken in context was hardly offensive.
What must also be remembered is that this was a movie – not a documentary. Movies of this kind put more bums on seats and hence more money in pockets when there are distinct ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’. English attitudes to the Spanish as well as Spanish attitudes to the English were portrayed as less than cordial. That should hardly come as a surprise to anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the period. Not being an expert I didn’t find anything to get ‘uptight’ about and think that such outbursts hardly reflect well on the Catholic Church or the Vatican.]