30 thoughts on “Becoming Elizabeth (2022) – The Start

  1. I know this is a nitpick because shows often have to do it if the expectation is they’ll be moving through several years of a person’s life (cast too young an actor and risk having them out-age the character – or if the show timeline is moving faster, have them appearing a lot younger than they should be), but I feel like casting fully adult actresses (Alicia von Rittberg is 28) to play preteen/teenage characters helps to normalize what would otherwise be quite gross adult/child relationships. Like Bella Ramsey is 18 but looks younger and I don’t think anyone would find 36 year old Tom Cullen groping her or cutting off her dress “sexy” in the way the show clearly wants viewers to see Elizabeth and Seymour’s relationship. (Not to mention my other nitpick that Elizabeth was only 4 years older than Lady Jane and Edward, and yet Alicia is 10 years older than Bella and 13 years older than Oliver Zetterström).

    1. I keep thinking Bella Ramsey should have been cast as young Elizabeth, though maybe they wouldn’t have been able to make a red wig look natural. Hopefully she has a great career ahead of her.

    2. 100% agree with Kat! In real life, fourteen-year-olds look like the children they are, and casting grown women to play them so that the impression is just of a mild age gap between consenting adults (which is definitely a pattern I’ve noticed in movies and TV) deliberately disguises the awfulness of the situation.

  2. Just to say that Seymour wasn’t only sexually preying on the 14-year-old Elizabeth; he was politically preying on her – just as he had swept Catherine Parr of her feet for her considerable riches and political importance as Queen Dowager. It wasn’t even honest lust.

    1. “Seymour’s attentions to Elizabeth were considered scandalous in the period!” It was always my understanding that they were scandalous because she was so close to the throne–and probably his being a married man added to the scandal. As for her youth, 14-year-olds were considered marriageable, yes? (Especially royalty, heiresses and such.)

      1. That’s often a historical misconception. Marriage was legal for girls starting at age 12, and some girls were married that young – though most often for political/property/alliance reasons (such as Lady Jane’s younger sister Lady Katherine Grey being married off at 13, because she was to be next in line for the throne after Lady Jane) but most women weren’t actually getting married until they were in their late teens/early 20s. And even in the case of alliance/political marriages, a lot of them would happen but the marriage wouldn’t be consummated and the couple wouldn’t live together until they were older.

        1. Well it is not that much of a misconception. It often happened that teenager girls were married off and the marriage was consummated sometime soon. And it was not something that happened only rarely and with a great scandal. It was often, it was no scandal, and people did not frown at it.
          Only a few examples from around this era:
          – Margaret Beaufort, Henry VIII’s grandmother, married at 12, gave birth at 13
          – Charles Brandon (35) marrying Catherine Willoughby (14)
          – Brandon’s daughter Eleanor was married off at 16
          – Germaine of Foix was 17 when she married Ferdinand of Aragon (52) in 1505
          – Margaret Tudor, queen of Scotland, married off at 14
          – Jane Grey married off at 16, her mother at 16, her sister at 13
          – Philip II married teenagers twice: Maria Manuela (16), Elizabeth of Valois (15)
          – Anne Neville married Edward Prince of Wales at 14, then Richard III at 16. (Her mother was 10 when she was married off)
          – Cecily Neville married at 14
          Whether they waited with the consummation or not, it only depended on the husband’s generosity. No one obligated them to be considerate to their child wives.
          So if a man about Seymour’s age married a girl of Elizabeth’s age and they had a child very soon, no one said anything about it.
          Btw, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is about 13-14, and her mother says that in her age she was already married and had given birth. And it was not something Shakespeare just invented, it was a reality of their era.

          1. “Well it is not that much of a misconception. It often happened that teenager girls were married off and the marriage was consummated sometime soon. And it was not something that happened only rarely and with a great scandal. It was often, it was no scandal, and people did not frown at it.”

            It is a misconception. The average age for first-time brides of all classes in 16th-century England was in the mid-20s. The norm for non-noble women was probably higher, as royal and noble girls generally married much younger for political reasons. Their marriages were quite often arranged before they had reached the canonical age of 12, and might be solemnised before puberty. The bride might or might not move into her husband’s household directly on marriage. But even if she did, it was very generally considered imprudent and generally bad form to consummate the marriage until the bride was not merely technically fertile but fully-grown. (If the bridegroom was also young, delay was doubly advisable – it was believed that too-early indulgence in sex was bad for the health of teenage boys, and damaged their fertility.)

            Of the Englishwomen in your list, the husbands of only two – Margaret Beaufort and Catherine Willoughby – definitely ignored the standard custom and consummated the marriage immediately (and the appalling difficulty with which Margaret gave birth to her son, and her subsequent barrenness and stunted growth, demonstrate just how imprudent that was). Indeed, we know that Jane Grey’s sister Katherine, was still a virgin a year after her marriage, although she had been living in the household of her husband’s family: this allowed her father-in-law to get the marriage dissolved when it became politically inconvenient for his family. None of the others gave birth for the first time till they were of what would be marriageable age even in the modern era.

            ” BTW, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is about 13-14, and her mother says that in her age she was already married and had given birth. And it was not something Shakespeare just invented, it was a reality of their era.”

            Not in England it wasn’t, no. Romeo and Juliet was not an English story! It was a play written to let an English audience enjoy thrillingly dreadful goings-on in wicked old Catholic Italy, where girls ‘mature earlier in the hot climate’ (a belief the British held firmly up to the 19th century and sometimes even later), where patrician families make war on each other in the streets, young bloods duel with each other in public, and stupid old friars, taking advantage of the in-England-now-abolished rite of confession, can interfere between parents and their proper authority over their children; and be grateful that they lived in decent Protestant England where there wasn’t any of that kind of thing, thank God.

            Note also the line where Count Paris, all pantingly keen to make Juliet his own, urges her father “Younger than she are happy mothers made”, to which Old Capulet replies “And too soon marred, are those too early made”. This response certainly represents the accepted thinking of the era: it was a good plan to arrange your daughter’s marriage while she’s still a child, so that her future was assured and there was no danger of her getting romantic ideas, but certainly not to allow the marriage to be consummated till she was physically mature. Which was then a good deal later than it usually is now.

      2. In Romeo and Juliet, it’s feared Juliet will be an old maid because she’s almost 14 and not married yet.

        1. But that was a play about exotically foreign and wicked Catholic Italy – see my response to Angelique above.

  3. It’s bothered me from the first episode that they are framing Thomas Seymour as tall, dark, and irresistible. If there was narration from Elizabeth telling us that this is her perspective or memory of her relationship with him that might mitigate it somewhat, but in the show’s universe, it’s all fun and games until a woman finds her husband in bed with her adopted teenager.
    The relationship Thomas has with Elizabeth is one of sexual predation. And it’s about power, not attraction. What is the show trying to say when a child molester is the most smoldering man in England? It’s also strange that both Seymour brothers are manipulating a child, but Edward Seymour – manipulating a boy with no sexual element – is basically positioned as Ye Olde Dweebe, while jock Thomas is sexually manipulating a girl and gets to be hot while doing it.
    It seems like the showrunners or the network or both wanted to make and market a bodice ripper, but you can’t (or really shouldn’t) do that when the bodice being ripped belongs to a girl going through puberty.

    1. Also, IRL Thomas Seymour was also manipulating the boy king – among other things secretly supplying him with pocket money which Edward Seymour the regent wasn’t giving him – in order to undermine his elder brother and take his place. He really was an all-round b*stard.

  4. I’m avoiding it like the piece of crap it is historically. Elizabeth did have problems with Seymour’s sexual overtures. And she was examined several times afterwards for virginity and doctors didn’t say absolutely anything about it. Catholic doctors too. At one time Ashley was promoting or seem to promote a wedding between them but I believe it was after the demise of the Dowager Queen in childbirth. I also believe that while she may have been flattered at first -microscopically believe, it freaked her out when he became more overt. She had a fear of the act and dying in childbirth ever since. A princess or royal bastard (and Elizabeth had her inheritance rights restored but still was not legitimized by HEIDI’S will) would be aware of possible betrothals in the offering, and would protect her chastity accordingly. Pretty costumes don’t equal historical accuracy.

    And if they wanted to do another Elizabeth I miniseries what about being it on the life long friendship/love between Liz and Dudley?

    1. Cat Ashley clearly behaved very badly not protecting Elizabeth as she should have, even her own confession shows she made few and late efforts on Elizabeth’s behalf. Katherine Parr was even worse actually joining in the abuse, possibly trying to convince herself there was nothing to it.
      Elizabeth’s efforts to avoid Seymour ‘s aggressions make it clear his rough horseplay was not welcome even if she did have a crush on him.
      Elizabeth had a type and Seymour fit it. Cat Ashley ‘s husband thought she, Elizabeth, was attracted to Seymour and warned his wife that no good could come of it.
      All of the women involved seem to have felt helpless to control Seymour. Eventually Katherine remember she was a queen and a mother and sent Elizabeth away. Parry, Elizabeth ‘s coffered, or treasurer believed that the queen had found Elizabeth alone with Seymour and in his arms. Certainly not in bed!
      Elizabeth wrote a penitent letter to Katherine from her new home and received a prompt and friendly answer. Clearly Katherine did not blame her stepdaughter for what had happened. The letters exchanged among the three of them, Elizabeth, Queen Katherine and Seymour suggest they were trying to reestablish theur interrelationships on a normal footing. Then Katherine died.

  5. I noticed that there are, what appear to be, embroidered crowned falcons among the creatures and Tudor roses that decorate her smock. Could these be a reference to her mother’s heraldic badge? It would be a nice nod to Anne Boleyn’s memory if so.

  6. Katherine Parr’s portrayal bothers me so much; Lamentations of a Sinner is a wonderful piece of work and shows she was probably the most religiously-minded of Henry’s wives save Katherine of Aragon. And there are glimpses of things in the way she’s written here that work well – in the third episode, her fear when she finds out she’s pregnant, her explaining to Elizabeth and all at supper about what danger she was in under Henry and Bishop Gardiner (the line about Henry’s actions being based on the last piece of advice he got, and what she had to do to ensure her safety after Anne Askew’s execution!!). But I don’t like that she’s only a schemer here.

    I did appreciate that they didn’t shy away from the ambiguity of Parr’s complicity in whatever may have really happened between Seymour and Elizabeth, but you are so right about the rest. I was hoping, since they chose this period of Elizabeth’s life, that they’d dig in a little about how she was taken advantage of, how the likely sexual nature of Seymour’s treatment of her was damaging in the extreme. They make a point of Elizabeth being very aware of how her mother is remembered – “the great whore” was said what, ten or eleven times in three episodes? – but not how she might not have fully understood it. Seymour is gross and tries to even handwave his actions by saying he should have married Katherine sooner, how he wished Henry had never seen her, blaming Henry for his own actions in essence. How convenient.

    The casting seems mostly good (Romola Garai as Mary is going to be really good if the show goes all the way to the beginning of her reign), and the costumes haven’t been anywhere near as offensive as most Starz shows.

    I’m not sure if I want to keep watching, for all the reasons you list and more, but I do appreciate your post. I was curious about the costuming accuracy (HA! on elf-coats – they definitely lean into mythologizing Elizabeth in places).

  7. So I have not seen the show. I’m fairly happy with the clothes as depicted here. They aren’t 100% but they satisfy me. it is a shame with the plot, and I know it was a long time ago but why is this showing acting like the first episode of Elizabeth R didn’t cover and and make it clear, in my opinion, how gross Thomas Seymour was? Also interestingly, there is definitely conflict between the writers/producers and the cast because I’ve seen some snippets of interviews with the actor who plays Thomas Seymour and he is self-aware and thinks Seymour was awful.

  8. I absolutely agree with the comments about Thomas Seymour. I think they were very easy on his portrayal. Yes, there is historical accuracy to consider. But there is the importance of hindsight given the nature of his behavior. My sympathies are for all of the Tudor children. They were orphans, caught up in a Web of deceit and political manipulation.

  9. I keep reading this show is romantizing the Thomas Seymour affair but I have seen all 3 episodes so far and I completely disagree!
    To me, everything about Thomas seemed creepy and disgusting in the show so far. The way he manipulates and grooms Elizabeth is shocking and disgusting. All the while he makes poor Catherine believe he is in love with her and she is so blinded by love she believes it. He is a complete as***le in the show. It is clear that he uses both Elizabeth and Catherine politically, tries to get to influence Edward, and it is awful. Yes, Thomas is portrayed as an attractive and very convincing man, but that’s the way they show how he got to have his way for so long.
    I found the dress-cutting scene very disturbing and awkward, and I don’t think it showed Elizabeth finnding the whole thing funny. There were glimpses of shock and fear in her eyes. And then she tried to pretend everything was okay, that this was not a big thing, and went along with the flow. This is exactly how many people behave in such situations, especially if it is with people they know – they try to pretend everything is okay and they don’t escape from the situation as we would expect them to.
    In that era, 14-15 year-old Elizabeth was considered an adult almost, it is not like today. 30+ men like Seymour often married teenagers like her, so his behavior was much more “normal” than today. It was considered scandalous because of who she was rather than for how old she was. You can’t expect the people in the show to address the age issue much more than this, when age was not that much of an issue there If they did, now THAT would be historically inaccurate and way too modern. (Catherine P does address it, though, in ep 3, after she catches them.)
    I’ve seen Elizabeth R and to me it seems the whole Seymour affair is portrayed very smilarly (so far). From Elizabeth’s attitude to Catherine’s involvement and Kat’s involvement. Most things.
    The thing is, there are not many things we know about the Seymour affair clearly and for sure. Many things are unclear and unknown about it: what happened and didn’t happen between Thomas and Elizabeth exactly, what words Elizabeth exactly said, what kind of “consent” she gave or did not give, what she thought about Thomas exactly, etc. So any show that portrays this affair has a rather large playground to show things in this way or in that way, and they may still stay close to historical accuracy. Because in many cases we don’t know what is exactly accurate and what is not. Could Becoming Elizabeth portray the affair in a much worse light? Yes, and it would still be accurate. Is this portrayal very inaccurate historically? No, at least not that we know about. They portray most of the events we know (morning visits and Elizabeth’s early dress-up to prevent them, the dress cutting, Catherine catching them in embrace). Is this the kind of portrayal you would expect from a 2022 show, after the me-too of the 2010s? Probably not. Should they have cast a younger actress, a real teenager, for the role? Yes. I mean, imagine the exact same scenes with a little girl like Bella Ramsey playing Elizabeth, instead of the adult Alicia. It would be full of red lightaó and it would scream at you from the screen that what you see is pedophilia. They mention in the show that Elizabeth is only 15, they don’t hide that fact, but I still think they should have cast someone who at least looks under 18 believably. Yeah, Glenda Jackson looked 30+ as well so it was not shocking enough either, but that was in the 1970s.

  10. Apropos of nothing whatsoever – the court picture makes me so sad. How many in that photo died awful, early deaths, and how many more were beheaded or tortured. Oy.

    1. Well I can’t identify everybody in that Photograph but Edward VI died at sixteen from an uncertain but hideous disease; both Thomas and Edward Seymour were beheaded; Katherine Parr died of infection after childbirth; Mary Tudor died of another uncertain disease, possibly cancer; and of course Jane Grey was beheaded too. Elizabeth on the other hand dies just short of her seventieth year, the longest lived of all the Tudors.

  11. I don’t know, I have a wildly different read on what’s happening in the show, because I definitely do feel that Thomas Seymour is being portrayed as a predator. Elizabeth being somewhat “into it” actually does not make her less of a victim, and this is a common thing for abusive relationships between adults and adolescents. They’re flattered by the attention of this older person, and not knowing any better, and not being able to comprehend both the consequences and the danger to themselves, they “willingly” engage in a relationship that does them immense damage, which they usually only figure out years later, tragically. This may be different than how it played out in real life, but they might be trying to say something about this pernicious idea that the only real victims are perfect innocents. And Elizabeth’s feelings on the matter I feel are actually being portrayed with some nuance. Is she somewhat attracted to this older, handsome man who flatters her? Yeah. But in most of the scenes where he actually gets handsy with her, you can see her uncertainty, that some inner voice is telling her this is dangerous for her and that he’s a creep. She goes back and forth, exactly as you’d expect an impressionable young teenager would.

    I am annoyed about the portrayal of Katherine Parr, especially after the third episode because SPOILERS: she suddenly acts like she had no idea what was going on, when beforehand it almost seemed like she knew full well. Make up your mind, show.

    1. The real Elizabeth definitely wanted to avoid the physical abuse but she seems to have had a definite crush on Seymour and enjoyed hearing him spoken of and teased about her ‘conquest’. Whether she wanted to marry him is another matter. But all her life she would enjoy being courted. Basically she seems to have liked Seymour best when he was at a safe distance.

    2. Exactly the way I see the Elizabeth&Thomas situation as well. I find Thomas disgusting and creepy and Eizabeth portrayed as a teenager girl victim. The age of the actress complicates it, though, but I can look beside it and image she is 14.
      Idk, I haven’t noticed what you say about Catherine Parr. My understanding was that she was fully aware that Thomas was flirting with Elizabeth and he was emotionally holding her in his grasp. She thought it was just to further their aims, to have more power and influence in court through influence on the royal family members. But when she found out that he was in her bedroom and he was actually sexual with Elizabeth, she was shocked because she would have never imagined he would go that far. Not to mention that it also means he cheated on her. That’s how I saw it.

    3. I agree. To me it was clear from the beginning that Seymour was being portrayed as a predator who grooms not only Elizabeth, but Catherine, Jane, Kat Ashley and everyone else around her. I also thought Alicia Von Rittberg – though I agree she’s a touch too old to convincingly play a 13 or 14 year old – did a great job at showing the combination of attraction, fear, discomfort and being totally out of her depth. I was a bit wary during Episode 1 when they have her gushing how she wants to marry him, but I think that illustrated how, for all her education and intellectual maturity, she really was just a vulnerable kid with a massive crush, whom the man responsible for her care once he married her stepmother grossly exploited. Then in Ep 2, we have the striking contrast when Robert Dudley is first introduced and you see how she is totally at ease with him. I work in the justice system and the way the show portrays Elizabeth’s conflicted feelings towards Seymour is very much in keeping with present-day victims of grooming and CSA by someone they thought they were in love with and who loved them react. Cultural and societal mores and understanding of child development have changed over the centuries but I doubt instinctive human reactions have all that much.

      Catherine Parr’s portrayal troubled me somewhat though – I would have liked to see much more of Catherine the reformist intellectual and a lot less bonking Thomas. But I don’t think it’s inconsistent to have her remonstrate with him over flirting with Elizabeth or treat the creepy and weird dress incident as a massive joke, and be completely shocked when she catches them and realises how far he’s gone. I liked that the writers have her ask Elizabeth “what has HE done?” and subsequently remind him that Elizabeth was a child. Thomas was grooming Catherine too and like all skilled predators, was able to maintain plausible deniability till he got caught. I always had the sense that the real Catherine, horribly hurt and angry that she must have been, was at least partly acting protectively (of Elizabeth) when she sent her away to live with the Dennys

      Episode 1 had a lot of “as you know Bob” dialogue which irritated me a bit, but the show’s getting better as it progresses. I’ll be very interested to see how they handle the events of 1549.

  12. Am I watching a different series that everyone else? The scene of him cutting her dress was terrifying, the pic you labeled as her doe eyed is more like deer in the headlights. Seymour IS being depicted in a predator. In interviews the show runner states that emphatically, but the way grooming works is that the victim becomes normalized and even receptive to the groomer’s behavior. She is still a child, he is an adult with power over her, and the show deipicts him as abusive towards her, as well as his tactics working on her which there is a lot of evidence to indicate that that as true, to say nothing of how many other adults (Catherine, Parr, Kat Ashley, Thomas and Blanche Parry) were also persuaded that it was all above board.
    None of it came to light until he was arrested and Elizabeth’s name was dragged into the mess he created, at which time she was in very real danger, and a great deal of contemporary gossip DID accuse her of leading him on; of even being pregnant by him. Somerset’s wife herself gossiped with ladies of the court about it openly, and it was her version that was passed on by both the Venetian and Swedish ambassadors.
    It is super toxic to expect her to have been a modern idea of a perfect victim. She was a real flesh and blood person and before she was Gloriana she was a fourteen year old girl, who was a victim of grooming. The real world is complicated, and things like this are never black and white.

    1. Agreed. I definitely feel like the show’s POV is that he is absolutely creepy and abusive. But sometimes creepy and abusive can come in an attractive package. The actor playing him has stated that Seymour is absolutely a groomer and this is not meant to be viewed in any sort of positive light.

    2. Exactly! That’s the way I felt when seeing the dress cutting scene, it was absolutely terrifying and I felt so sorry for Elizabeth. And the way I see the whole thing is the way you described. He is a predator and he grooms her, he is a typical abuser and she is, unfortunately, the typical victim. Sadly, victims often behave like her, think it normal and even grow to have affection for the predator.
      See his awful behavior in ep 4, he is becoming worse and worse.

    3. Yes, absolutely! It’s a brilliantly done, extremely chilling scene. Not only do you have your stepmother’s husband undressing you in front of other people, he’s doing it with a literal weapon, and in such a way that almost everyone else thinks it’s hilarious. Is it a joke or something more sinister? I think Alicia very clearly portrayed a young girl who has no idea how to react to this, and plays along to avoid embarrassment (bearing in mind old mate is pointing a sword at her which adds to the threat – she goes into freeze/fawn in response) – just like countless girls and women throughout the ages have done in threatening, creepy situations to avoid creating a scene or because they’re second guessing their reactions. And I interpreted the reactions of Kat and Jane as being stunned “WTF did I just see? Did that just happen?”

  13. I was skeptical the ermine edging the blue lined oversleeves of that promo gown but it seems it’s copied, in different colors, from a portrait of Mary Tudor.

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