Historically, I don't know how accurate The Virgin Queen is, but it certainly seems so. Bette Davis was a great Elizabeth. In Bette's talented hands, Elizabeth comes alive as a strong, very wise queen, who was however vulnerable and prone to fits of rage and jealousy. Perhaps the jealousy caused her to do careless things, such as send Sir Walter Raleigh to the tower for execution when she learned of his illegal marriage to one of her ladies in waiting (an excellent Joan Collins in an early performance), but she was always fair and compassionate in the end.
The story concerns an Irish man, Walter Raleigh, who becomes a good friend of the queen and is eventually Knighted. He longs to sail for the new word and bring back valuable riches. It takes Raleigh a long time to convince Elizabeth, but eventually she gives him one ship. However, a problem is presented when Raleigh falls in love with Beth (Joan Collins), because the queen has grown rather fond of him and forbids the marriage. Raleigh marries Beth, and they plan to sail together, but when the news reaches the queen she sends him to the tower of London. Not only does the act of jealousy hurt Raleigh, but also Beth and her unborn child. Elizabeth comes to realize this and, in an act of great compassion and fairness, she releases Raleigh and his bride to sail for the new world together. In a tender moment, she remembers herself once being a child who was brought to cry because of the executioner's blade.
The Virgin Queen is not only notable for its lavish Cinemascope production, which proved "Bette's black years" (the 1950s) weren't really so black, but also for its fine performances and script. Queen Elizabeth emerges as a truly great lady, with a human need for love and a very forgiving heart. If the queen was as admirable as the character presented here, one truly understands the meaning of "long live the queen."
All in all, a very good film!