A Vatican-backed historian has attacked the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age as a “distorted anti-papal travesty” that risks dividing the West just when it should be rediscovering its “common Christian roots” in the face of Islam.
Writing in Avvenire, the official organ of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Franco Cardini said that the film formed part of a “concerted attack on Catholicism” by atheists and “apocalyptic Christians”.
Professor Cardini, who holds the chair of medieval history at Florence University and formerly taught at the Lateran University in Rome, a Vatican body, said that its aim was to “secularise and de-Christianise” Europe.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age stars Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth, Geoffrey Rush as Sir Francis Walsingham, her spymaster, and Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh. Directed by Shakhur Kapur, it was widely praised at the Rome Film Festival last month, with critics describing Blanchett’s performance as magnificent.
Professor Cardini said “a film which so profoundly and perversely falsifies history cannot be judged a good film”. It had potentially offered “a contribution to the understanding of a moment of vital importance.” Instead, the Virgin Queen was portrayed as “an able politician and courageous sovereign” while King Philip II of Spain was shown as a “ferocious, fanatical Catholic, swinging his rosary like a weapon and roaming the Escorial Palace like a madman, full of impotent fury, dreaming of subjugating the world to the Catholic faith”.
The defeat of Spain’s “invincible armada” in 1588 was caused by a storm but was presented in the film as a “shining victory for free thought against the forces of darkness in the form of the Inquisition”, Professor Cardini said. He said while Philip II and the Pope had gone to the aid of the Venetian Republic when it was threatened by the Muslim Turks, Elizabeth I was more interested in destabilising France, “where Catholics and Protestant Huguenots were lining up against each other”, supporting pirate raids in the Atlantic against Spanish convoys, and “wiping out any residual liberty of the Anglican Church in England by subjecting it to the Crown through the Thirty Nine Articles of 1563”.
The Queen had also “exterminated the Catholics of Scotland and Ireland”, and had Mary Queen of Scots, her own cousin, executed in 1587 “after an illegal trial”. He said that the film was reminiscent of 19th-century anti-clericalism. “Why put out this perverse anti-Catholic propaganda today, just at the moment when we are trying desperately to revive our Western identity in the face of the Islamic threat, presumed or real?”
Professor Cardini, who also attacked Ken Follett’s novel World Without End as anti-Catholic, said part of the explanation may be a resentful awareness that Catholicism was the “authentic fulcrum” of Christianity without which there was no defence against secularism and Islam.