The daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, Elizabeth I was born in 1533; she ruled England for forty-four years, from 1558 to 1603.
A native Londoner, the petite Duff studied at the Drama Centre in London. She was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2000 (1999 season) for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Collected Stories at the Haymarket Theatre. She made a mark as Margaret in The Magdalene Sisters (2002) and, on television, in The Way We Live Now, Doctor Zhivago and as Fiona in Shameless (for which she won the IFTA Best Actress award and was nominated for the Bafta Best Actress award, both 2004).
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Dudley supported his father in the attempt to place Jane Grey on the throne in July 1553, was condemned to death for doing so, but pardoned in October 1554, went abroad and distinguished himself with his brother in the campaign against France in 1557. He received some kindness from Queen Mary's husband, Philip II of Spain, but his real fortunes began when Elizabeth, upon her accession, made him her Master of the Horse. First married to Amy Robsart (who he has been accused of murdering in order to marry Elizabeth), then to Lettice Knowles.
Hardy left the London Drama Centre to work on the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. He also appeared in Black Hawk Down and stared as the (bald) villain, Praetor Shinzon, in 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis. He has also been recognized for his work on stage.
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex
(1566 - 1601)
Devereux was brought up largely on his father's estate in Wales, and was educated at Cambridge. In 1580, his mother, Lettice, married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, long-standing favourite of the queen. Essex did military service under his stepfather before himself making an impact at court and winning the queen's favour. In 1590, he married Frances Walsingham, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham. Essex attempted a political coup against Elizabeth, leading a rebellion and attempting to seize control of London on February 8, 1601. He was arrested, convicted of treason, and executed at the Tower of London on February 25, 1601.
Matheson, familiar to Masterpiece Theatre fans from his title role in Doctor Zhivago, is a native Scot. He has also been seen in The Mists of Avalon and on screen in Les Misérables.
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley
(1521 - 1598)
English politician. Served in Henry VIII's household, and served Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I (her most trusted advisor).
Ian Hart, previously seen as Dr. Watson in Masterpiece Theatre's Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking and The Hound of the Baskervilles, is from Liverpool. He also played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the feature film Finding Neverland. Although he began acting in the early '80s, Hart first gained wide recognition for portraying John Lennon in the British film Backbeat (1995). He is currently filming an inprovisational comedy with Kathy Bates, Rupert Graves and Malcolm McDowell.
Sir Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex
The Earl of Sussex was one of the ablest political figures in Tudor England, as witnessed by his ability to hold senior posts under all three monarchs in the latter half of the sixteenth century. This was a remarkable feat at a time when political pendulum swung violently between the Protestant Edward VI, the Catholic Mary I, and finally the Protestant Elizabeth I.
Londoner Dexter Fletcher began his career in the 1976 film Bugsy Malone. He has appeared as Sgt. John Martin in HBO's Band of Brothers, and in numerous films including Two Smoking Barrels, Topsy-Turvy and Layer Cake.
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Son of the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. His father predeceased him; Thomas inherited the Dukedom of Norfolk upon the death of his grandfather, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk in 1554. Imprisoned by Elizabeth I in 1569 for scheming to marry Mary Queen of Scots. Executed for treason in 1572.
Scotsman Kevin McKidd, age thirty-two, was a member of the Moray Youth Theatre before going on to study engineering at the University of Edinburgh. His breakout performance, in 1996's Trainspotting, has been followed by roles in Hideous Kinky, Topsy-Turvy, Nicholas Nickleby, De-Lovely and Kingdom of Heaven. He appeared as Count Vronsky in Masterpiece Theatre's Anna Karenina.
Queen Mary I
(18 February 1516 - 17 November 1558)
Also known as Mary Tudor, Queen of England and Queen of Ireland from July 1553 until her death. Mary Tudor was the only child born to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon to survive childhood. Mary Tudor is sometimes confused with her cousin Mary Queen of Scots, who lived at approximately the same time.
Joanne Whalley was born in Manchester, England. She is best known to American audiences for her roles in Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, Willow, The Singing Detective and The Man Who Knew Too Little and for her 8-year marriage to actor Val Kilmer.
Mother of Robert Devereux by her first husband, Walter. Second wife to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Lettice was cousin to Queen Elizabeth from the Boleyn/Carey side.
A Londoner, Sienna Guillory is the daughter of the Cuban born guitarist Isaac Guillory. She has appeared previously on Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! in The Buccaneers, Take a Girl Like You and Miss Marple: A Murder is Announced. On screen, she has been seen in Love Actually and Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Guillory is currently in production on the film version of Christopher Paolini's fantasy Eragon.
Lord Chancellor Gardiner
Stephen Gardiner (c. 1493 - November 12, 1555)
Wrote in defense of the Royal Sumpremacy under Henry VIII. Imprisoned in the Tower during most of the reign of Edward VI. Restored to titles and made Lord Chancellor under Mary I.
Pugh, born in Wales, has extensive acting credits on both television and in films. He has been seen in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill..., Enigma, and Master and Commander. Previous Masterpiece Theatre/Mystery! appearances include roles in Inspector Morse, Prime Suspect 6 and Miss Marple: A Murder is Announced. He also appears in the upcoming Bleak House.
Amy Robsart, Lady Dudley
(1532 - 1560)
First wife of Robert Dudley. Probably more famous for her death than her life, she was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their house in Oxford with a broken neck. Throughout history, and also at the time of her death, there has been speculation as to whether she fell or was murdered.
The Oxford-educated Fox, daughter of actors Edward Fox and Joanna David, has been seen on screen in The Pianist and Things to do Before You're 30. She has appeared in several Masterpiece Theatre productions including Rebecca, Shooting the Past, David Copperfield and Henry VIII.
Governess to the Princess Elizabeth and 'Woman-of-the-Bedchamber' to Elizabeth the Queen. When Elizabeth was four, Katherine Champernowne became her governess. The well-educated Champernowne -- known as Kat Ashley after her marriage in 1545 -- began teaching astronomy, geography, history, math, French, Flemish, Italian, Spanish, and other subjects to the future Queen.
Fitzgerald, from Sussex, is the daughter of an Irish mother and an Italian father. She attended the London Drama Centre and began working in commercial productions immediately after graduation. She has appeared on screen in Brassed Off, Sirens and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill..., and on television in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Woman in White, The Prince of Hearts and Miss Marple: The Body in the Library.
Sir James Melville
A Scottish diplomat, a page to Mary Queen of Scots in France and, after her return to Scotland, Mary's representative at the court of Elizabeth I. Melville later performed important diplomatic missions for James VI. His memoirs, written after James's accession (1603) to the English throne (as James I) and first published in 1683, are one of the principal sources for the history of the period.
A native of Edinburgh, Bremner has won awards for performances in the films Trainspotting and Julien Donkey-Boy. He has also appeared in Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor and Snatch.
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