Historical inaccuracies
As in the first film, some of the historical facts and dates have been changed by the scriptwriters for artistic purposes.
In 1585 Elizabeth was 52, having been born in 1533. The film shows various suitors being presented to the queen, with a view to marriage and children, or at least a child, to prevent the throne from being passed to Mary, Queen of Scots. In fact, the scenes presented took place much earlier in her reign, as one might expect (for instance, Erik of Sweden abandoned his various marriage proposal attempts after his trip to England was interrupted by the death of his father in 1560, when Elizabeth was 27 and much more likely to bear children).
Elizabeth had brown eyes (contemporary portraits show her to have had the deep amber brown eyes of her mother) and Bess Throckmorton had blue eyes, the reverse of the actresses portraying them in the film.
The film locates Elizabeth's lifestyle and court in various limestone interiors. In truth, as any visitor to Hampton Court Palace knows, there would have been much more wood panelling and tapestry-covered walls.
The film places Fotheringay Castle at the centre of a loch, overlooked by the Scottish Highlands. Fotheringhay is actually a village situated in a very flat part of Northamptonshire in central England.
Mary may not have had a strong Scots accent because she had lived in the French court from the age of 5 to 16, though she was bilingual in spoken language, did write letters in Scots, and could pronounce a speech ‘in Englishe with a verie good grace’.
In the film, Elizabeth is confronted in a cathedral by a would-be assassin armed with a pistol that fails to go off. The actual Babington Plot to overthrow or murder the queen was discovered, without risk to Elizabeth, before it could be executed.
The evidence used against Mary was shown to be indisputable in the movie. In actuality, there was no hard evidence produced and Mary was never permitted to see any of it. The charges were believed to have been trumped up by court intrigue although Mary may have been privy to such connivance and apparently endorsed the plot in detail.
Bess Throckmorton's pregnancy, which led to her secret marriage to Sir Walter Raleigh and the birth of their son Damerei, actually occurred in the summer of 1591, some three years after the Spanish Armada, not immediately before. Shortly after its birth, the baby was relegated to a wet nurse and presumably died soon thereafter.
As in the first film, there is no mention of Essex who had a much greater influence on Elizabeth than Raleigh.
Elizabeth may not have addressed her troops astride a white steed while wearing a suit of shining armour. The real queen did make a personal visit to address her army, and several witnesses or contemporaries do allude to her martial appearance. Most historians are inclined to accept the traditional story that she rode side-saddle on horseback, carried a marshal's baton, and wore a cuirass, with a page carrying a silver helmet before her. Although the content of her speech was much less subdued than shown in the film, her presence did have a positive effect on the morale of both the troops and their leaders.
Raleigh did not command a ship during the Spanish Armada — he may only have provided naval advice to Elizabeth. William Camden's (1615) claim that Raleigh saw active service against the Armada from 23 July 1588 under the English Commander-in-Chief, Lord Charles Howard of Effingham, is unverified. By 2 August he was certainly in London, from where he was sent to the south coast to 'confer' with Effingham.
The English navy attacked the Spanish fleet off the coast of France where Philip's army was to combine with the Duke of Parma's troops ashore on the mainland. In fact, the Duke strongly opposed Philip's ill-conceived plans.
Much of the naval action involved the Spanish Netherlands's fleet (commanded by the Duke of Parma) which is never mentioned.
Sir Francis Drake was primarily interested in looting the Spanish ships carrying gold to pay for the invasion. He played a peripheral role in the battle.
It is uncertain whether the Spaniards would be conducting a prayer service while a storm was bearing down upon them. There were many Jews, Moors, and mercenaries from Protestant countries among the Spanish crews. It is unlikely that lit candles and plaster statues would be permitted on any ship at sea: sailors at the time were understandably fearful of anything that could cause fire. Portraits and statues aboard ship were considered bad luck among the highly superstitious sailors of the day, no matter what their faith.
None of the fire ships sent towards the Armada actually caused any material damage to the Spanish fleet. They simply caused the fleet to scatter out of formation. Many of the Spanish ships were forced to cut their anchors, however, and this proved to be a factor when the Spanish fleet subsequently encountered the storms in the Atlantic off the west coast of Ireland during their circuitous return to Spain. Several vessels were sunk through being unable to anchor off the rocky coast, so they were driven on-shore by the westerly winds.