Queen Elizabeth I vs Queen Victoria

Monday 30 January 2017, 7pm | VIDEO & PODCAST NOW ONLINE

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Intelligence Squared’s historical and cultural combat events have been thrilling our audiences with their unique blend of entertainment, information and live performance. Here we present the battle of the queens. Both Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria set their stamp firmly on their era but which was the greater monarch?

On one side stood Philippa Gregory, bestselling author of the Tudor Court series of novels. She made the case for Elizabeth I, with widely acclaimed actor Fiona Shaw bringing this most majestic and flirtatious of rulers to life with readings from her speeches and letters. In the other corner was Daisy Goodwin, writer of last autumn’s hit ITV series Victoria, who will argue the case for her heroine. Award-winning star of stage and screen Greta Scacchi revealed the determination and wit of this most human of monarchs by performing extracts from Victoria’s diaries and personal missives. Chairing the proceedings was celebrated historian and television presenter Dan Jones.

Neither Elizabeth nor Victoria grew up expecting to be queen, and each had to struggle to assert herself in a man’s world. As Gregory will argue, Elizabeth managed this by her shrewd intelligence, playing off the men in her court against each other and refusing to dilute her power by marrying, despite the intense pressure of her advisers. As Catholics and Protestants fought wars across Europe, she averted bloodshed in England by consolidating the Protestant revolution begun by her father Henry VIII, expressing her religious tolerance with the famous words, ‘I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls.’

Goodwin made the case that Victoria was not just a great queen but an icon for our own times. Not only did she save the monarchy after a succession of dissolute and incompetent Georgian kings; by embracing marriage and motherhood, she set an example that our own queen and royal family have followed to this day. Her popularity was such that when in 1848 revolutionary uprisings toppled monarchies in France, Austria, Italy and Poland, Victoria’s throne remained secure.

Speaker advocating Queen Elizabeth I

Philippa Gregory

One of the most popular novelists writing today. She is best known for her portrayals of women in the Tudor period, and her novel The Other Boleyn Girl was made into a TV drama and a major film. She also wrote the No 1 bestseller The Queen’s Fool, a novel about the rivalry between the young Elizabeth and her half-sister Queen Mary.

Speaker advocating Queen Victoria

Daisy Goodwin

Screenwriter and novelist. She created and wrote the recent hit ITV series Victoria and is currently working on its second season. She has also published the novel Victoria: A Novel of a Young Queen. She has written two other novels, My Last Duchess and The Fortune Hunter, both set in the 19th century, which were New York Times bestsellers. As a television producer, she created a number of programmes including Grand Designs, which is now in its 18th year on Channel 4.


Greta Scacchi

Award-winning actress whose film credits include Heat and Dust, White Mischief, The Browning Version, Jefferson in Paris, The Player and The Falling. In 2016, she appeared in the BBC production of War and Peace as Countess Natalya Rostova. Her other television credits include Poirot, Miss Austen Regrets, Miss Marple, Daniel Deronda and Broken Trail. Scacchi’s West End credits include The Entertainer, Deep Blue Sea, and Uncle Vanya. She has done numerous audiobooks and radio drama for BBC Radio 3 and 4.

Fiona Shaw

Widely acclaimed Irish actress as well as a theatre and opera director. Her stage credits include As You Like It, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Joan of Arc, and a one-woman reading of T.S. Eliot’s epic poem The Waste Land, to name a few. Her roles in film have included My Left Foot, Harry Potter, Persuasion and Jane Eyre. In the theatre she is perhaps most renowned for her powerful portrayal of Richard II. She has worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, twice winning the Olivier Award for Best Actress, for various roles including Electra in 1990, and for Machinal in 1994.


Dan Jones

Bestselling historian, TV presenter and award-winning journalist. His books include The Plantagenets and The Hollow Crown. He has presented several TV series including Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets. His journalism appears on both sides of the Atlantic, and he writes a regular column for The Evening Standard.


Tickets are subject to Intelligence Squared’s right to make alterations to the speaker panel and cast, rendered necessary by any unavoidable cause.