1 (Donizetti: Maria Stuarda). Sop. Queen Elizabeth I of England, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. On her orders, her cousin, Mary Stuart, is held captive in Fotheringay Castle, Mary being her rival for the throne and the love of Leicester. He begs the Queen to see Mary. She does so and there is the famous (but non‐historical) confrontation. Elizabeth accuses Mary of treachery and of being involved in the murder of her own husband, Darnley. Mary calls her a vile bastard. Encouraged by Cecil, Elizabeth signs Mary's death warrant. Created (1834, as Irene) by Anna del Serre; (1835) by Maria Malibran.
2 (Donizetti: Roberto Devereux). Sop. The Queen is still in love with Devereux, Earl of Essex. She gave him a ring and promised that if he ever returned it to her she would guarantee his safety. He has returned from Ireland and been accused by his enemies of treason. She does not believe this of him, but she does suspect he is unfaithful to her. When she is shown a scarf found near his heart when he was arrested and searched, she recognizes it as belonging to Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, thus confirming her suspicions. As Essex awaits execution, the Queen waits for the ring to arrive so she can reprieve him. It comes too late, brought by Sara as Essex is executed. Aria: L'amor suo mi fe'beata (‘His love is a blessing to me’); Vivi ingrato, a lei d'accanto (‘Live, ungrateful man, at her side’). Created (1837) by Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis.
3 (Britten: Gloriana). Sop. Queen Elizabeth I. Cecil warns the Queen to beware of Essex, but she assures him that, though she and Essex do have a close relationship, she is not seeking a husband. The Queen attends the Norwich Masque. At a dance in the Palace of Whitehall, the Queen changes into Lady Essex's dress, and is humiliated by her own ridiculous appearance. She appoints Essex Lord Deputy of Ireland. He returns when his campaign to conquer Tyrone fails and bursts in on the Queen whilst she is dressing and without her wig. Ultimately she is obliged to sign Essex's death warrant. The Queen, in spoken words in the epilogue, addresses the House of Commons. Arias: Hark, sir! This ring I had at my crowning; On rivalries ‘tis safe for kings to base their power. Created (1953) by Joan Cross (and performed memorably by Josephine Barstow in the Opera North production first seen in 1990).