Elizabeth: The Golden Age reunites director Shekhar Kapur and Cate Blanchett in the follow-up to the 1998 film Elizabeth, which told of the early years of Queen Elizabeth I. The earlier film deconstructed the earlier history of Elizabeth I, when she ascended to the throne following the death of her half-sister, Mary Tudor, aka Bloody Mary. The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (who was beheaded when Elizabeth was three), Elizabeth had been raised a Protestant in the Church of England. Mary Tudor, a devout Catholic, had been married to Philip II of Spain, which made him, until Mary's death, the Prince Consort of England.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age picks up some years after Elizabeth left off, with the Protestant Elizabeth now firmly in control of the British crown. Once again, Elizabeth faces enemies and insurgency, this time from her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton), and her former brother-in-law Philip II (Jordi Molla), who comes at odds with his former sister-in-law over both religion and her approval of the capture of Spanish treasure ships. The Inquisition is in full force in Spain, and the Catholic Philip regards Elizabeth as a heretic and whore, believing that God wants him to bring her down and bring England under the firm hand of the Catholic Church and the Inquisition. Once again, Geoffrey Rush is by Blanchett's side as Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's spymaster and adviser, whose intelligence about a plot against Elizabeth saves the queen's life, even as it sets in motion a war with Spain that could spell the end of her reign.