Royals, diplomats, explorers, and servants all are ambitious, competitive, and treacherous, then make speeches about national pride. Constant politics, plotting, and betrayal.
A man has his tongue cut out (bloody mouth visible) and is beaten (brief image, mostly assailants' kicks shown, rather than his body). Torture scene features screaming and bloody bodies, as well as heads in cages (with screws designed to poke holes in the skulls). One brother attempts to assassinate the other with a knife; the attacker ends up in prison, where he appears bloodied and collapsed (the abuse isn't shown, just the effects). Assassination attempt on the queen ends with gun fired, but no hit. Execution of a traitor shows hanging of bloody body (full body shot), then cut to dangling feet. Execution of Mary Stuart shows her head on the chopping block, the executioner with ax raised, and then cuts away, to the loud sound of the blade hitting. Elizabeth slaps Bess hard. British Navy vs. Spanish Armada battle includes canons, gunfire, flaming bodies, screaming victims, and a horse leaping from a ship in slow motion into the sea. A ship loaded with explosives serves as vehicular bomb.
Several scenes show cleavage, sometimes heaving, mostly encased in period bodices. Repeated references to Elizabeth's virginity (she makes one, in a joke about the name "Virginia"). Spanish ambassador accuses Elizabeth of taking "pirates to your royal bed." Complex flirtations among Elizabeth, Bess, and Raleigh feature speedy dialogue and subtle glances. Kiss between Raleigh and Bess; subsequent sex scene features nude torsos in profile, shadows, and dissolves.
Mild language includes occasional uses of "hell" and "bastard." One muffled word could be 'f--k,' but it's very difficult to hear.
Drinking at gatherings; Raleigh brings tobacco from the New World, saying, "You breathe its smoke: Very stimulating!" Elizabeth and Bess try smoking and cough.