電影改編自詹姆斯·高曼（James Goldman）的同名百老匯舞台劇，以1183年的耶誕節作背景，描述英格蘭國王亨利二世與他王后艾琳娜同聚一堂時因王位繼承人問題而發生的勾心鬥角。The Lion in Winter is a 1968 historical costume drama made by Avco Embassy Pictures, based on the Broadway play by James Goldman. It was directed by Anthony Harvey and produced by Joseph E. Levine from Goldman's adaptation of his own play, The Lion in Winter. There was a remake in 2003.
The Lion in Winter is set during Christmas 1183, at Henry Plantagenet's château and primary residence in Chinon, Anjou, within the Angevin Empire of medieval France. Henry wants his son Prince John (1166-1216, the future King John of England 1199-1216) to inherit his throne, while his wife Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (whom he keeps locked in Salisbury Tower) wants their son Prince Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199, the future King Richard I of England 1189-1199). Meanwhile, King Philip II of France, the son of Eleanor's ex-husband, has given his half-sister Alais, who is currently Henry's mistress, to the future heir, and demands either the wedding or the return of her dowry.
As a ruse, Henry agrees to give Alais to Richard and make him heir. He makes a side deal with Eleanor for her freedom in return for Aquitaine, to be given to John. The deal is revealed at the wedding, making Richard refuse to go through with the ceremony. Eleanor, having lost again, masochistically asks Henry to kiss Alais in front of her, and then looks on in horror as they perform a mock marriage ceremony. Having believed Henry's intentions, John, at the direction of his other brother Prince Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany (1158-1186), plots with Philip to make war on England. Henry finds out, dismisses all three sons as unsuitable, and locks them in the dungeon. He makes plans to travel to Rome for an annulment, so that he can have new sons with Alais, but she says he will never be able to release his sons from prison or they will threaten the new sons. Henry sees that she is right and condemns them to death, but cannot actually put them to death and lets them escape. He and Eleanor go back to hoping for the future.
The Lion in Winter is fictional: there was no Christmas Court at Chinon in 1183; there was a Christmas court at Caen in 1182; none of the dialogue and action is historic, though the outcomes of the characters and the background are historically accurate. In reality, Henry had many mistresses and many illegitimate children; the "Rosamund" mentioned in the film was Henry II's mistress until she died. The article on the Revolt of 1173-1174 describes the historical events leading to the play's events.
Peter O'Toole as King Henry II
Katharine Hepburn as Queen Eleanor
Anthony Hopkins as Richard the Lionheart (In his motion picture debut)
John Castle as Geoffrey
Nigel Terry as John
Timothy Dalton as King Philip II (In his motion picture debut)
Jane Merrow as Alais
Nigel Stock as Captain William Marshall
Kenneth Ives as Queen Eleanor's guard