It was condensed from a play of the same name and directed by Louis Mercanton and Henri Desfontaines. It was shot in Paris and starred Sarah Bernhardt as Elizabeth and Lou Tellegen as Essex. Bernhardt (by then 68 - she said of the film "This is my last chance at immortality") and Tellegen were already romantically involved, and this was their second film together.
Its production company, L’Histrionic Film, was forced into liquidation by Pathé Frères during the film's production, but it was completed with funds from Adolph Zukor. Zukor also brought it to New York, where its US release (on State Rights basis, on 12 July 1912) was Famous Players Film Company's first film release, and convinced other American companies that feature films were commercially viable. Famous Players advertised "Famous Players in Famous Plays", later became Famous Players-Lasky, and then Paramount Pictures.