A couple of years back, while flipping the channels I came across a TV series called Reign. The scene was a mesmerising one with few young, gorgeous looking people wearing historical costumes and speaking in English accent. The first thought that came to mind was: “I seriously can’t think of a time when I was that young or pretty!” I came across the series again on Netflix in February and started watching it, managing to finish the four seasons in two months.
My verdict? Entertaining though historically inaccurate starting with the choice of the main actress who played Mary Queen of Scots. The Australian actress was 5’4 while the real Mary was 5’11. The series had the usual teenage drama mix: many fictional characters, modern songs, romance and the suspense of wandering ghosts and heathen cults.
In the series, Queen Mary is depicted leading a splendid life full of love and political achievements. But the reality was a far cry. Mary Queen of Scots was born in December of 1542. Her father King James V died when she was six days old. Her French Mother Mary De Guise, sent her to the French court at the age of five accompanied by “the four Marys” her ladies-in-waiting and the daughters of the noblest families in Scotland, who were her own age.
Mary married Francis the Dauphin of France in 1558 when she was sixteen and he was fifteen. Two years later he died of abscess in the brain. She returned to Scotland nine months later in 1561 to be welcomed by a complex political situation. Like England, the majority of Scotland had converted to Protestantism and her illegitimate half-brother Earl of Moray was a leader. Being a devout Catholic, Mary was regarded suspiciously and was preached against by John Knox the Protestant reformer who didn’t approve of her French upbringing.
Mary faced many challenges, mainly the internal problems of Scotland. However, her main focus was the English throne occupied by Elizabeth I, the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII. To many European Catholics, Mary was the rightful queen of England as she was the legitimate descendent of Henry VII. Both queens were ruling in a hostile environment and had to find an eligible husband to produce an heir in order to secure their thrones. Mary got married to her half cousin Lord Darnley in 1565 and had her only child James a year later. Lord Darnley was unpopular with a violent streak.
Though he was named a king consort of Scotland, Darnley had a bigger aim: to be granted the Crown Matrimonial- becoming the king if the queen died childless- which Mary rejected. The problematic marriage didn’t last long as Lord Darnley was assassinated by another nobleman called Earl Bothwell in 1567. Soon after, Earl Bothwell abducted Mary and forced her to marry him.
Many of her lords didn’t believe the abduction story and regarded Mary as a murdering accomplice, turning against her and raising an army to fight them both. Bothwell managed to escape and Mary was imprisoned and forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year old son James. Her brother was named regent.
After almost a year, Mary managed to escape to England, thinking that Elizabeth would help in attaining her throne. Instead, Elizabeth imprisoned her for nineteen years in different castles, before charging and beheading her for treason in 1587. Mary saw James last when he was ten-month-old. Elizabeth never got married and when she died in 1603, he was named King James VI of Scotland and James I of England and Ireland, fulfilling his mother’s lifetime dream.