Mary, Queen of Scots
I was almost loathe to see this film because when I thought about I I realised that I’d forgotten just about everything I’d ever learnt on the subject . I mean I knew it hinged on idiotic doctrinal hair splitting between Catholics and Ptotestants and that Mary came to a sticky end, but that was about it. Oh, that and I had a a razor -sharp recollection of a Monty Python sketch called “The Death of Mary Queen of Scots.” Which was no help at all, except to make me laugh all over again decades after I’d seen it.
Anyway I decided that my buggered up memory would still help me spot things like a Chinese Elizabeth and thatI was probably ahead on knowledge over the average punter anyway, and being an arrogant git, check the facts after I’d seen the film. So that’s what I did. And, largely innocent of the story- line, I sat back and let the film be a film and entertain me, and lo and behold – it did! The script was something of a wonder, it took a plethora of complex characters, clarified them, set them against each other and let the nastiness flow. As you’d expect the peacetime concept of Christianity “saviour Jesus meek and mild” gets short shrift when thrown to a gang of powered- crazed sociopathic religious zealots. Before long there is a civil war in England and everybody is slaughtering everybody else for the most completely idiotic of reasons (as is usual with wars.)
Mary, the Catholic, loses and is taken captive and locked up in some nasty black hole. Over time, in a series of very well acted and conceived scenes, Elizabeth comes to show a grudging respect, if not affection for Mary since under the various bullshit constraints of religion, politics and social mores, they actually have a lot in common. Sadly however, over the period of Mary’s incarceration the country has become more politically and religiously extreme. Attempting to appeal to their Protestant monarch, certain unpleasant element simply go barking mad. Crazy rumours of imaginary Catholic plots abound, and the conspiracy theorists line up to point the finger at Mary who, they theorise must be behind all the plots, presumably pulling all the strings by mobile phone from her dungeon. I made that last bit up by the way, partially to show how little the human race has changed since 1590-or-so. So Elizabeth, get her steely-eyed look on and tells Mary that although
“she doesn’t want to” the rumours are proving destabilising to the kingdom since the longer Mary stays alive the weaker Elizabeth looks as a monarch.
And we can’t have that- so Mary has a date with the headsman. For which she wears a lovely red dress so the blood won’t show, And the psychopathic Elizabeth goes on to be the Empress Elizabeth I who establishes the British Empire across the Globe and shifts the economy from an agrarian one with occasional forays into profitable wars on the continent, to one wholly founded on piracy, war and pillage One which, I might add, Britain is still living on the proceeds of So finally, “Mary Queen of Scots is a fine film, a good solid entertainment for a generation raised on the complexities of “Game of Thrones” which is itself closely modelled on (albeit earlier) British history, and the lack of dragons is more than made up for by the verisimilitude of the plotting. I found the ending to be far more emotionally confronting than I was expecting, even though by that time my memory had caught up and I was expecting it. I wanted to cry, but I was too emotionally wiped out by it. I left the theatre mumbling the [epilog of Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon]” to myself for the arid comfort it gives.
“It was in the time of (X)
That the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled,
Good or Bad,Handsome or ugly rich or poor
They are all equal now.”
I liked this film. I’m looking forward to seeing it again.
Since seeing “Mary Queen of Scots” my historical research on the subject, while it has existed, has been rather rubbish; But to give me my due, I am at least admitting that, rather than just grasping at a (catholic) God-given opportunity to bullshit.
I am assured that Mary and Elizabeth never met, their communication being constrained to a fairly long series of letters (which have presumably survived and which, at a guess, form the backbone of a very impressive script. ( one which has a grasp of the language of the time reminiscent of the work ofEthan Coen)
Points For (I’m overtired )
+The film does not have Katherine Hepburn or Lucille Ball playing anybody
+You actually care about the characters, something far beyond the reach of high- school history teachers