I watched the series finale of Reign the other night. Wow! They moved fast! No sooner had Lord Darnley been killed did John Knox and his cronies march in there and arrest Mary. A minute later, we were in 1587 at Mary’s execution. So much for Mary’s marriage to Bothwell, captivity and the Babington Plot! The series got seventy-eight episodes total, and I wish they could have had a couple shows to adequately portray Mary’s demise. So instead, Elizabeth becomes the super-villain!
Mary leaves her infant son, now King James to be raised by his uncle, the Earl of Moray. On this show, the earl is a noble figure, Mary’s right-hand man. In history, the Earl of Moray is the main source of Mary’s problem. He is very much like the John Knox character on the show and forces Mary’s abdication and flight into England. But the show had to go the simple route of a hot good guy and Elizabeth being evil!
The scene with grown up King James meeting with Elizabeth, pleading for his mother’s life, is the one that really got me. Elizabeth gives King James the choice – his mother’s life or the English throne when Elizabeth dies. Said meeting never took place. Additionally, Elizabeth didn’t name her successor until her deathbed. She was a smart lady and naming her successor would have compromised her. The idea that she gave the King of Scotland a choice like this is preposterous. James then chastises Elizabeth for being weak and afraid of Mary. Who cares? Elizabeth lives and fosters the Golden Age of England.
Unfortunately, the show didn’t address the Babington Plot. Although Mary was set up, there was a letter in her own hand authorizing her supporters to assassinate Elizabeth. Again, Elizabeth had no choice. She had to execute her rival, but the show didn’t acknowledge it since it didn’t fit into the “heroine Mary” narrative.
Twitter was a dream on Friday night. People were tweeting, “Elizabeth, you b****!” Elizabeth probably was that for many ones, but don’t attack her for protecting her realm.
Historical shows/films, due to time constraints or whatever, often change history but not to the point where they change a person’s character. The only other one I can think of is Anne Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl. Don’t even get me started on that one. Even The Tudors and Braveheart, riddled with historical inaccuracies, didn’t change the characterization of the subjects. They may have changed some of the surrounding details but not the actual person.
We live in a world where people think Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the United States and chocolate milk comes from brown cows. Unfortunately, people think what they see on a historical show is fairly accurate, and this show really missed the mark on one of history’s strongest women. Like it or not, Mary, Queen of Scots had it coming to her and much of it was her fault.
P.S. Mary, Queen of Scot’s execution was a signal to Catholic Europe to attack England aka the Spanish Armada. Therefore, Elizabeth’s England defeated the Armada in 1588, not before Mary’s death as portrayed on the show. I had to let that out.
P.S.S. If you want a good movie on Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth, please see Mary, Queen of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth. Although there are some inaccuracies, such as scenes where the two queens meet, they don’t change the story.