Movie Review: Mary, Queen of Scots

*Review originally posted on

When it was announced that there would be a film about Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I was over the moon. My hope was that it would do both women the justice they deserve. If you have not seen the trailer, here it is:

How exciting does that look, right!? Since I am not sure how long it will be before I am able to see the film myself I had two wonderful friends who offered to write reviews for the blog. A special thanks to Sari Graham and Karen L. Largent for taking the time to write their reviews to share with all of you.

So…without further ado……

Movie Review #1:

Review by Sari Graham

This was a film that I was eagerly anticipating this year. Despite having some reservations after seeing the official trailer-Mary being portrayed as having a natural Scots accent, as well as an apparent face-to-face meeting between Elizabeth and Mary-I was excited to see if this film would bring more truth to the story of Mary and her turbulent rule (read: life) in Scotland.

I recently read Alison Weir’s Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, which cleared up a lot of the misconceptions that I personally (and regrettably,) had believed about Mary. The book was a refreshing and human insight into the woman, and much that we think we know about her is grossly misrepresented or untrue. Similar to Anne Boleyn, Mary Stuart’s reputation across history was purposely tainted and manipulated on the basis of making her appear far worse than she actually was. Both women had their faults and were by no means perfect, but also, both women were victims of the machinations of the men around them, and they both ultimately paid for it with their heads.

The accent notwithstanding, Saoirse Ronan portrayed Mary Stuart very well. Her representation of the young queen lined up very much with what I read about and was expecting from Weir’s book; the Tudor stubbornness, the headstrong attitude, the self confidence that bordered and crossed into arrogance, as well as the emotional decision making process that often lead to disastrous results. You begin to feel frustrated for Mary, because it’s clear she’s fighting a losing fight for that which she believes is rightfully hers, but also frustrated at her for how she behaves when things don’t work out in her favour, and her inability to own up to the messes she frequently contributes to. Her desperation turned her into acrimonious brat; crying and lashing out with threats that she couldn’t possibly follow through on.

Margot Robbie stepped into the role of Queen Elizabeth I. Though they often referred to each other as “sister” in the film, Elizabeth was Mary’s paternal first cousin once removed (Elizabeth’s paternal aunt, Margaret Tudor, was Mary’s paternal grandmother.) Margot brought more emotion but less intensity to the role of Elizabeth that I’m used to seeing, but perhaps that is because this was a version of Elizabeth that her court and people wouldn’t have seen; it was a “behind the scenes” look at the queen, and how she really felt and responded to the events happening north of her border. This was very much a view of Elizabeth the woman, and not the powerful Tudor queen exterior. You see her emotional struggles, her high highs and her low lows, and her heartbreak and grief for the things she does not and will not have.

The costumes and cinematography were amazing. There were beautiful landscapes captured for the setting, and the outfits were regal and charming. Director Josie Rourke’s decision to blindly cast supporting characters-such as the English Ambassador to Scotland, Thomas Randolph, as well as Elizabeth’s lady, the later formidable Bess of Hardwick-added depth and diversity to the film which was refreshing.

All in all, it was an enjoyable film. No historical film will ever be perfect, but aside from a few aforementioned reservations I had plus a few details I was hoping to see but didn’t, I left the theatre with little to criticize. I would recommend this film to any Tudor history lover, though my recommendation does comes with a suggestion; familiarize yourself with some of the major events in Mary’s rule, and some of the main players. Many people in the theatre were confused, as the events do sometimes jump around a bit, and time skips forward on occasion. Going in with a general sense of the times will help keep things clear for you.

Movie Review #2:

Review by Karen L. Largent

With much anticipation I recently saw the latest film about Tudor England, Queen Elizabeth I and her rival for the throne Mary, Queen of Scots.
Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie were perfect in the respective roles and both were portrayed a bit differently than other films.

Mary, the Scottish Queen, raised in France, has a slight Scottish lilt to her voice which would not have been true as she was more French than Scottish. She did speak French in the film with subtitles for those of us who are not bilingual.

Elizabeth was portrayed as an emotional, frightened woman who was at the mercy of the men of her Privy Council, her advisors and her people.
Mary was portrayed as stubborn, strong and a threat to the Scots rather than their Queen.

Men wanted to rule and did not want to be led by mere women.

The meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, which probably never happened, was the most compelling scene in the film, showing the true selves of both Elizabeth and Mary.
As for the history, it was spot on for the most part, following their lives and the events that unfolded during their reigns.
The costuming and cinematography were outstanding in their beauty.

For any Tudor lover who is not a stickler for perfection, this is a grand film portraying the lives of two Queens whose lives were hard, sad, and amazing in what they achieved.

I heartily recommend this film.



3 thoughts on “Movie Review: Mary, Queen of Scots

  1. I will never ever feel sorry for Elizabeth. I am very, very sorry. It did not matter weather it was private or public. You can not change history like that. Elizabeth could have sent Mary, Queen of Scots back to Scotland. Elizabeth could have given her a manor house in which to live with dignity. She did not pay Shrewsbury for Mary, Queen of Scots upkeep. It all came out of the Earl of Shrewsbury own pocket. My heart went out to that man but at least his wife, Bess of Hardwick hated Elizabeth and aligned with Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox to wed her daughter to Darnley’s younger brother. What was Mary, Queen of Scots’ fault was that she did not go back to France where she belonged and she was Dowager Queen of France and would have been treated with honour, even if she was no longer Queen of Scots. Mary, Queen of Scots had family in France. Elizabeth did not have feelings. She was heartless. Look at the way she treated Catherine Seymour, Countess of Hertford and Mary Grey Keyes. Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, the eldest son of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Anne Stanhope loved and adored the Lady Catherine Grey. I believe, you should check out a group in Yahoo in which I belong. It is a role playing group called ReignoftheTudors. So, I will not be watching this movie.


  2. Mary and the other woman may very well have called each other “sister” as I believe that it was common for monarchs to refer to each other as brother or sister. The depiction of the Scottish Court in the film was nothing short of disgraceful. While Hampton Court Palace was made to look sophisticated with well dressed courtiers and nice furniture, Holyrood Palace was made to look like a primitive hovel with the courtiers depicted as uncouth. Firstly, it was portrayed as a castle which it most certainly isn’t. There was no steps to the door with people having to clamber up a rock to reach the door. Inside it was dark and dingy with an absence of furniture and people sitting on the floor. This is just totally at odds with reality. Holyrood Palace, while small compared to the likes of Versailles, was regarded as one of the most sophisticated palaces in Europe, filled with beautiful furniture and the finest tapestries from throughout Europe. Mary’s apartments are still in existence so all that was need was to look at them to see what the palace was really like. Falkland Palace looks a bit how Holyrood did in Mary’s time and could easily have been used in the outside shots. It’s little wonder than when the film was shown in Scotland some people walked out.


  3. I also meant to say, regarding Mary’s accent, her first language was Scots which she spoke throughout her life. When she went to France she was accompanied by a retinue of Scots, including the Four Marys, who all spoke Scots among themselves. She learned French at the French Court and later English which she would have spoken with a French accent. However, while the film was mainly English, we have to remember that when speaking at the Court or elsewhere in Scotland, she would have been speaking in Scots and not English and so, despite using English in the film, we have to pretend that she is speaking in Scots, which is why she had a Scottish lilt.


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