Queen of Scots takes centre stage

Saoirse Ronan in Mary Queen of Scots (IMDB)

It is almost 50 years since Vanessa Redgrave appeared in the title role of Mary, Queen of Scots, with Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth. Source: ACOFB.

In the meantime, there have been many films and television series about Elizabeth, but Mary has been in the background, remembered principally for the fact that she was executed.

In this new Mary, Queen of Scots, the focus is on Mary (Saoirse Ronin), who portrays the queen from a young woman in the 1560s to her execution in 1587. A de-glamourised Margot Robbie as Elizabeth offers an interestingly different interpretation of the English queen.

As does the screenplay, based on more recent research on the era and these prominent regal women. In fact, the screenplay points out that what the two women have in common is that they were monarchs in the 16th century where rulers were generally kings or emperors, and there was an expectation for the queens to be married and produce male heirs. Mary succeeded, though not in the way she anticipated, and Elizabeth did not.

While the film opens with Mary’s execution, and glimpses of the two women, most of the action is in flashback, very interesting for those who enjoy historical films and their explorations and portraits.

The pitting of Catholic against Protestant is a dominating feature of this film.

The film shows the significance of Mary's Catholicism in the context of the Reformation (especially with the thundering of Presbyterian John Knox in Edinburgh and his political machinations and advice) and the role of the Church of England in Elizabeth’s reign.

Early in the film there is a reference to “matters of state” and “matters of the heart”. While there are some of the latter, the relationships between the queens and their suitors – Elizabeth and the Earl of Dudley; Mary and her second husband Lord Darnley, and her third husband Bothwell – matters of state are the dominant themes. There are also mail plots, betrayals, murders.

– Reviewed by Fr Peter Malone MSC, ACOFB

Mary, Queen of Scots: Starring Saoirse Ronin, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Joe Alwyn, Ian Hart, David Tennant, Jack Lowdon, Simon Russell Beale, Martin Compston, James McArdle, Adrian Lester, Gemma Chan, Ismael Cruz Cordova. Directed by Jessie Rourke. 124 minutes. Rated MA (strong sex scenes and violence)


Mary, Queen of Scots (ACOFB)


Film Reviews 2019 (ACOFB)

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