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Movie Review: Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

By Edited Dec 12, 2014 1 0

Part of English History

The film “Mary, Queen of Scots” was released in 1971. A remake was done in England in 2013, which did not receive much publicity in the United States. In the older version, a very young Vanessa Redgrave portrays the monarch, who was named the Queen of Scotland when she was six days old.  She was the last Roman Catholic ruler of Scotland. Her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, is played by Glenda Jackson in this version. Elizabeth Tudor was the illegitimate daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and as such she had no legitimate right to the throne of England. The marriage of her parents was the catalyst which brought on Henry's excommunication from the Catholic Church and his subsequent declaration that he was the head of the Church of England.


Mary Queen of Scots

                                                                    Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary’s Early Life

Very early on, a plan was afoot to have Henry VIII’s son, the future Edward VI, marry the Queen of Scotland, but it was opposed by her Scottish Catholic advisors, which infuriated King Henry. To further relations with France, the young Royal was espoused to Francis II, the Dauphin of France, when they were both teenagers. Less than two years after their marriage, Francis, who was in poor health to begin with, died of an illness precipitated by an ear infection. He had been the King of France for less than 15 months. Because of his untimely death, Francis' wife was a widow at the age of 18. She was very unhappy with the political situation in France and decided to return to Scotland where she was the legitimate Queen. Her father, King James V of Scotland, had died shortly after her birth. The young Queen's mother, Mary of Guise, had acted as her regent while her daughter was living in France. Unfortunately, the Scottish nobles forced Mary to abdicate the throne in 1567, and she sought the protection of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, who had been named Queen of England in 1558.


Elizabeth I of England

                                                                Queen Elizabeth I of England

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I never married and is often referred to as the Virgin Queen. Still, she had a longstanding relationship with Robert Dudley, who served in lesser capacities during her reign, prior to his receiving the title of Earl of Leicester. Dudley was Elizabeth’s constant companion and her chief advisor in court matters.

Upon Mary’s arrival in England, Elizabeth I was fearful that she would seek the English throne since she was the rightful heir. Her grandmother, Margaret Tudor, was the sister of King Henry VIII, placing Mary in a direct line to the English throne over several illegitimate children of Henry, including Elizabeth. For that reason, Elizabeth disliked her Scottish cousin intensely. Meetings were set up between Lord Henry Darnley and Mary who both consented to a marriage. The young Royal was quite taken with the young Darnley, but he merely saw the proposed alliance as a positive step in his political ambitions. They produced a child, James VI of Scotland, who later became James I of England, succeeding Elizabeth I on the throne. Mary eventually realized Darnley's ambitious nature and the marriage came to an end.

Elizabeth's advisors warned her that her cousin was a dangerous enemy seeking the throne for herself. They suggested that she should be put to death, but Elizabeth could not agree to that. Instead, Mary was held in custody in several castles and houses in England for 19 years before Elizabeth finally agreed that she should be tried and executed for treason when she was 44 years old. Elizabeth wrongly believed that Mary was involved in a plot to assassinate her.

A Golden Age

The Elizabethan age in England was a time of great prosperity. It is considered the Golden Age in English history. Elizabeth I reigned for 45 years during which the English Renaissance reached its height; it was also the age of the greatest development of English poetry, literature and theatre. It is a moot question as to whether Mary, Queen of Scots, might have done as much for England as her cousin had accomplished, if she had acceded to the throne of England instead.


Wedding of Mary and Darnley

                                                           Wedding of Mary and Darnley   


The film “Mary, Queen of Scots,” received five nominations for the Academy Award and five nominations for the Golden Globe. Vanessa Redgrave received nominations for Best Actress for each of these awards, and Glenda Jackson received one of the Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress.

Mary Queen of Scots
Amazon Price: $20.00 $9.99 Buy Now
(price as of Dec 12, 2014)
An intriguing story of what happens in the Royal palaces of Europe..


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