Film: Mary Queen Of Scots
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Guy Pearce,Ismael Cruz Cordova, James McArdle
Director: Josie Rourke
Rating: * * * *
Aren’t we glad we are born now? Not that patriarchy and misogyny has disappeared but this historical drama shows just how horrendous it was to be a woman and a queen. For the titular character, (essayed beautifully by Saoirse Ronan) being a Catholic as well was unacceptable to the English and Scottish Protestants. Especially the men who couldn’t abide the prospect of being ruled by a woman.
Why are men so cruel, Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) of England wants to know as she deals with issues of singledom and childlessness. For her kinswoman, Mary, religion exacerbates the problem. Widowed at 18 on the death of King Francis II, Mary returns from France to Scotland and marries a feckless English prince Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden), with a view to uniting the two kingdoms.
But toxic men are afoot in both courts, spreading vicious lies and rumours and inciting rebellion. When Mary’s English spouse is killed, she is forced into a third ( bad) marriage. One of the main architects of Protestant hatred is the calvinist pastor John Knox, ( who authored in real life, a venomous hate filled diatribe against women) and uses the pulpit to incite the people against their queen.
Doom and gloom is ensured by courtly intrigue and treachery and back-stabbing (of the literal kind as well) by Mary’s half-brother, James, Earl of Moray (James McArdle) and Elizabeth’s cunning adviser, William (Guy Pearce).
Beautifully shot and acted, director Josie Rourke’ adaptation of John Guy’s biography, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, is compelling despite a few historical liberties. For example, the two queens never met face to face in an extended dialogue. And it’s possible, the court wasn’t as mult-racial as depicted.
In the end, it must be said, Mary Queen of Scots had a stronger claim to the English throne than Elizabeth who was born on the wrong side of the blanket. Her father, Henry VIII killed all his wives, except the first who was a Catholic as he was, until he broke away from Rome and set himself up as Head of the Church of England.