History of the World According to the Movies: Part 22 – Renaissance France and Scotland

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A scene from the 1971 film on Mary, Queen of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave in the title role where she marries her half-cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley in a Catholic ceremony. Sure this may look like a fairy tale wedding to some people but those who know anything about the story of Mary, Queen of Scots knows that it all goes downhill from there. Seriously, Darnley was a real jerk as Timothy Dalton played him.

Of course, if there’s a movie about Tudor England, chances are that you will have either France or Scotland as their enemies (or Spain but that’s for another post). Nevertheless, these countries go well together with the Renaissance era since they both had Catholic monarchs as well as a large number of Protestants in them. It also helps that Mary, Queen of Scots grew up in France and was married to the French king (I’m not kidding on this for her first husband was Francis II). France during the 1500s was ruled by the Valois family as well as the place where the Catholic and Protestant clashes came to a head with religious wars and the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Yet, you also had a guy like Henri of Navarre who was willing to convert to Catholicism and marry a French princess so the country could be at peace. Of course, once he ascended the French throne, he issued the Edict of Nantes which brought religious toleration to the Catholic country. Then you have Scotland, home of Mary, Queen of Scots who was one of the most unlucky monarchs of history with a poor choice of men as well as a Catholic queen in a country with a Protestant majority population. Not to mention, she’d end up abdicate for her son and would later be beheaded by her cousin Queen Elizabeth I in England. Nevertheless, movies about Renaissance Scotland and France do contain their share of errors which I shall list accordingly.

France:

Catherine de’ Medici:

Catherine de’ Medici instigated the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. (Sure she was anything but a saint and she saw little wrong with the travesty, but she’s probably innocent of starting the whole thing. Also, she was planning to ally herself with the Navarre family who were Protestants. The massacre was probably more likely a spur of the moment thing started by the Guise family because of the marriage between Medici’s daughter and Henri of Navarre. And the Guises were more extremist Catholics than the French royal family. Still, Henri Duke of Guise would later apologize for the whole affair and put the Huguenots under his personal protection.)

Catherine de’ Medici poisoned Queen Jeanne III of Navarre. (Jeanne died of natural causes but people suspected poison.)

Henri III:

Veronica Franco slept with French King Henri III and convinced him of a Franco-Venetian alliance. (Yes, she did sleep with him while he visited Venice, but she didn’t convince him to ally with the city-state. She wrote poems for him as well as dedicated poetic works to the French king though.)

Henri, Duke of Anjou (later King Henri III) had a clothing obsession and dressed in drag in front of the English court of Queen Elizabeth I. (Yes, he did like clothes and occasionally dressed in drag. Yet, he never actually went to England or met Queen Elizabeth I. His brother Francois did and was one of Elizabeth’s few suitors to court her in person earned the nickname of “Frog.”)

King Henri III was a flaming cross dresser. (Yes, he was a cross dresser but he was anything but gay since the number of female mistresses he had was unaccountable. Thus, he was more of a cross dressing skirt chaser extraordinaire.)

Henri III had an incestuous relationship with his aunt Scottish Queen mother Mary of Guise. (They never had a sexual relationship. Also, they never met or were blood related. She was just his brother’s mother-in-law. Oh, and Mary of Guise was a member of an extremely Catholic family in France who were rivals to the Valois royals.)

Marguerite of Valois:

Marguerite of Valois’s lover Joseph La Mole was wounded by marauding Catholics during the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. (This is based on a true story, but she claimed the man was a different guy named Monsieur de Teian. Still, it’s said she and La Mole were involved, but that’s as far as it goes.)

Marguerite of Valois was a beautiful ivory skin brunette as well as poisonous. (From contemporary portraits I’ve seen of her, she seems to have lighter hair as well as bears a strong resemblance to Catherine de Medici {who wasn’t the most attractive woman}. However, she probably got by on her fashion sense and personality since she had a string of lovers. Also, she was used more as an unwilling pawn than anything.)

Other:

Charles IX died of arsenic poisoning and was mistakenly assassinated by his family. (He died of tuberculosis, not poison. Also, his family wasn’t trying to assassinate Henri of Navarre for he was too valuable for them to kill.)

Catherine de’ Medici’s children committed incest together while Henri III had feelings for his mother. (This is highly unlikely, but this was probably started by Alexandre Dumas in his novel  Le Reine Margot.)

Diane de Poitiers plead the king for mercy on behalf of her husband Count Louis de Breze who’s been charged with treason while the adult prince Henri wrestled with his groom. (It was her father who was charged with treason which was in 1523 when Prince Henri was 4 years old.)

Stuart Scotland:

Mary of Guise:

Queen mother Mary of Guise rode in front of her troops on the battlefield with both legs over the horse. (Even a reigning queen wouldn’t ride in front of her troops {and she actually refused to do so} as well as rode side-saddle. Oh, and she sent a fleet against the English and rebelling Scottish Protestant landlords with a fleet.)

Queen mother Mary of Guise was killed by Francis Walsingham. (She died in June 1560 of dropsy realizing she had it the previous April.)

Mary, Queen of Scots:

Mary, Queen of Scots made decisions based on her emotions. (There were perfectly logical theories why she’d marry Darnley and Bothwell, neither of these guys were good men.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was petite. (She was said to be 6 feet tall.)

Mary, Queen of Scots approved the murder of her husband Lord Darnley. (We don’t know whether she approved or not {though many historians think she was innocent} but still, having him alive wasn’t going to make her life better and it’s not like the guy didn’t deserved it because he was kind of a bastard. I mean the guy killed one of her friends in front of her while she was pregnant. He was also said to have died under mysterious circumstances. Also, the authenticity of the Casket Letters has been hotly debated.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was abused by her jailer. (Her jailer, Amyas Paulet treated her rather well.)

Mary, Queen of Scots had a Scottish accent. (She had been living in France since she was a child and was once married to the French king. She would’ve had a French accent.)

Mary, Queen of Scots had a West Highland White terrier. (It appeared in Scotland in the 19th century.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was executed for no reason. (She was involved in the Babington Plot which was a conspiracy to put herself on the English throne {though she wasn’t originally a part of it though getting her in might have been a job by Francis Walsingham}.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was blonde. (She was a redhead.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was executed by a single swift axe stroke. (It took two ax strokes to lop her head off with the executioner using the axe as a saw. Some said it took three.)

Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution was held indoors. (It took place in the great hall at Fotheringay castle, which isn’t near the Scottish mountains but in flat English countryside.)

Mary, Queen of Scots had James VI of Scotland (or James I of England) at the Earl of Bothwell’s estate. (He was born in Edinburgh castle.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was pretty right up to her execution. (She wore a wig at the time and had suffered from wearing lead based makeup. Oh, and she died at 44 and had been in custody at various places.)

It was only the English Protestants who wanted Mary, Queen of Scots dead. (The Continental Catholic powers might’ve been involved as well. After all, who would support the overthrow of a Protestant monarchy for a woman shacking up with her husband’s killer? She was worse than worthless to them alive.)

Mary, Queen of Scots escaped with the Earl of Bothwell after the Rizzio murder. (She didn’t. She actually escaped with Darnley, believe it or not.)

Mary, Queen of Scots married her last two husbands for love. (Darnley maybe, but Bothwell, no way.)

Mary, Queen of Scots was romantically involved with her secretary David Rizzio. (They weren’t involved but Darnley did suspect it. Still, there’s no question that Darnley was the father of James I of England.)

Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley:

Lord Darnley had a homosexual affair with David Rizzio. (He was actually jealous of Rizzio for his association with his wife, which was the reason he killed him.)

Lord Darnley was sent to Scotland to woo Mary, Queen of Scots. (It was to help his dad, Lennox with financial stuff.)

Lord Darnley was a member of one England’s oldest Catholic families at the time. (His dad was an exiled Scottish lord while his mother was a Tudor and a Douglas. Also, he was Mary’s half-cousin who did have rights to the Stuart crown.)

Lord Darnley was in love with Mary, Queen of Scots. (He probably didn’t love her.)

Lord Darnley had syphilis in the days following his death. (We’re not sure what he had or whether it was syphilis, smallpox, fever, or poisoning. Yet, it didn’t kill him.)

Lord Darnley had set the explosion at Kirk o’ Field to kill his wife Mary, Queen of Scots. (We’re pretty sure that he didn’t set the explosion.)

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell:

The Earl of Bothwell and Mary, Queen of Scots had a loving relationship. (I don’t think Mary felt any love for this man.)

The Earl of Bothwell was at Mary and Darnley’s wedding. (He was in exile at the time.)

James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell was in love with Mary, Queen of Scots and thought about her best interests. (Bothwell wasn’t exactly what you’d call a nice guy. Sure most historians believe that he killed Lord Darnley but that’s not the worst thing he did {actually he kind of did Mary a favor}. He squandered his fiancée out of her possessions and later abandoned her {which will later cause him to spend the last ten years of his life in prison}. He was said to have gotten divorced from his first wife for fooling around with a servant {or because he had his eye on Mary or the crown}. Then there’s how he managed to get hitched to Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary, Queen of Scots says that the two were in love and she freely consented. But actual historical accounts say that they were just friends before the two married and that Bothwell was more or less after her for power. Also, Bothwell might have even kidnapped and raped her in order to secure her marriage to her and the crown. Not to mention, they were married in a Protestant rite, which wouldn’t be what Mary had in mind. Still, Mary’s marriage to Bothwell was one of the reasons why she was forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son James VI {who’d eventually become James I of England} and was later imprisoned by her own people before Elizabeth I got her.)

The Earl of Bothwell was executed by dragging. (He died in a Danish prison.)

James Stewart, Earl of Moray:

The Earl of Moray plotted against Mary, Queen of Scots and wished to use his half-sister as a figurehead. (Despite their religious differences, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Earl of Moray seemed to get along rather well. He only turned against Mary in opposition to her marriage to Lord Darnley but he was pardoned after returning to Scotland from seeking shelter in England.)

Other:

Scottish lords wore kilts in Mary, Queen of Scots’ court. (Scottish lords didn’t wear kilts in 16th century Scotland.)

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