I’m probably the biggest Mary Queen of Scots fan you know. My first stint at renfaires was in a guild that portrayed the court of MQoS, and I was a lady in waiting. I’ve been to Scotland several times primarily to see her artifacts at Holyrood and other places, and I always visit my favorite portrait of her at the V&A in London (I’ve been planning to recreate that portrait’s gown for years), and of course I’ve visited her tomb at Westminster Abbey. I have shelves of books about Mary Queen of Scots, starting with the absolute best biography, the Antonia Fraser one, and including a bunch of museum catalogs of portraits and items associated with our ill-fated queen. I got so fed up seeing every other 16th-century portrait tagged as “Mary Queen of Scots” that I created a Pinterest board of the only verified portraits made of Mary during her lifetime.
And yet I watch the TV show, Reign.
Go ahead, laugh. Then check out my top four reasons for tuning in and why you should watch Reign too.
1. The costumes are hilarious and also pretty.
Let’s just get this out of the way — OF COURSE they’re not wearing anything like historically accurate 16th-century French court garb. That’s obvious. You can argue till you’re blue in the face that they should be and what idiots the show-runners are for not making this happen. Or you can lie back and let the couture wash over you. Get an eyeful of the crazy-ass things they put all the Reign characters in. It’s like Fashion Week highlights. The main idea for the women seems to be “long dresses, the wilder, the better!” And it gets pretty wild. The men all wear generic-y Renaissance doublets or pirate coats, so not much to look for. It’s all about that ballgown, baby.
Btw, the costume designer, Meredith Markwork-Pollack, notes that one of her influences was the movie La Reine Margot, so yeah, not historically accurate, but dark and sexy, totes. And quit knocking the costumes as “prom dresses” — Markwork-Pollack is quoted everywhere as using quite a few Alexander McQueen gowns for Mary, plus designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa, Gucci, and Free People for all the characters. About half the Reign costumes are designer and vintage clothes, the other half custom-made by the show. In an attempt to be ever so slightly less glaringly modern, Pollack also states:”I stay away from anything too synthetic or bright.” I’m sure you’re all relieved.
2. It’s a juicy soap opera.
Sex! Torture! Poison! Religious wars! Patricide! Bastards! Rape! Murder! Plague! It’s not graphic (this ain’t cable), but the Reign writers have no qualms with throwing everything and the kitchen sink into a story. It’s mostly not predictable a good chunk of the time, except in that soapy way that you can predict something nutty will happen. The show has covered a couple historical events — King Henry does die in a joust, for example, but I doubt they’re going to kill Francis off soon. This is neither history nor Game of Thrones!
3. Catherine de Medici is a total bitch.
This may be the most historically accurate thing about Reign. Catherine de Medici is portrayed as a power-mad, slightly psycho bitch, which seems pretty darn accurate to me. And she is played with aplomb by Megan Follows. The character isn’t a one-note villain, she gets her tender moments and revealing asides, then she goes off to back-stab and poison and betray confidences. I also wouldn’t mind one of her faboo brocade coats for myself; I’d wear it to an SCA event. She is a soap opera diva right up there with Alexis Carrington. She’s both a typically wicked mother-in-law and a renaissance MILF.
4. Mary is a goth.
OK, I’m outing myself here. This is the real reason I keep watching. Mary Queen of Scots, as depicted in Reign, is a goth girl in looks and deed. She has long almost-black hair (not red as in history), and she wears a lot of black or other dark colors, especially when she needs to look strong. Black and red seem to be her “power” colors. Or she wears white (or even silver-grey) when she’s feeling melancholy. That hints at her romantic-fatalistic worldview, which makes me think she secretly listens to the Cure and the Smiths in a little room in the castle somewhere. She probably has pointy boots under those long black skirts too. She’s just like me! I’d wear a good 75% of what she wears, if, y’know, my days were filled with strolling around a candlelit castle and fretting about the state of my affairs. See? Just her job description is that of a goth. Naturally, I love this show, no matter how much it goes against the history I’ve been studying for the past 20-some-odd years. This is me, livin’ the dream.
So, will you watch Reign? Even just to snark?