Of Course, the Mary Queen of Scots Trailer Kills Me


Yes, your resident Mary Queen of Scots expert / fan / apologist has bitched about the official photos of that upcoming MQoS movie and the behind-the-scenes photos. Well, now there’s a trailer, and it’s just as fucking tragic as I expected.

Not just the costumes — which, honestly, you can barely see in this dark and broody 2:47 minutes — but the obvious glaringly inaccurate story and plot points that have been revealed. To wit:


Mary Queen of Scots should not have a Scottish accent

Mary Queen of Scots (2018) - parlez vous francais? ay a we bit laddie

Mary was 5 years old when she left Scotland for France. She spent the following 13 years at the French court where she eventually married the Dauphin and was briefly Queen Consort of France. French was her language of choice all her life — most of her personal letters are in French, and the poetry she wrote is in French.

Yes, of course, she spoke and read English fluently and also spoke and read Scots fluently (this is not just the dialect, but a language variety spoken in the lowland area of Scotland, distinct from the Gaelic language spoken in the highland areas). But it’s pretty damn likely Mary would have spoken English or Scots with a French accent. Not the other way around!

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Sorry, Saoirse Ronan, yah needna werk sah harrrrd.


Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I never met in person

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Mary and Elizabeth wrote each other extensive letters throughout their lives. They sent each other portraits. Elizabeth, in particular, was keenly interested in what Mary looked like and how the two compared in physical traits and accomplishments. Queen Elizabeth always appeared a bit ruefully jealous that Mary married and had an heir, while Elizabeth declined both options.

When Mary Queen of Scots abdicated her throne and escaped to England, she sought refuge and assistance from Elizabeth. The English queen sent representatives to deal with the Scottish queen, and Mary soon found herself a prisoner until, 19 years later, Elizabeth signed Mary’s death warrant and had Mary Queen of Scots executed.

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

But never, not once during that entire time did they meet in person. No visits, no chats, no peek through the window. Total fiction, folks. Yes, it happened in other movies, and it was wrong then too!

Look it up in a history book, not another fucking movie, people!


OK, there’s more than just the story stuff that’s annoying. The costumes still piss me off. So lemme repeat myself…


Mary Queen of Scots did not have multiple earrings in one ear

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

This is not a 16th-century French or Lowland Scots style, the mismatched earrings, nope, it’s not. Look, I discussed this back when the very first promo pix came out. But it’s pretty damn egregiously modern, so I’m going to repeat what I said then:

Yes, she had ONE set of ear piercings. That was fairly common for the period. NO do not keep posting this closeup:

1550, Maria of Portugal, workshop of Antonis Mor, closeup

It’s a close crop of this portrait of Maria of Portugal, Duchess of Parma, circa 1550, painted by the workshop of Antonis Mor. Using one or two images from kinda-sorta the period but in a different geographical area doesn’t prove jack shit. Parma is in Italy, not Scotland, France, or England, any of the historical places Mary Stuart would reasonably be expected to take her fashion cues from. ALSO, we have a very well-documented list of legit contemporary portraits of her showing, as I said, ONE set of ear piercings — here, I’ve collected the images all on Pinterest because, yeah, it’s my jam.

In the promo pix, I faintly wondered if it was an accident, the actress forgot to take them out for the photo. But oh no, every damn closeup in this trailer shows the five silver rings in her right ear. DA FUQ?!?

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)


The 16th-century hair hodgepodge is ridiculous

Much like Kendra has a thing about hair from the 18th century on, I’m into 16th-century hair. It’s wacky and wonderful, and yes, kinda weird, but that doesn’t mean movie-makers have to just throw it all together willy-nilly. Different styles were worn by different people of different class stations in different geographic locations at different times for different reasons. You can’t just mix and match. It’d be like taking all the hairstyles in the 20th century — pincurls, bobs pompadours, flips, afros, hippie hair, Farrah Fawcett wings, headbanger curls, the “Rachel-from-Friends” cut — and put them together in the same movie about the same people that’s supposed to take place over the course of a few years. Yeah, it’d look stupid.

As I mentioned during Snark Week about a similar, but less elaborate picture, this hairstyle was common during the 1590s. By when, Mary would have been dead (also, there’s still the stupid earrings, plus the rest of the jewelry looks totally modern).

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

In case anyone’s wondering, here’s what Mary would have looked like during her reign in Scotland:

Mary Queen of Scots circa 1561-1567, at the Blairs Museum

On the subject of hair, Elizabeth doesn’t always get the best looks either.

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

C’mon, this is the costume party shop cheezoid version of Queen Elizabeth’s wig you can buy online for $29.99. It’s cartoony and cliche. Some people are saying this flick is Oscar-bait, but GAG, I beg to differ.

queen elizabeth costume party wig


WTF is this hat supposed to be?

Elizabethan hats are another one of my things, I’m a big fan of them (they go with the hair, y’know). I’ve looked at a jillion period images. And I’ve yet to see something like this:

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

That hat resembles something out of the 1930s or 1940s.

1930s sewing pattern with hats

Not a hat actually worn in the period this film is supposedly set.

Mary, Queen of Scots, by unknown artist, circa 1560, National Portrait Gallery.

Mary Queen of Scots, by unknown artist, circa 1560, National Portrait Gallery.


You couldn’t get the right portrait for Mary Queen of Scots?

First, it’s a Snark Week cliche to have poorly rendered historical portraits in movies. Happens all the time, and annoys the fuck out of us. But I had to stare at this image a while to figure out why it bothered me so much. Then it dawned on me. It’s Elizabeth looking at a portrait of Mary, but it looks more like a bad portrait of QEI, than any image of MQoS!

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Talk about confusing. Compare with actual historical portraits, like these:

Miniature of Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard, circa 1586-1587

Miniature of Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard, circa 1586-1587

And here’s a portrait of Mary Queen of Scots that she sent to Elizabeth (it’s currently in the Royal Collection at Holyrood House; a larger copy is at the V&A Museum).

1558 miniature of Mary Queen of Scots by Francois Clouet

1558 miniature of Mary Queen of Scots by Francois Clouet

Seriously, people, this stuff is known, there’s evidence. It’s not that hard to figure out. Most of this shit is even online these days, FFS.


Other nitpicks

1) Casting David Tennant as that bugger John Knox? That’s just mean.  Sure, Tennant has an adorable and authentic Scottish accent, but Knox is a misogynistic blowhard who preached “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.” So fuck him.

2) I fully agree with Vulture who pointed out that the promo poster’s taglines are backwards. They read: “Born to fight” for Mary, and “Born to power” for Elizabeth. But Mary was queen at 6 days old when her father, King James V, died, so she really was born to power. Elizabeth was declared a bastard before she was 3 years old, and she had to fight for her place at court and her place in the succession until she became queen at 25. Swap those taglines, and it makes a lot more sense historically, even if that doesn’t play into the movie’s sympathies.

3) And there’s the grommets and that fucking ponytail. But at least it’s red hair, right? No. Not impressed.

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)


If you’re going to Costume College this year, come to my class titled Mary Queen of Scots’ Wardrobe Unlock’d where I’ll discuss what the real queen actually wore, not the BS that movies like this invent!


65 Responses

  1. Gail

    Well, since the costumes are all wrong, it begs that the rest of the movie will follow.
    The worse part: people will think this is (a) true; and (b) real. Insert a scream now.

    • Nzie

      Exactly right. Too bad. :-( I don’t know that much about MQoS—but I don’t want to learn wrong stuff just because it’s a movie (even though I love Saoirse Ronan).

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Why does every MoS movie have them meeting? Do we blame Katherine Hepburn’s movie? I will say more later. Gotta got to take mom to pt as she broke her arm.

    • Trystan L Bass

      It dates back to a 19th-c. opera Maria Stuart that had them meeting. Also, ppl are unimaginative & figure they were on the same island, surely the two women met!

      • MoHub

        Although not historically accurate, the Donizetti opera has magnificent vocal fireworks when the Queens meet. Besides, it’s opera and more about theater than history.

        A movie presenting itself as history is a whole other matter.

      • Susan Pola Staples

        True, but the opera although staged in the ’80s with Sills and several known sopranos also singing Maria Stuarta, I mentioned the Hepburn movie as thinking perhaps more ppl might remember it.
        Please podcast the Costume College lecture.

      • Dawn

        Given that I had to argue with a fricking history teacher in college about this (and got the condescending little remark about how interesting it is that accounts can differ–sorry, it’s been a long time and I still see red!), it’s a pretty common misconception. At least the teacher didn’t cite a movie at me. I guess.

      • Stuart Kay

        I 100% agree with you when I saw the trailer of this film I saw the multiple hoop earrings just on one side and I had to watch it over and over again to actually believe what I was seeing I mean what the actual f.ck ! It looked like she’d just trotted down the local piercing shop very very bad.
        I do not understand when costume designers and the hair and make up department can get these sorts of things so very wrong it’s astounding.. And don’t even get me started on Elizabeths wigs . Elizabeth was really vein and paid a lot of attention to her appearance she was the Queen of England but her wigs in this film looked like cheap fancy dress wigs or borrowed from coco the clown styled with a few Kirby clips here and there.. They didn’t even look like real hair they looked more like nylon doll hair

  3. pandorrah

    I think this is going to be a “restock the bar and wait for it to hit Netflix” movie.

    • Trystan L Bass

      Can’t decide it’s that or sneak a flask into the theater (if it’s not playing at the local theater that serves booze)!

  4. broughps

    Am I the only whose first reaction to QE1’s hair was they stole it from the Queen of Hearts in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland?

  5. ellid

    If ANY film except Black Panther wins for Best Costumes, it’s a travesty.

    • Susan Pola Staples

      I want a Shuri movie. She did become Black Panther later in the comics. Besides I really enjoyed her zingers to T’Challa.
      I agree with your Oscar assessment.

  6. picasso Manu

    Between those taglines and that horrid wig/hair (no, honest, I’m an AliExpress customer too, I get it. But one needs to dig around a bit, and not pounce on the first cosplay wig you find), I take it someone is not a fan of Liz the First, eh?

  7. Northcountrygal

    Ugh — I was looking forward to some good historical movies this year. This one is a real disappointment – I like Saoirse Ronan and had my hopes up (now they are down) And I was very curious about The Favourite, which concerns one of my favorite (ha ha) periods of history – the reign of Queen Anne. But it looks like it is going to be an idiotic unhistoric comedy. Oh well. . .

    • Rori

      I admit I kinda like the approaches for The Favorite. It reminds of of The Madness of George movie. Sure it’s gonna be corny and all, but at least they are doing something different other than the usual drama format that most other media are doing. Plus the costumes look awesome.

      • Northcountrygal

        My problem is that I have really studied this period and they appear to be portrayed as total imbeciles. And they were not -also some of the history: Sarah was running the government according to the write ups I have seen. -err no she wasn’t. Oh well – Carry On Queen Anne I guess.

  8. Sharon In Scotland

    There was a BBC version a few years ago with a french actress in the lead, (Clemency……?), can’t remember much about it apart from that and Kevin Macleod was Bothwell

  9. Lynne Connolly

    oh damn. So there’s another movie I won’t be going to see. That accent got under my skin and wriggled around there like the worst kind of tick. She does that right through the whole thing? Oh no. It’s like having a young and sexy Lord Melbourne romance Queen Victoria. Oh, wait…

  10. angharad

    Now I kind of want to see that movie with the 20th century hair from all over the century. Someone should make it, just for us to make fun of.

  11. Rori

    So the bigger question is… would you rather watch this 100x over Reign?

    • Susan Pola Staples

      I would say Reign. It has a good actress playing Catherine di Medici. And I would pass on the series after Francis died.

    • Charity

      I’d say this.

      You don’t even want to know how bad Reign is.

      Even if this is the worst piece of “historical” drama trash ever to hit the big screen, “Reign” has so many WTF? moments I lost count somewhere between the modern high heels and the king romancing a girl right into splatting on the courtyard beneath them. Oops.

      But yeah, Megan Fellowes’ bitchy Queen Catherine is the BEST.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Reign didn’t have pretensions to being anything other than a teen-age soap-opera set in a historical period. It was silly fun, & while yeah, I snarked it, I also enjoyed watching it for what it was — dumb TV. This movie is trying to be Serious Historical Drama & so far is failing, ehem, dramatically!

  12. Charity

    I’m trash for movies set in this period. I’m totally gonna go see it, pretend I know nothing about the real people, and hopefully enjoy myself. Though, I did enjoy your bitching about the trailer a great deal.

    Wait, David Tennant is in this? WUUUUT?

    Okay, now I def. have to see it.

  13. Saraquill

    This posts reminds me of an exchange I had years ago. (strong language ahead)

    Me: grousing about an allegedly accurate historical movie

    Twit: Who cares?

    Me: FUCK YOU

  14. Aileen Brasche

    I keep getting this trailer on youtube as an ad. Ugh… the accent. Gotta make Mary queen of scots sound scottish, or it would confuse everybody! Same thing with making Catherine of Aragon dark haired. One day, I want to see either of those done accurately.

  15. Alys Mackyntoich

    Look it up in a history book, not another fucking movie, people!

    I love you so very much right now.

    I play Scots in the SCA, varying anywhere between 13th and 16th centuries. Needless to say I have FEELINGS about incorrect Scottish history.

    • Lady Hermina Depagan

      Oh, I play a Tutor sailor in the SCA that is a part time pirate and a woman in disguise. I get all kinds of stabby when people ruin this period. Like that bad Queen of Hearts cosplay that Margo Robbie is doing makes my head hurt.

      • Alys Mackyntoich

        I think we’ve actually met in the flesh :-)

  16. Faye

    Looking at the actresses, I thought they should be swapped. Ronan looks more like a young Elizabeth, whilst Robbie looks like an adult Mary. I know, it wouldn’t make sense, Elizabeth was older than Mary. Also the blatantly photoshopped blue eyes on the promo posters bothers me. Both Elizabeth and Mary, from their portraits, seem to have had brown eyes.

  17. Roxana

    Those brilliant blue eyes are so wrong for Mary. As you can see from the portraits Mary Stuart wasn’t much of a looker by 21st century standards. The almond shaped golden hazel eyes are lovely and a long nose was aristocratic in those days not a flaw, and thin lips were more admired. She had the requisite pale complexion set off by that chestnut hair but most of all she had personality and charisma. Elizabeth too was no beauty, a fact she would admit in her more honest moments, but she was very proud of her beautiful hands, pale complexion and reddish golden hair. She too had personality and an allure that had nothing to do with ordinary beauty. Margo Robbie is too pretty – pretty.

  18. mmcquown

    Sharon — perhaps it was Clemence Poesy, currently starring in “The Tunnel”? Never had much sympathy for Mary; she seems to have been stupid, impulsive, and she murdered her husband (not that Darnley was worth all that much, but it’s a bad precedent). If Francis Crawford (The Game of Queens) had known how the child Mary was going to turn out, he’d probably have done her himself.

    • Roxana

      Darnley’s murder has got to be the most inept political assassination in history. You want to get rid of a man in bed with an illness the obvious course is an overdose or a pillow over the face. Oh, look, Poor King Henry died of his disease! How sad! On with our lives!

      Of course people would suspect foul play how much would anybody care? It wouldn’t be blatant and humiliatingly obvious like the explosion.

      • Susan Pola Staples

        or the old Italian stand by – poison. I’m sure that Catherine di Medici knew about it. And MoS grew up in the French court.
        Anything but blowing up his – Darnley’s -lodging. well, they didn’t at least go the Rasputin route. Poison, shooting and finally drowning him.

        • Roxana

          Darnley was pretty much unpopular with everybody. It was the outrageous nature of his death roused pity, then anger. A quiet death in bed wouldn’t have upset anybody – except his father of course – but most people would have given Mary the benefit of the doubt, or reflected that Darnley had it coming. As it was however NOBODY believed her argument that she had been the intended victim, or that she wasn’t hand in glove with the chief suspect, Bothwell.

          • Susan Pola Staples

            All too true. And as you said no-one really liked Darnley who made himself obnoxious to all just bc he was descended from Margaret Tudor, sis to Henry VIII with a claim to both thrones.
            And MoS as well as all of Catholic Europe, Elizabeth was 1) a bastard who couldn’t inherit the throne 2) a heretic. Or vice versa.

  19. Frannie Germeshausen

    I felt badly enough from an autoimmune flare, then I watched that trailer. The accent! NO NO NO! And when were they ever “friends”? Mary was a threat to Elizabeth’s existence from the second she was born. The real history is fascinating enough, people!!!!!

    • Roxana

      As the article says Mary and Elizabeth exchanged letters, lots of them, and little presents. There seems to have been a certain mutual fascination rooted in their kinship and queenship. Unfortunately Mary was after Elizabeth’s throne from the get go and Elizabeth knew it. That kind of killed any mutual affection.

  20. Roxana

    Judging by the portraits Mary was partial to pearl drop earings. Note none of the portraits show her famous heart shaped cap. She seems to have adopted that during her long imprisonment.

  21. Black Tulip

    This looks truly awful, but thank you, thank you, thank you for your reference to the Scots language. I grew up in lowland Scotland, and it drives me nuts when people assume that the country was all Gaelic, all the time!

  22. Jennifer Schillig

    Inaccuracies and all, I’m keen to see it. The way I see it…all historical fiction, written or filmed, has to take some liberties to make it work as fiction. (For example, the musical 1776. The published script has a lengthy appendix from the authors explaining what details were true to life, what they made educated guesses on because there wasn’t enough evidence, and what they had to change/make up for the sake of a good through-line.) I realize that there are some liberties that are TOO outrageous, but if a novel/movie makes some changes to make things work onscreen/on the page, I’m not too bothered by it.

  23. JVP

    I feel this movie lacked some serious budget.
    Anyways.This is from EW interview with the director Josie Rourke said
    “Then again, her real-life counterpart never did either. Historians believe the Queen of Scots and the Virgin Queen never met, but theater director-turned-first-time film helmer Josie Rourke was inspired by the 19th-century Friedrich Schiller play Mary Stuart, in which Mary and Elizabeth talk face-to-face on stage. “The whole conception of the film for me was around that meeting,” Rourke says of the historical drama. “We really wanted to have our version of that famous scene, with these two women looking at each other and being confronted with their choices — their personal choices, their political choices. It’s a moment that’s deeply personal.”
    Maybe that’s why Rourke finds it simpler to explain her film’s take on Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship in classic fictional, even comic-book, terms. “If you’re doing Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, you spend more time with Holmes, and if you’re doing Batman and the Joker, you tend to be [sympathetic] with Batman, but to power the story along, the [protagonist] is locked into an amazing psychodrama with a character who is both like him and the opposite,” she says. “What I really wanted to do was a movie in which two women got to do that.”

    But wait — does that mean Elizabeth is the villain, akin to a psychopath in clown makeup who just wants to watch the world burn? The heavy makeup’s there, but Mary Queen of Scots isn’t about one queen defeating the other; it’s more about them grappling with circumstances — manipulative counselors, male-dominated courts — beyond their control. “This is a movie about the cost of power, about how often impossible it is for women, no matter what choice they make, to be able to lead,” Rourke says.

  24. Regina Lawson

    Trystan- The silly hat WITH the shoulder cape make me think of the uniforms of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic girls, in HP & the Goblet of Fire.

    The Stuarts, described by Steven Gillan, Chief of Clan MacColin of Glenderry –
    “Great dancers, snappy dressers.”

    and, about someone, but not as a compliment –
    “All the political sense of a Stuart.”

  25. Sander

    So the wrong accent and faulty hairdo are deemed major historical errors, but a nobleman and noblewoman who are black and Asian respectively in 16th century England is no problem at all?

  26. Dyz

    Love your article agree wholeheartedly – I grew up in Scotland and am now 70 and Believe me there were no colored people in the 1500’s slavery didn’t begin until 1660’s – it was an anachronism and such POOR casting – a nod to the racial complaints but I think they should be more true to the actual period and The earrings I couldn’t get past those – whoever thought f doing that !!@

  27. pixiejen

    I find it amusing and telling that I don’t mind men’s stories being invented. Loved Braveheart, loved Rob Roy – don’t care at all that they are inaccurate.

    But get a woman’s story wrong and I get my back up. No way, not seeing it and will tell everyone I know it’s wrong too. lol!

  28. Jane Grey

    It’s so sad they decided to let the costumes be all wrong as the dresses that Mary and Elizabeth wear in their portraits are FABULOUS and it would have been wonderful to see them recreated for the screen!

  29. OcarinaSapph1r3 -24

    I will not pay the exorbitant local cinema prices to watch this travesty… I will hate-watch it through my streaming when it comes on, & that’s it- not even for Margot, my boy Guy or my favourite Doctor would I fork out for the cinema to see this – I just had to see the grommets & I felt like screaming.
    Why didn’t they take those damn rings out of her ears & put them on her dress instead… it’s a super-simple technique: awl a hole – place a ring – stitch over the ring – boom, historically accurate with enough support that the holes shouldn’t warp.

    God – I’d sooner watch ‘Reign’- I know what I’m getting into with that… & I can drool over the brief appearance of Luke Roberts, & the more substantial ones of Craig Parker, Dan Jeanotte & Adam Croasdell…

    I also agree that the taglines should have been swapped.

  30. Melissa

    I agree with this whole article, not to mention the last scene, when Mary is executed, Mary wore a red and her head wasn’t cut the first time and when she was dead her dog came out from under her dress