SNARK WEEK: Reign’s Wedding Dress and Historical Accuracy


As part of Snark Week, we’ve been picking on Reign (the TV show about Mary Queen of Scots) for being particularly bad when it comes to having NO concept of historical accuracy in clothing. Mary recently got married (spoilers!), so of course there had to be a Wedding Dress. I was looking at photos of this dress, when I realized, “Hey! This is actually a pretty fabulous recreation of Mary Queen of Scots’ wedding portrait!” Read on, while I lay out my case:

First, the real Mary Queen of Scots, painted for her wedding to Francis II of France:

Francis II, King of France, and his wife, Mary Stewart, Queen of France and of Scotland c. 1558, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Francis II, King of France, and his wife, Mary Stewart, Queen of France and of Scotland c. 1558, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Now, there’s not a whole lot of Mary’s dress to go on there, so I’m guessing the filmmakers had to flesh things out with some other common portraits of Mary from around this age:

1558 miniature of Mary Queen of Scots by Francois Clouet, Royal Collection

1558 miniature of Mary Queen of Scots by Francois Clouet, Royal Collection

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) in an official portrait, 17th century, Blairs College

Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) in an official portrait, 17th century, Blairs College

Now, let’s look at the wedding dress worn by the character of Mary in Reign:

2013-17 Reign

Now at first glance, you might not see the historical sources in this dress, but hang on as I spell it out for you…


1. They are both non-bipedal!

2013-17 Reign

Close study of the portraits of the real historical Mary Queen of Scots never show her legs (1). Clearly, she had some kind of deformity that made her non-bipedal (2). I’m not sure how she got around, but her gowns were all made to accommodate this (4) (of course, the Des Moines Iowa ambassador’s reports tell us that she was rolled around by a team of 4 oxen [5], but recent scholarship has cast doubt on this account [6]).

Now, look closely at the TV gown. The costumer cut the gown with the same wide, A-shaped skirt to make the actress look like she had the SAME deformity! So cool!


2. They both have heads with stuff on them.

Reign (TV) costumes historical influences (not really) 2013-17 Reign

Really, we shouldn’t understate the significance of this. The original Mary has hair that is styled AND wears a crown on top. The screen Mary? EXACTLY THE SAME.


3. They both wear earrings.



4. Both are wearing clothes made of FABRIC.

Reign (TV) costumes historical influences (not really) 2013-17 Reign

Mary’s real historical dress is probably made of linen with silk or wool (7). On screen, Mary’s gown could be silk or cotton, or it could be something synthetic. Nonetheless, both costumes are MADE OF FABRIC.

But it goes beyond that. See how the real historical Mary has a solid (red) part of her gown, with a white collar (called a partlet) worn above, filling in her upper chest area? The TV dress has a solid fabric from about the same point down, with a contrasting lace overlay filling in the Exact Same Area. Now THAT is some mad research skillz!

Also, don’t forget that BOTH of the relevant extant 16th century dresses — the Great Bog Dress of Antarctica, AND the Hortense of AssEndOfNowhere Effigy Gown — are made of… you guessed it! FABRIC (8)!

5. Both dresses have sleeves.

2013-17 Reign

That’s right, bitches. You see that fabric covering the real Mary’s arms all the way down to the wrist? We know from wardrobe accounts that Mary had rampaging eczema, causing her to always cover her arms (9). Well, TV Mary has the SAME SLEEVES covering her arms! BOO YAH.

Also, let’s pause to note that both are wearing shiny belts around their waist, which in the 16th century was used to keep a lady’s Wandering Womb in place (10). COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT!


6. Both are wearing RINGS.

Reign (TV) costumes historical influences (not really) 2013-17 Reign

Okay, piece de resistance time: Both the historical Mary AND the TV Mary are wearing GOLD RINGS. Historically, these were used to keep ones fingers attached in an era of rampant leprosy. Granted, the rings are on different fingers, but I think we can allow a bit of artistic license here as no one is sure of exactly how much leprosy the real Mary QoS had.


Summing up…

I think anyone could see through this deeply and thoroughly researched article that the wedding dress worn by Mary in the TV show Reign is firmly drawn upon the historical portraiture of Mary Queen of Scots from her lifetime. Clearly the filmmakers were seriously committed to an accurate portrayal of Mary, ensuring that generations of young women will better understand the politics of the era and the influence of queens regnant in the Renaissance.



  1. Wikipedia
  2. Google
  3. A book with some pictures
  4. A book without pictures
  5. An AOL forum, I forget the name
  6. Some guy I met at a bus stop
  7. My mom
  8. Your mom
  9. A Buzzfeed list
  10. My butt


The More You Know

19 Responses

  1. Veronica

    OMG you have mad research skilz! I’m so going to copy this dress for my renaissance theme wedding!

  2. mme b

    A fine, scholarly resource – thank you FF and Internet!

    How long until this article makes it to TIL on Reddit..?

  3. Al

    I’m just can’t with that pulled up hemline. Nothing has ever screamed “this is rented and we can’t cut anything off of it” more.

  4. Suzi

    Brilliant work, Kendra. Thank you for the extremely useful information. Next time I make a costume for my Scottish group I will know where to look for the research!

  5. Loren

    Based on your amazing research I know this will be the prefect dress for me to painstakingly recreate out of casa collection satin and staples/tape for the historically accurate medieval, burner, wicker, wiccan, forest fairy hand-fasting ceremony I’ll be having.

    Thank you Frock Flicks!

  6. Alana Jolley

    I realize your website and blogs are spoofs, but calling your readers bitches is insulting. I do love Reign – even though as you say, it is totally and completely inaccurate from costumes to characters. I have fallen for Bash – even if he never existed! Mary is gorgeous and plays the part well – most likely portraying some of the real personal traits of the real Mary. To be a real “royal” must have been terribly stressful, never knowing who your friends and allies were or when your death sentence might be proclaimed.

    • Kendra

      Sorry, it was meant in the spirit of the-kids-these-days, who frequently use the term “bitches” for their friends!

    • Kimberly ann Bryson

      Oh get over yourself alana..I take great pride in being a bitch and appreciate accuracy in historical apparel..I am doing as close of a representation as I can to both elizabeth 1 gown and Mary of scots execution apparel since that is what myself Nd mom are going to be for halloween this year..

  7. MrsC (Maryanne)

    OMG! I just realised I have a wardrobe full of authentic Tudor frocks! They all have fabric, sleeves and, well, stuff. However did I do it! lolz. Thank you for a good belly laugh!

  8. Philippa Boleyn

    Beg to differ about Des Moines, Iowa…as a part of the former New France, we know better. We also know our fashion/costume history here. Find another place worthy of such nonsense for the comment, please. We are not amused, although we agree, REIGN is dreadful.