Spin-off expected as stars attend premiere of Mary Queen of Scots film

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First Minister Nicola Surgeon with Josie Rourke, director of Mary Queen of Scots, and Saoirse Ronan at the Scottish premiere of the film in Edinburgh.

Mary Queen of Scots Scotland Premiere Edinburgh Castle-Saoirse RonanBy Bill Heaney    Pictures by Alan Simpson

Stars of Mary Queen of Scots attended the film’s Scottish premiere in Edinburgh on Monday evening.

Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, left, who plays the young monarch, was joined by Scottish actors Jack Lowden and James McArdle at the event.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was also among guests at the screening at Edinburgh Castle.  Ms Sturgeon tweeted: “Loved this movie – brilliant to see it brought to the big screen.

“The portrayal of Mary’s strength and courage and her complex relationship with Elizabeth is first class. Great acting all round too.”

Dumbarton, which has strong historical links with Mary Queen of Scots, is expected to gain from economic spin-offs from the film through visitor numbers rising at Dumbarton Castle, where Mary was twice ensconced, once when she was a child and later when she returned from France.

The new movie offers a great opportunity for Scotland’s tourism sector, according to Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s culture secretary.

Ms Hyslop said she was “delighted” that the film, with Saoirse Ronan as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Margot Robbie as her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, was being shown for the first time in Scotland.

Ms Hyslop, who represents Linlithgow where Mary was born, said: “This is a great opportunity not just for the screen and the culture side, but also for the tourism aspect for Scotland.”

Earlier, she told MSPs on Holyrood’s culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee about the budget for 2019-20.

Current budget proposals would see cash going to Screen Scotland to support the sector north of the border double to £20 million.

The minister said the cash injection is part of efforts to double the production spend by film and TV companies in Scotland.

Mary Queen of Scots

mary queen of scots.jpg 2So, who was Mary Queen of Scots then? Mary I reigned from 14 December, 1542, to 24 July, 1567

Mary Stewart (Marie Stuart) was born in Linlithgow Palace, the daughter of James V, king of Scots and Mary of Guise.  From 1548 she lived in France and was married to the dauphin.

Following his death, she returned to Scotland in 1561, a year after the Scottish Reformation.

She married Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, in 1565 and their son, the future James VI of Scotland and James I of England, was born at Edinburgh Castle on 19 June 1566.

Darnley died in February of the following year following an explosion at the Kirk O’ Field.  She then married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was generally believed to be Darnley’s murderer.

Following an uprising against the couple, Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle and forced to abdicate in favour of her one-year-old son.

After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, she fled to England seeking protection from Queen Elizabeth I.

But she was arrested and held in captivity until her execution for treason at Fotheringhay Castle on 8 February 1587. She is buried at Westminster Abbey.

The film itself has been criticised for its historical inaccuracies, and one expert, Dr Estelle Paranaque, said the meeting between the two queens never happened.

The historian said the film, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, was “problematic” and could mislead viewers about their relationship.

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Saoirse Ronan with James McArdle (left) and Jack Lowden.

Dr Paranaque also said that Mary, who was raised in France, did not have a Scottish accent.

Dr Paranaque told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme the meeting never happened.

“We have proof of that,” she said. “We have letters of frustration of Mary and we have letters of Elizabeth not knowing what she should do or not do in that case.”

The historian, who specialises in Elizabeth I, said not only did they not meet but they were rivals from the start, with Mary seeing Elizabeth as her inferior.

Mary had once claimed Elizabeth’s throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign by many English Catholics.

The Scots queen was held in captivity for 18 years before she was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587, at the age of 44.

Scottish film critic Eddie Harrison said the historical accuracy would not bother cinema-goers if the film was exciting.

He said: “It has got two very prominent actresses in it, neither of whom are Scottish. They have dramatic licence. We can’t dramatise letter-writing, we have to find another way of doing it.

“The primary purpose of the film is to make money and to entertain. If it sends people back to history books that’s great but a history book and a film are two very different things.”

Mr Harrison said films such as Braveheart and Rob Roy proved to be very popular despite not having a totally accurate portrayal of history.

He said: “As long as we allow Americans to tell our stories we are always going to get a distorted view of history, entertaining as that may be.”

Mary Queen of Scots at Dumbarton

By Billy Scobie (Alexander Tait)

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Dumbarton Rock and Castle. Picture by Michael Moffat.

Another stipulation which had been made by the Queen of England was that Dumbarton Castle must be placed under English control. It was presently being held by a beleaguered garrison under Lord Fleming for the Scots Queen, and Elizabeth well knew that Dumbarton was the one place where a Catholic French or Spanish army could land and set about the business of retaking Scotland for Mary and the Pope. Elizabeth did not know, however, that Mary, in spite of her assurances to the contrary, had secretly instructed Archbishop Beaton to propose a French invasion of Scotland.

This reminded Mary of her second visit to the Rock. It had been two years after her return to Scotland, after the tragic death of her first husband, Francois. She had been undertaking a royal progress through the western lands of her little realm. When she had spent a couple of days at Dumbarton, a great, strapping Highlandman called James McConnell – how was it he had styled himself? – yes, “Lord of the Outer Isles”, had been there with his wife, a daughter, as Mary recalled, of the Earl of Argyll.

rossdhu house, where the lights did not come on until 1949

Rossdhu House, seat of the Clan Colquhoun at Loch Lomond.

It had been a beautiful summer’s evening and Mary and some of her court were high on the battlements looking northwards towards the Highland mountains and speaking of the next day’s visit to Colquhoun’s Loch Lomondside castle at Rossdhu. They had been discussing whether to travel on horseback, or to take small boats up the River Leven and into the loch, and it was then that McConnell’s wife had appeared with servants heavily laden and presented them all with beautiful outfits of Highland clothing in splendid tartans of scarlet, green, purple and white. They had all laughed to see Tom Randolph, Elizabeth’s English diplomat, clad as a Highland laird.

(From “Upon this Rock” by Alexander Tait: Neetah Books)

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