The new Mary Queen of Scots film is due for release any day. As a history lover my husband naturally assumed that I would be keen to see it. I am particularly interested in Scottish history (hence why I wrote The King with the Iron Belt) and have read many books on the 16th century, the time period when Mary Queen of Scots was alive.
Some people are very critical of history films and their lack of accuracy. I don’t tend to be overly critical. I realise that film makers will, for whatever reason, make some changes. I watched Braveheart when it first came out, and the inaccurate portrayal of the future Edward II, who was seen romancing with a French princess, did not annoy me too much. Just a little.
Clips I have seen of the Mary Queen of Scots movie show her and her cousin Elizabeth I of England meeting, something which never happened. There is certainly no evidence that it did and is unlikely to have been missed by historians if it did. This at first annoyed me. I felt that they were stretching the truth too much for my liking and that they were straying too far from what is documented to have happened. It is for this reason that I told my husband that I had decided I would not go to see it.
But then I was listening to Radio 4 one day when a woman, the producer I think, was being interviewed and was asked why she included this factual inaccuracy. Her reasoning was that there was much correspondence between Elizabeth and Mary, with many letters being sent, but in modern day, and on screen, this would have been hard to portray in such a way as to have full effect. Her reasoning was that having them meet would be much more effective, and I guess, a better use of time. What she said made sense in a way.
A few weeks have passed since I listened to that interview. Having thought about it for a while I am unsure as to whether this was the best decision or not. To me, a large part of my interest in the story of Mary and Elizabeth is the fact that they never met, despite Mary living in England for longer than she lived in Scotland. Would the outcome have been different if they had met? Could they have got over their differences? Certainly, today meeting is a large part of negotiations, and whether it is heads of state of businessmen, many deals have only moved forward because those involved have met in person.
We are living in different times of course, and perhaps the film will allow us to explore what the conversation would have been like had these two women met.
I do appreciate that decisions have to be made based on time, money and resources, and some will agree with them, some will not. I will reserve full judgement until I have seen the film, which I have decided after all, that I do want to go and see.