Mary, Queen of Scots film – hit or miss for Sheffield heritage?

Mary reads a monologue at a Mary, Queen of Scots open day at Sheffield Manor Lodge
Mary reads a monologue at a Mary, Queen of Scots open day at Sheffield Manor Lodge

The much-vaunted and hyped-up film on Mary, Queen of Scots was released in mid-January this year. 

At a cost of over £180 million and with a stellar cast, it was promoted to scoop many of the academy awards in the USA and Britain.

David Templeman at Manor Lodge with a portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots

David Templeman at Manor Lodge with a portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots

Far from it, as it only received two nominations in all the categories on offer – costume and best supporting actress – no wins in either. So why did it not achieve the recognition which was laid in its path?

We need to look first at the remit of the film –based on John Guy’s award-winning biography, My Heart Is My Own.

It would appear that the script writer read the book and then went out and did her own take on the story  –the Hollywood version.

This would then explain some of the following:

The Doncaster Waites lead a procession during a Tudor experience day at Manor Lodge

The Doncaster Waites lead a procession during a Tudor experience day at Manor Lodge

1. Mary having a Scots accent when it would have been predominantly French – brought up in France from the ages of five until 18.

2. The two queens meeting up, when in fact they never met

3. The full 19 years of English captivity barely receiving a mention

4. Mary ageing not one day from the day she landed in Scotland – age 18 - to the day she was executed at the age of 44.

Rebecca Raven plays one of Mary's ladies in waiting at the banquet table at a Mary Queen of Scots open day at Sheffield Manor Lodge.

Rebecca Raven plays one of Mary's ladies in waiting at the banquet table at a Mary Queen of Scots open day at Sheffield Manor Lodge.

5. By not using the chronological path, it made the film difficult to follow

These are some of the inconsistencies if you look at it from an historical perspective and many will argue it is just a film and should be regarded as such.

If so, why base it on John Guy’s superb biography if you are going to put your own spin on it?

Mary’s actual story is a riveting tale from start to finish without it being tampered with.

Bess of Hardwick reads a monologue at a Mary Queen of Scots open day at Sheffield Manor Lodge.

Bess of Hardwick reads a monologue at a Mary Queen of Scots open day at Sheffield Manor Lodge.

The danger lies that in being economical with the truth, it sets a dangerous precedent in that people watching believe parts which are not historically correct.

We at Sheffield Manor Lodge and our Sheffield Castle colleagues are disappointed in the way that the English captivity was dealt with in such a trivial way.

Mary spent 14 years of her life in Sheffield between the Castle and Manor Lodge, forming an important part of English and European history.

Two of the central characters in the captivity were Mary’s custodians, Bess of Hardwick and the Earl of Shrewsbury.

In the film, Bess was portrayed as Elizabeth’s lady in waiting and played by an Asian actress when Bess was of true Derbyshire stock.

There is only one glimpse of Shrewsbury in the film, when in the final scene he is on the scaffold with Mary, acting as Earl Marshal of England.

The film version of Mary's story

The film version of Mary's story

However, in the final analysis, enormous interest has been created in people wanting to find out more about Mary’s true story.

This was reflected in the Mary, Queen of Scots day held in late January at Manor Lodge.

We expected a few hundred on a cold and windy day, but were amazed to get over 2,500 people attending from many miles around.

Such is the fascination of Mary Queen of Scots and one thing is certain, her story will continue to interest and beguile us for many years to come.

David Templeman is an Elizabethan historian, national speaker, chair of the Friends of Sheffield Manor Lodge and author of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Captive Queen in England 1568-87.

Mary, Queen of Scots, who was kept at Sheffield Castle and Manor Lodge

Mary, Queen of Scots, who was kept at Sheffield Castle and Manor Lodge