Seeing a woman in the halls of power is relatively new in the course of human history. At best, in the past, women have been help-meets, wives and servants. At worst, they are disposable to relegated the background of history.
The new movie, Mary Queen of Scots (based on the book Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy) takes place in the 16th century, when two women ruled England and Scotland concurrently. Elizabeth I of England (Margot Robbie) has successfully ruled England without questions of her legitimacy to the throne. The only issue that she is without a husband and a child. Her cousin, Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) has recently taken her place as Queen of Scotland after the passing of her first husband. She knows that she has to marry and bring a male heir into the world, but she is not willing to marry for the sake of politics.
Both Mary and Elizabeth wish for peace between their kingdoms, but the men who council both Queens are not content to bow before women, nor are they willing to let two women maintain a political friendship. Around them, the seeds of discord are being sewn. Will Mary and Elizabeth rule their respective countries in peace or will the interference of the men around them result in upheaval and violence?
It takes a certain kind of BPD (British Period Drama) to appeal to a wide range of audience members. While Mary Queen Of Scots falls squarely within the BPD genre, it has a specific message that appeals to a certain kind of audience member. While I very much appreciate the timely message of women in power and how we react/treat them, this film is a bit on the heavy side when it comes to the narrative.
Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.
Mary Queen of Scots is presently in theaters.
Biopics, especially those revolving around those that are no longer with us are tricky. The movie has to be entertaining, but it also has to be truthful to the history and to the person who is the subject of the biopic.
In 1998, Elizabeth, the biopic of Elizabeth I of England was released. Born in 1533, no one expected Elizabeth to one day become Queen Of England. Her father, Henry VIII, had her mother, Anne Boleyn, executed so he could marry wife number three, Jane Seymour. The film focuses on Elizabeth’s early years on the throne and the bumpy path she would have to travel to become the beloved and respected Queen that we know her today to be.
Cate Blanchett is one the best performers of her generation for good reason. Elizabeth is one of her earliest introductions to the American film audience. Her performance is nuanced, powerful and human.
I absolutely recommend it.
Women, we have been told, are supposed to be meek, mild and subservient to the men in their lives. But what happens when a woman becomes a ruler in her own right?
Elizabeth I Of England was not the first woman to lead the English people. But she is one of the most well known queens, especially of her period. Helen Castor’s 2012 book, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth tells the stories of the Queens Of England who ruled before Elizabeth ascended to the throne. The profiles include Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou.
I liked this book. Each of these women were brought to life in full color. They had different reasons for ruling. Some were the children of aristocrats and royalty, others married into the title and a third were women who led England until their underage sons and heirs to the throne were of an age to rule. My only criticism of this book is that the chapters about Lady Jane Grey and Mary Tudor seem a bit rushed, but other than that, I recommend this book.
In 1990, Antonia Fraser published The Warrior Queens: The Legends and the Lives of the Women Who Have Led Their Nations in War. The women whom she writes about come from different time periods and different parts of the globe. She starts the book with Boudicca and moving forward through time, the book ends with three modern female leaders: Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher. I liked this book. It is a history book that is not meant to be simply written and read for academic purposes. It is immensely readable. I especially recommend this book for young women who are looking for female role models who have stepped into positions of power.
I recommend both.