[Spoilers for Mary Queen of Scots.]
I saw Mary Queen of Scots last night. I thought they did a pretty good job on the history, although I would quibble with the death scene. They did not age Mary at all, even though she had spent many years in Elizabeth’s custody. They also claimed that Mary did not participate in the plot that got her branded a traitor; I had learned otherwise, and need to read the current historical thinking on this. (All of it, not just the part that supports either the movie’s position or my understanding.)
It seems to me, given Mary’s religion and her personality, reasonable that she would be willing to be the focus of a plot on Elizabeth’s life. Maybe not an active plotter, but I think it highly probable that she would at least have foreknowledge, which would itself be treason, absent her informing Elizabeth. After all, there were Catholics in England who plotted Elizabeth’s death, and Mary would be the most logical person to put on the throne, as she would inherit anyway if Elizabeth died before she did.
Given the way that the monarchy was inherited in England (men outranked women even when the women were older; a woman became queen only when there were no male heirs), the only way that Mary Queen of Scots was likewise queen of England instead of Elizabeth would be to view Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon as illegitimate, therefore making Elizabeth a bastard. Most Roman Catholics in England believed this; certainly those who plotted to depose Elizabeth did. Mary, in her insistence that she was Queen of England, was espousing this view, whether or not she verbalized it explicitly.
At any rate, I keep thinking about the scene where Mary and Elizabeth meet. Mary screams at Elizabeth, “I am your queen!” after which Elizabeth visibly hardens.
What I really wish Elizabeth had done, both in the movie and in real life, is respond: “I think not. You have 24 hours to return from whence you came. We will provide a guard as far as the border, but no farther. After that, if you are found in England, it will be assumed that you intend an attack on our kingdom, our throne, or our person. You will be seized, imprisoned, and executed.
“Do not presume to ask us for any further assistance. You will receive none.”
History would have been cheated of a nineteen year catfight, but Elizabeth might have rested better at night. True, the plotters would have still been working towards her death, but they might have had a harder time of it.