37 thoughts on “Red & Dead: Mary Queen of Scots’ Execution on Screen

  1. I’m creeped out by Fraser’s description of Mary’s garters. Who was looking that high up her skirts?

  2. Not part of the costume but what about the dog underneath her skirts? Did that really happen or is that some madness I picked up in a bad book?

    1. Yep, that’s in Fraser’s biography — the little dog hid under Mary’s skirts all thru the execution & was discovered by the ppl taking care of the body after she was dead.

  3. Does anyone know what it means when it says her was “embroidered with black velvet”? Was it some sort of applique or something like chenille embroidery? This period of history is not my period of expertise when in comes to clothing.

    1. I’ve always wondered about that myself. I can’t think what it could be but applique.

    2. Probably applique, but it could be a kind of couching as well. There were a lot of heavy surface treatments done that gave texture to garments in this period.

  4. I LITERALLY thought the MQoS dress was the same one from The Golden Age. It was such a direct copy of the earlier film (right down to ripping off her cloak).

    Are you positive it isn’t, and that they didn’t just add the trim?

    1. They were being historically accurate…to a film three years earlier. I guess it’s something. And denim comes in red too so it could have been worse…

        1. Usually I hope this designer would read this blog, but maybe not if we’re going to potentially inspire such bad ideas. ;-)

    2. Well, the stupid crochet is inserted into the middle of the arms — you can just see it. Would be a lot of work to retrofit that into an old gown. So why not make a whole new abomination???

  5. Red was of course the color of martyrdom and Mary spent her last days posing as a martyr to her Catholic faith. Maybe it gave her some comfort.

  6. My fav is Elizabeth R and Vivien Pickles. Seems to be the best and is in line with the costumes of Elizabeth I played by my favourite ERI Dame Glenda Jackson (if she’s not a Dame, she should be. Although if she’s still a MP, then she’s the Right Honourable).

    The martyrdom red of Ms Pickles Gown which is probably the red the accounts were either mentioning directly or strongly hinting at was as you know due to Mary’s staunch Catholicism and she was put up for sainthood at the time by several European Catholic monarchs.

    1. I’m am similar to the author of this piece except my obsession is Elizabeth 1 and Anne Boleyn with Mary Q of S is a strong interest also..
      With regards the costumes and historical accuracy, the various design of gowns for Mary’s beheading is terrible and not worthy of her legacy least of all on film.. What I can is when Glenda Jackson was asked to play the role of Elizabeth she refused more than once saying the historical accuracy was off and so she declined, after long negotiating Glenda accepted the role but on the conditions that the historical content was as accurate as it could be including costumes as well.. So that’s why even after forty or so years it still stands out as the best in all aspects including the beheading of Mary and her costumes.. As far as I’m aware it’s the only one where they incorporate her little terrier dog found under her skirts as its showed next to Mary’s headless body.. In real life that poor little dog was so distressed it died not long after Mary. . A pitiful and sad ending for both that really touches your heart..

      1. Personally I am team Elizabeth all the way which gives me a very jaundiced view of Mary. I blame my bias on Elizabeth Jenkins’ Elizabeth the Great but honestly nothing I’ve read since has substantially altered my views.

  7. If Reign hadn’t wasted so much time on the nonsense in France with Charles and Henri apparently getting in a fight over a fictional girl, maybe Mary could’ve had a SLIGHTLY less embarrassing gown.
    But, really, a zipper? The one thing WORSE than metal grommets?

    1. How come they didn’t even bother with the red? The most famous bit of that scene and they just skipped it??! Who made this show, the Joker?

  8. There’s also the element that some costume designers/art directors are not good historians when it comes to visual images. So they often use paintings which they think might be correct without understanding that artists their own issues of artistic license and timeliness. Like this image of the Execution of Lady Jane Grey (which was supposed to be Mary Queen of Scots, but the artist couldn’t sell it). The red is the correct color, but note the 19th C off the shoulder neckline.

    1. That’s why you look for Dutch guys. All the good 16th century English painters with access were Dutch. Except Hillard, obviously. Daniel Mytens and John de Critz the Elder provided some really good earl 1600s paintings of court figures which were probably painted from life(although it’s hard to know exactly which ones they themselves did versus their students).

  9. Did any of these renditions deal with the fact that it took three tries to completely decapitate Mary? Also, eyewitness accounts state that her ladies blindfolded her before she laid her head on the block, and she had to feel for it with her hands in order to locate it.

    1. The 2005 Elizabeth I is particularly gruesome with the axe.

      Blindfolding the execution victim is traditional, but films may not choose to do it because of how it it appears on screen.

      1. Thanks! I hadn’t seen that one; Glenda Jackson (and maybe Bette Davis) are my go-to Elizabeths. Do you think it makes Mary appear more of a martyr to show her placing her head stoically on the block sans blindfold?

        1. I think it’s a mix of how the actress looks with a blindfold, does the director want the audience to identify with the character, will there be close-up shots, & overall feel of the scene.

          I compare with Anne Boleyn execution scenes where she’s blindfolded (again, traditional, typical) & it’s often played for pathos to make the character look sad & sympathetic after being tempestuous & calculating.

          MQoS tends not to have that kind of story arc, & her death is played as a virtue (& historically, her motto during captivity was ‘in the end is my beginning’), so if a director considered blindfolding to appear sad & pathetic, they’d avoid it, I suspect.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: