15/05/2017
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Mary Queen of Scots movie - the life of Mary Queen of Scots on film

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With reports of a new Mary Queen of Scots movie due to be filmed later in 2017, we take a look at how the Stewart queen has been portrayed on film over the years. Explore Mary's life in the History Scotland Stewart monach digital special.

Following the news that a Mary Queen of Scots movie will be shot in Edinburgh, starring Saoirse Ronan in the lead role, with Beau Willimon as writer, we decided to look back at three different films starring the Stewart queen, which between them span almost a century.

Mary's tragic story, with the death of her father King James V just days after her birth, followed by her childhood in France, return to Scotland and eventual execution in England, on the orders of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, has provided film-makers with plenty of inspiration.

The execution of Mary Queen of Scots (1895)

This Victorian film starring a Mrs Robert L Thomas as Mary, used some of the first known film special effects, where the execution scene was edited to replace Mary with a mannequin before the executioner's axe fell. Although the film lasts for just eighteen seconds, its has deservedly taken a place in film history.

Mary of Scotland (1936)

This 1936 Mary Queen of Scots movie featured Katharine Hepburn in the role of the Stuart queen. The movie was adapted from a 1933 play by Maxwell Anderson. In this clip, Mary passionately talks about the effects of her imprisonment.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

Vanessa Redgrave played the tragic Stewart queen, opposite Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth I of England in this 1971 movie from British Universal Pictures. Despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that the film departed from actual events in order to increase the drama - for example the two queens are twice shown in a face-to-face meeting, when in fact they never met - the film received several Golden Globe nominations, including best motion picture and best motion picture actress (Redgrave and Jackson).

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