I am glad I am not a monarch. But more on that in a minute.
I have been watching CW’s Reign the past few months on Netflix.
Now let me be clear – this show is NOT for the faint of heart. Thus, the “fast forward” button (thank you Netflix and whoever invented the remote) gets a lot of use. The show has blood, murder, and sex. I just pressed the fast-forward button past those parts and watched the tale. Even then, there were at least two times I turned it off and vowed not to watch again because it got a bit too silly. But inevitably I turned it back on. I always have had a problem starting a story and stopping before the end.
Maybe I kept watching because I have always been fascinated by Mary, Queen of Scots. After all, my 7th great-grandfather joined the Jacobite forces in 1715 in an effort to put the Royal House of Stuart back on Scotland’s throne. (He was subsequently captured and banished to the colonies.) Maybe it was Adelaide Kane’s portrayal. She is beautiful and does a fabulous job with a difficult role. Maybe I am a softie for beautiful dresses and settings that seem larger than life.
Oh, and there are a number of handsome men to ogle over as well, and most of them are tall and dark. Although . . . sigh . . . none of them wear a tricorn. We are about two hundred years too soon for such fashion.
At any rate, my index finger got some exercise not only past the unseemly parts, but also on the pause button as I fact checked. The writers have taken basic facts and woven a story around them that at times is WAY off the mark. At others, not so much.
Mary Stuart’s life was never her own. She was in danger of death from the moment of her birth for she, not her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, was more than likely the rightful heir to the British crown as her grandmother was the sister of King Henry VIII. She was sent away from Scotland at six days old and grew up in French court. She was engaged to Francis I of France at a young age in an alliance that was to benefit and strengthen both France and Scotland which were staunchly Catholic at the time. That much of Reign is true. Furthermore, history seems to bear out her devotion to the frail and sickly Francis I (played in Reign by an aged and not so sickly Toby Regbo), and it is true in the historical record she seems to lose her way and her power after his death. The show was true to the spirit of her difficult life in that regard, and the last season, as she tries to gain support for her crown both in Scotland and England, is painful to watch. She is faced with only bad choices and a Protestant political faction led by John Knox that will do anything to destroy her.
Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII through his second wife Anne Boleyn, and so her claim to the British throne was always problematic. His desire to marry Anne, and the fact he could not get the Vatican to issue an annulment from first wife Catherine of Aragon who was a devout Catholic (as was Henry at the time of their marriage), precipitated the Protestant Revolution and the break of Britain with the Roman Catholic Church. English Catholics, nor the Vatican, recognized Henry’s marriage to Anne, and as Henry had no heirs by first wife Catherine, the crown rightfully belonged to Mary Stuart.
Queen Mary remained staunchly Catholic, while Elizabeth, taking the faith of her mother, was Protestant. Both queens subsequently became pawns in a larger game of politics and power. While much of the show takes liberties with history, this fact also comes through loud and clear.
In the larger context – I understand more deeply why my fifth and sixth great-grandparents had little trouble turning on England and supporting a rebellious cause to rid themselves of a monarchical government that cared very little for their well-being and more about politics and power. The young colonial empire, due to Indians at their backs and King George across the ocean to their front, felt used, powerless, and cast aside. Don’t get me wrong. I do not espouse monarchies or democracies. Either is good when run by just kings and queens or elected officials. Either is bad when the lust for power becomes the prevailing reason why someone seeks high government positions in the first place.
I have also decided after a run on royal shows (my Canadian husband is laughing in the hall as we speak – Reign, PBS’s Victoria and Secret of the Six Wives and more) that I am grateful I was not born a queen or a princess. If any of my ancestors were royalty and they lost that privilege, I thank them eternally for not fating me with such a life.
And now – my top 10 reasons I am GLAD I am not a monarch . . .
- You are never safe in your own home. A coup is always around the corner.
- You are not able to love freely. Arranged marriage anyone?
- Sometimes you have to kill one to save the many. Those darn uprising and wars.
- Someone ALWAYS wants you dead. After all, royals have power. And people want power.
- You can never trust even your friends. Money talks and people can always be bought off.
- Even your husband or wife could wish and will you dead.
- Are you a woman? You better hope you can bear children, or you may well be dead and another woman for your husband is just around the corner.
- You are automatically destined to be insecure. People want your position. People want your power. You cannot even really trust your friends. (See #5 above and #7 if you are a woman.) But hey – at least you have money for a psychiatrist?
- You cannot go for a simple walk or horse ride in the forest without having people come with you for protection.
- You cannot even be sure the food you eat is safe. After all, poison is poison.