3 Stars – Thoughtful

mary queen of scots.jpg

The farther away we get from major events in history the more they blur together. Thinking back on U.S. history, the 250 years of change from the British period to the present is almost hard to comprehend in terms of the transforming change it represents. And yet, the 250 years before the American Revolution was equally transformative in terms of its impact, challenging everything we knew from religion, to the renaissance of art and philosophy, to whether the world was flat.

Who was Mary, the Queen of Scotland? She was not “Bloody Mary”, the Catholic monarch of England who burned 280 Protestant dissenters at the stake. That honor goes to Mary I, step- sister of Elizabeth I who both served as the Queen of England.

Mary and Elizabeth were the offspring of Henry VIII, who famously divorced Mary’s mother Catherine of Aragon, and beheaded his second wife Anne Boleyn before Elizabeth’s birth to his third wife, Jane Seymour. Ironically, Mary fought to re-establish the Catholic Church in England following her father’s infamous battles with the Pope over marriage. But, it was Elizabeth who succeeded her, that firmly struck a compromise in the creation of the Church of England, separating themselves to this day from the control of Rome.

It was a parallel universe in Scotland that gave Elizabeth I a greater challenge. Mary, Queen of Scots (played admirably by Irish actress Saoirse Ronan) was only 6 days old when her father, James V of Scotland, died in 1542 at age 30. She was raised by regents of the court and was married off to at an early age to Frances II of France to help preserve a Catholic alliance.

Mary I of Scotland was determined to defend Catholicism against the rising critics just as her cousin Mary I of England had attempted to do. She sought to protect her line of succession by marrying another heir to the British throne, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley(Jack Lowden) following her return to Scotland from France after her first husband’s death.

Mary Queen of Scots takes us on the journey of European power struggles that ultimately culminated in Mary being held captive by her cousin Elizabeth I of England (Margot Robbie) and beheaded for treason. England severed its ties to the Pope and the protestants became better known for sailing to the new world and creating the basis for revolutionary change. In between these historic changes is this case study in dysfunctional family dynamics!

While it is fascinating to follow the antics of the power struggles of the royals and the changing influence of the Holy Roman Empire, the world was in the grip of extraordinary change. Untold riches were at stake as the world opened up, with trade to the east and a newly discovered land of opportunity to the west.

The Roman Catholic Church was in a losing battle for the souls of humankind as long as it tried to keep people ignorant of the Gospels in a world that was inventing the printing press. A renaissance of thought was recasting the Biblical stories of God’s movement in the lives of people, democratizing its message in every language on earth. No principality or power could stop it, because it was an explosion of the deepest longings of the heart.

Mary Queen of Scots ends with her death, but the ironic conclusion of the story gains its greatest strength in the life of her only child, her son James. James VI becomes the King of Scotland, and then at the death of Elizabeth I of England, James becomes James I of England, Ireland, and Scotland, uniting Great Britain. His reforms calmed the storms of his predecessors, and in his decision to have scholars translate the writings of Christianity into common English, he left to this day one of the most quoted books in history – the King James translation of the Bible.


  1. In a time when women are increasingly taking leadership in the various organizations of the world, how does the slanderous preaching of John Knox (David Tennant) against women help us understand prejudicial opposition?

  2. The beauty and strength with which Mary lived her life was, as Elizabeth explained to her, her downfall.  How have your strengths both benefited and harmed yourself and others?

  3. The goal of Mary to produce an heir was effective in the next generation in unifying Great Britain.  How much should each generation focus on the next in accomplishing “impossible” tasks?


Posted on January 4, 2019 and filed under 3 STARS, THOUGHTFUL.