‘Mary Queen of Scots’ is his­tory porn at its best: drama for the In­sta­gram gen­er­a­tion. Here’s what we love most about it

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - BODY MIND -

Mary Queen of Scots, the new film from Work­ing Ti­tle, be­sides be­ing a stonk­ing good story is also (and the rea­son to see it, which we have) prime his­tory-porn sub­ject mat­ter.

All the best his­tory porn is lo­cated in the High­lands of Scot­land – or parts of Ire­land or Devon or Corn­wall; cliffs fea­ture at some point – and the golden pe­riod for his­tory porn is any­thing set in the reign of Henry VIII or, bet­ter still, El­iz­a­beth I. For ex­am­ple, this year’s film about Robert the Bruce, Out­law King, is a ter­rific story, but with your 14th cen­tury you don’t get the for­mal gar­dens, the rav­ish­ing jew­els and ruffs and so forth. If you’re mak­ing drama for the In­sta­gram gen­er­a­tion – who like a bit of wolf-lined cloak and a fully fur­nished bat­tle tent with their his­tory – then your bullseye has to be El­iz­a­bethan Plus.

El­iz­a­bethan Plus is all the usual stuff: lute play­ing and Hard­wick Hall ar­chi­tec­ture, and hooded kestrels and pea­cocks and pearl-stud­ded head­dresses and hunt­ing dogs and gig­gling ladies’ maids and men with un­done linen un­der­shirts and leather dou­blets sprawled about drink­ing wine, or bow­ing in a part­ing of the seas for­ma­tion. Re­mem­ber how well all this worked in El­iz­a­beth I with Cate Blanchett? But El­iz­a­beth Plus – El­iz­a­beth plus her war­like Scot­tish cousin Mary across the bor­der – de­liv­ers twice as much bang for your buck. It adds a whole new grungy, wild and racy el­e­ment. It’s all of the above plus sweep­ing aerial shots of Glen Coe and cas­tles emerg­ing from the mist and dirty, kilty, blue-eyed men with un­der­cuts. It’s got your Wolf Hall ap­peal and then some hairy mus­cle and that’s the sweet spot, his­tory porn-wise.

Here are some of our favourite things pro­vided by the El­iz­a­beth

Plus ex­pe­ri­ence:

Fur pelts strewn in front of roar­ing log fires, so all the liv­ing quar­ters look quite like a James Bond lair. We don’t so much ap­pre­ci­ate your reg­u­lar dingy, damp cas­tle with a measly torch in a wall bracket and a grubby re­tainer sleep­ing out­side the bed­cham­ber door.

Jew­els. Wrong to no­tice them dur­ing cru­cial dra­matic scenes re­lat­ing to the suc­ces­sion, but the mis­matched ear­rings! Love those! And also the fierce metal ear cuff

(we were look­ing for­ward to a sin­gle lumpen pearl the size of a quail’s egg, per­haps on a choker rib­bon, but the ear cuff was al­most bet­ter).

Lady ar­mour! This time we don’t get the bril­liant sil­ver breast­plate as seen in El­iz­a­beth I – but we do get shiny jet-black body ar­mour and in­tri­cately beaded bat­tle-ready hair.

Leather jerkins and white linen shirts (on the men): su­per-flat­ter­ing, es­pe­cially worn in com­bi­na­tion with a kind of half-kilt and a mul­ti­pouch leather belt, the pre­cur­sor to the bum­bag.

For­mal danc­ing. Their 16th­cen­tury, north-of-the-bor­der ver­sion, that is: a cross be­tween coun­try and western line danc­ing and River­dance, only darker. Can we bring this back now, please?

Merry-mak­ing courtly en­ter­tain­ment. You know, the sort that’s like a bad acid trip: weird masked in­ter­ac­tive dancers pre­tend­ing to be rut­ting stags and gen­er­ally mak­ing Magic Mike look fam­ily-friendly.

His­tory porn heaven.

OVER THE SHOUL­DER SMOULDER Mar­got Rob­bie (l) and Saoirse Ro­nan into be re­leased in Jan­uary

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