SHANE WATSON PEOPLE WAT C H I N G
‘Mary Queen of Scots’ is history porn at its best: drama for the Instagram generation. Here’s what we love most about it
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
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