So who would you cast as one of history’s most famous Scottish people? How about a nice Irish girl? Indeed, that’s what’s happening–Deadline reports that Saiorse Ronan will star in “Mary Queen of Scots,” movie about–you guessed it–Mary Stuart, the 16th century Scottish queen who got in trouble with Queen Elizabeth I. Michael Hirst wrote the script.
If you haven’t spent much time with Tudor history lately, here’s a brief recap: Mary Stuart was the daughter of King James V of Scotland, who died when she was only one year old. Mary was betrothed to Francis, son of the King of France, when she was very young, and was sent there at age six so she could grow up in the French environment. The pair were married when Mary was fifteen and Francis fourteen, but he died only two years later. Mary was sent back to Scotland and was named its Queen. She married her cousin, Lord Darnley, when she was 22; he was a violent drunk, who at one point launched an attack on a dinner party and killed Mary’s secretary right there, because he suspected that Mary was having an affair with him. Darnley died under mysterious circumstances, and Mary married the Earl of Bothwell. The Scottish lords hated him and rebelled against him and Mary. Bothwell left the country and died an insane alcoholic. Mary was forced to give up her throne to her infant son James, who she’d had with Darnley. Mary fled to England, hoping for protection from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
Mary was a Catholic, though, and became a rallying point for Catholics who hoped to overthrow Elizabeth’s Protestant monarchy; Mary didn’t help matters by not exactly discouraging the idea that she should be Queen of England. With that in mind, Elizabeth kept Mary imprisoned in a variety of castles for the next twenty years or so. As far as we know, Mary and Elizabeth never met. Finally, after one plot against Elizabeth’s life by Catholics who were associated with Mary came too close, Elizabeth reluctantly ordered Mary’s execution (Elizabeth was a very cautious type and didn’t like to do extreme things like execute people). Ironically, it was Mary’s son James who became King of England when Elizabeth died in 1603 without an heir.
So, in short, this movie won’t have a happy ending.The story’s been told many times on stage, screen, and in operas. Katharine Hepburn was probably one of the most famous Mary Stuarts, playing the role in the 1936 film “Mary of Scotland.” It was a flop and damaged a career already on the downswing (she rebounded nicely over the next few decades).
Busy Ms. Ronan will be seen later this year in “Byzantium,” and then in 2013 stars in an adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s “The Host,” “Justin and the Knights of Valor,” and “How I Live Now.” She’s also booked for an adaptation of Vera Brittain’s “Testament of Youth.”
Working Title, the studio behind “Mary Queen of Scots,” has the project out to directors and hopes to put it into production in 2013.