Mary Queen of Scots show Reign set for American TV

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots. Picture: Contributed
Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots. Picture: Contributed
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IT WAS filmed in Ireland, stars an Australian soap actress and is intended for the same audience as the supernatural hit Vampire Diaries.

A new TV drama about the teenage years of Mary, Queen of Scots, is described as “Game of Thrones meets Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette”.

Professor Tom Devine fears the production, which is to be given a prime-time slot on American TV, could be the biggest affront to Scottish history since Braveheart.

Reign stars former Neighbours actress Adelaide Kane and Toby Regbo from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Despite being set in France and Scotland, filming largely took place in Ireland, including at the Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.

Viewers of the trailers have taken to the programme’s ­Facebook page to voice concern at the distinctly English accent affected by Ms Kane.

The CW Network wrote in its blurb that Mary is exposed to “dark forces and a world of sexual intrigue”, which have left critics nervous as to how faithful to history the ­account will be.

Reign will run this autumn in a coveted slot after the channel’s top-billing supernatural drama Vampire Diaries, which draws in up to four million viewers.

Prof Devine, emeritus professor of history at Edinburgh University and one of Scotland’s leading historians, said that, having watched the trailers, he did not hold high hopes for the drama.

“American filmmakers have long been obsessed with the two great failures of Scottish history, Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie”, he said.

“This mixed epic on Mary, Queen of Scots has been made in Ireland which brings back unhappy memories of Braveheart, also produced in that country.

“My suspicion is it will contain the vast array of historical errors so characteristic of the Mel Gibson film telling the life of William ­Wallace.

“What we can expect, in my view, is a tale of sex, lust and blood which will almost certainly bear little relationship to the reality of a two-year reign which ended not only in disaster for Scotland but also in her execution.”

Prof Devine said he conceded the production would entertain younger audiences, but that there were clear inaccuracies.

He added: “It will almost certainly have considerable ­appeal as a rattling good yarn but its relationship with history will almost certainly be purely ­accidental.

“It is no coincidence that the producers have the young Mary speaking in English ­received pronunciation; the real Mary spoke French with a ­pronounced French accent to her death.”

Elaine Kizanis was also among those who took to the Facebook page to voice her concerns.

She wrote: “Mary Stuart was raised in France and spoke English with a French accent. The researchers for this show didn’t do their job very well. I hope the TV show doesn’t stray from the known history.”

Born in 1542 in Linlithgow Palace, Mary Stuart became queen when she was just six days old. Her cousin Elizabeth I signed orders for her execution in 1587.

Much of her youth was spent in France and the show’s pilot and initial episodes are believed to be largely based on her youth spent in the French court.

She returned to Scotland at 19, arriving at the Port of Leith.

Despite criticisms, the initial trailers for the drama broadcast this week have sparked considerable interest online, with several viewers remarking that it “looks terrific”.

VisitScotland has already welcomed exposure to millions of viewers in what is described as a “key overseas market”.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “This new series will not only be shown in one of our key overseas markets but will also be shown to a huge number of people. Scotland is renowned around the world for its fantastic scenery and landscapes.

“In comparison to the other countries, we have everything and more.”

Stephen Duncan, director of tourism at Historic Scotland, added: “We have found that whenever a royal connection has been made to one of our properties, there has been a resurgence in interest from visitors, particularly those sites with a Scots Royal association.”

David Stapf, president of CBS TV Studios, told Variety magazine earlier this week: “It’s a perfect combination for the CW of young people dealing with unbridled love, and shifting alliances for people who are about to be ruling countries. It’s unlike anything else out there.”