Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, Martin Compston, Brendan Coyle, David Tennant, Guy Pearce
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Historical bio-drama directed by Josie Rourke in her directorial debut. The story centers on the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan). Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie).
Each young Queen beholds her “sister” in fear and fascination. Rivals in power and in love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage versus independence. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies within each court imperil both thrones, and change the course of history.
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 39)
Lord Randolph: Madam, your cousin has returned from France. Her protector is Lord Bothwell, an able soldier.
William Cecil: So, she comes ready for war.
Lord Randolph: She may well depart once married, but I cannot profess to know her purpose.
Queen Elizabeth I: What says her brother?
Lord Randolph: Moray is only her half brother, madam. I believe his allegiance is fully with us.
Queen Elizabeth I: What proof?
Lord Randolph: He pledges to protect the Protestant Church from Mary.
William Cecil: And yet he has no power to make such a pledge if he is no longer regent.
Lord Randolph: The nobles respect him.
William Cecil: But can he control her?
Robert Dudley: If she is anything like our queen, then she does not yield to a bridle.
William Cecil: So says our Master of the Horse. By bridal, do you speak of matrimony?
Queen Elizabeth I: You may tell Scotland that we wish to love the Stuarts as our kin. But they must love us in return.
William Cecil: Madam, if I may speak? While she is on this island, she must bow to you, not to Rome. Our Catholics must know that a papist will never again sit on the English throne.
Queen Elizabeth I: What would you suggest?
William Cecil: Kill her hope, and hopeless, she may return to the comfort of the continent.
[dictating a letter to Elizabeth]
Mary Stuart: We are two sisters bound by womanhood. Two princes on the same island. Ruling side by side, we must do so in harmony. And not through a treaty drafted by men lesser than ourselves. I wish us to make a treaty of two queens. I would acknowledge your rightful place on the English throne were you to name me your successor. I hope we might meet in person, that I might embrace you, and we might resolve our destinies.
John Knox: We have a scourge upon our land. Tis worse than pestilence and famine. Tis a woman with a crown. Who only pretends to worship Christ, when in truth she kneels before the Pope. We do not take instruction from Rome. We resist those who would tempt us with indulgences, deny those who worship luxury, respect not those who flaunt their excesses and whore themselves to wealth and the degradations of the flesh.
Mary Stuart: Just be wary of these men. Their love is not the same as their respect.
Mary Fleming: Might I ask, since we’ve not known it ourselves, what is it like?
Mary Stuart: To have a man?
Mary Fleming: Mm-hmm.
Mary Stuart: I have only lain with François. He shook terribly from fright. The poor boy did his best. But it was over before it began.
Mary Fleming: So you never…
Mary Stuart: No. We tried but once.
William Cecil: Mary will seek a marriage that strengthens her claim to your throne, and makes her children Catholics.
Queen Elizabeth I: What sayest our ambassador?
Lord Randolph: She feigns disinterest, madam, and informs me that the matter of choice in marriage is perhaps a matter best left to God. She is formidable, madam. We should marry her to someone loyal to our queen, someone you control.
[Elizabeth looks over to Dudley]
Robert Dudley: Do not ask this of me.
Queen Elizabeth I: But if you wed her, she is ours.
Robert Dudley: And what of us?
Queen Elizabeth I: What “us”?
Robert Dudley: You, Elizabeth, and I, your Robert.
Queen Elizabeth I: Marry the beautiful Queen of Scots, and we can control her. With Mary, you, too, become a prince.
Robert Dudley: If I am noble enough for one queen, I am noble enough for another.
[Elizabeth turns away from him]
Robert Dudley: Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth I: England is not Scotland.
[letter to Mary]
Queen Elizabeth I: [voice over] We would delight in holding our sister’s hand in ours. Let us settle on a meeting place before the summer brings discomfort. Let our nations cherish each other, as we would. Two kingdoms united. Meanwhile, accept this portrait as a sign of gratitude for yours. And please accept this suitor, who presents both his love and mine, the Earl of Leicester, Lord Robert Dudley.
Lord Randolph: England wishes no more bloodshed. Being from France yourself, you must understand.
Mary Stuart: You may tell my sister that we pray for swift peace, that we may meet soon.
Lord Randolph: I will tell her at once.
Mary Stuart: [to Randolph] It is enough my own lords treat me as though I’m but a girl. I will not be treated as such by Elizabeth. I will be the woman she is not. I shall produce an heir, unlike her barren self.
William Cecil: You have neither husband nor children, and you approach an age whereupon you cannot bear them. You must confront the truth, madam, displeasing as it may be. I have confronted this truth.
Queen Elizabeth I: You understand that I cannot.
William Cecil: Will not. And do I understand? No more than I understand God.
Queen Elizabeth I: It is my choice. God would have a woman be a wife and a mother.
William Cecil: So you defy his will?
Queen Elizabeth I: No. I choose to be a man. And marriage is dangerous. Such a man as I might marry, finding himself disappointed.
William Cecil: He would conspire.
Queen Elizabeth I: No prince’s revenues be so great that they satisfy the insatiable ambition of men.
William Cecil: This I understand.
Queen Elizabeth I: Which is why you are the closest thing I shall ever have to a wife.
William Cecil: I shan’t mention your proposal to Lord Dudley.
William Cecil: This world is a brutal place. We men must be wiser, mustn’t we?
Queen Elizabeth I: Tell me what to do.
William Cecil: We must make civil war in Scotland.
Queen Elizabeth I: You would have me depose a sister monarch?
William Cecil: It is either civil war there, or civil war here.
Queen Elizabeth I: I want to know nothing of it.
William Cecil: The arrangements shall be mine alone.
Mary Stuart: [to Dudley] Rise and prepare yourself. Elizabeth has funded a rebellion.
Mary Stuart: Are you afraid, Henry?
Lord Darnley: No.
Mary Stuart: Good. Because our swords are not just for show.
[giving a speech]
Mary Stuart: My husband and I give thanks. With Heaven’s blessing, we bring another Stuart into this world, heir to Scotland, and to England.
[her men cheer]
Lord Randolph: Heir to England?
Lord Maitland: She speaks for herself.
Lord Randolph: Do her counselors fail to advise her?
Lord Maitland: Oh, we advise her endlessly, sir. Not that she heeds it.
Lord Randolph: You must do better.
Lord Maitland: What, better than your own queen’s counsel?
Lord Randolph: How did the world come to this?
Lord Maitland: Wise men servicing the whims of women?
Lord Randolph: Aye.
William Cecil: It is a clear provocation. She knew well Lord Randolph would report.
Queen Elizabeth I: And what would you have us do? Go to war over some reckless words?
William Cecil: Not us. Her brother. He hopes to raise a second army. If we were to assist him…
Queen Elizabeth I: As we did his first?
William Cecil: I shall not fail you twice. Madam, we cannot let her name your successor. She has no right.
Queen Elizabeth I: When I am dead, and you are dead, and she is dead, it matters not what names we did or did not say. The world will decide for itself.
William Cecil: Now is not the time to soften.
[referring to Moray]
Lord Darnley: He beguiled us, Mary. Both of us. He brought us dishonor. Did he not?
Mary Stuart: You are trying to usurp my crown.
Lord Darnley: Have I not brought you a child?
Mary Stuart: One minute makes not a man.
James, Earl of Moray: There’s no appetite for war.
John Knox: Then let us stir an appetite.
William Cecil: If you grant her succession, we are rewarding her disobedience.
Queen Elizabeth I: What disobedience? She is not our subject.
Lord Randolph: And yet you would make us hers.
Queen Elizabeth I: What have you produced in all your travels between our kingdoms? Discord? War? Death? And now you have the boldness to doubt my judgment? You had better question yours.
Lord Randolph: I regret that you perceive me as a failure.
William Cecil: We serve you fully, with all our hearts. Any one of us would gladly die for you, but Mary is our foe and a Catholic.
Queen Elizabeth I: She is only your queen if I should not produce an heir.
William Cecil: And will you, madam? For you have given us little hope so far.
Queen Elizabeth I: Despite your every effort, she has prevailed. She has proven herself, in fact, far more capable than my own privy council! Should I die before my time, we could do worse than to place her on the throne of England.
[referring to Darnley]
Lord Maitland: You must divorce him, madam.
Mary Stuart: It is forbidden.
Lord Maitland: Not in the Church of Scotland.
Mary Stuart: He is the father of my child. I will not do him such an indignity.
Lord Maitland: Darnley is cursed.
Mary Stuart: He is harmless.
Lord Bothwell: Not so. He’s still plotting to take your crown. My men heard him. He spoke of regicide.
Mary Stuart: You have commanded armies against armies. Now you fear a single man?
Lord Bothwell: I did not claim to fear him.
Mary Stuart: Then why advocate divorce?
Lord Bothwell: My oath is to defend your safety.
Mary Stuart: So you do fear him. Just as you vowed to protect me, I vowed loyalty to my husband. Any man who marries me will try to make himself king. I owe him neither comfort nor title, but I will not become a lady Henry VIII, dispensing with husbands as he did wives.
Mary Stuart: I shall meet force with force.
Lord Maitland: People believe you are a traitor and a whore. What army can defeat an entire nation turned against its queen? They would sooner parade your head on a pike than bow before a harlot. I for one would gladly hold high that pike.
James, Earl of Moray: Well, he is right. You cannot raise an army.
Mary Stuart: Many times you have said I cannot do what I have done!
Lord Maitland: Then we are finished here.
Mary Stuart: All I have done is try to unify this land.
James, Earl of Moray: I know.
Mary Stuart: To relinquish the crown would be against God’s will.
James, Earl of Moray: Oh, God will not protect you. I will protect you, as my kin.
Mary Stuart: I wish that we were kin. But we are no longer so.
Queen Elizabeth I: Are we to do nothing as my sister is deposed?
Robert Dudley: She’s not your sister. Nor can she be your successor. Not a woman whose own subjects call her a harlot.
Queen Elizabeth I: This is Cecil speaking.
Robert Dudley: I speak for myself. Though all your council agrees.
Queen Elizabeth I: How cruel men are.
Mary Stuart: England does not look so different from Scotland.
Man: Aye, they are sisters.
[Mary and Elizabeth have a clandestine meeting]
Mary Stuart: Cousin?
Queen Elizabeth I: Aye. Are you well?
Mary Stuart: Your voice is not what I expected.
Queen Elizabeth I: What did you expect of it?
Mary Stuart: I do not know.
Mary Stuart: How I long to see your face.
Queen Elizabeth I: No one can know we meet.
Mary Stuart: Yes, I have been instructed.
Queen Elizabeth I: If you speak of it to anyone, I shall deny. And I will regard your words as treason.
Mary Stuart: Am I your subject now?
Queen Elizabeth I: No, you are not my subject. But you do seek my help.
Mary Stuart: [to Elizabeth] How did it come to this?
Mary Stuart: I should have stayed true to your love. I should have followed your example and never married.
Queen Elizabeth I: Then you would have no son.
Mary Stuart: Whose mother is without a crown, whose own throne is usurped by his uncle.
Queen Elizabeth I: You must have faith. Your brother will keep his word.
Mary Stuart: I have no faith in him. I have only faith in you. You would let them show the world that a queen can so easily be forsworn? Answer me, sister.
Queen Elizabeth I: To war with Scotland and betray my own clergy on a Catholic’s behalf. No, I cannot. You know I cannot.
Mary Stuart: Did you come so far at such great risk only to refuse me?
Mary Stuart: If you refuse me an army, say it to my face. Do not force me to beg to your back.
[Elizabeth turns to face her]
Mary Stuart: I will kneel before you if I must.
Queen Elizabeth I: It would make no difference. You are safe here in England. That’s all I can offer.
Mary Stuart: I have been abandoned by so many. I am utterly alone.
Queen Elizabeth I: As am I. Alone.
Mary Stuart: Then be my sister. Be my boy’s godmother. Together we could conquer all of those who doubt us.
Mary Stuart: Do not play into their hands. Our enmity is precisely what they hope for. I know your heart has more within it than the men who counsel you.
Queen Elizabeth I: I am more man than woman now. The throne has made me so. But I have no enmity with you.
Mary Stuart: Except to seed rebellion, and to deceive me time and time again?
Queen Elizabeth I: If you still seek my protection, you would do well to watch your words.
Mary Stuart: I will not be scolded by my inferior.
Queen Elizabeth I: Your inferior?
Mary Stuart: I am a Stuart, which gives me greater claim to England than you possess.
[to Mary; referring to her wig]
Queen Elizabeth I: I had this made, because I wanted to present the best version of myself.
[she takes off her wig]
Queen Elizabeth I: I was jealous. Your beauty. Your bravery. Your motherhood. You seem to surpass me in every way. But now I see there is no cause for envy. Your gifts are your downfall.
Mary Stuart: What now, sister?
Queen Elizabeth I: You will still have my protection, under my terms.
Mary Stuart: Until you have me killed?
Queen Elizabeth I: I will do no such thing.
Mary Stuart: Wouldn’t you? As Henry killed your mother?
Queen Elizabeth I: I am not my father.
Mary Stuart: But you share his blood.
Queen Elizabeth I: As long as you do not provoke my enemies, you have nothing to fear. Your fate rests in your own hands.
Mary Stuart: If I seek to help your enemies, tis only because you pushed me to their arms. And should you murder me, remember you murder your sister. And you murder your queen.
Queen Elizabeth I: [voice over] Sister, evidence has been presented to me, written in your hand. It shows that you have conspired with Catholic forces against my life. Whether these letters are in your hand or not, I must act. I wish I could speak these words to you directly, but they exist only in my mind, as both a prayer and a penance. I hope that God will hear them. Believe me when I tell you how it ages me to bear such a burden, ordering to death the only other woman who knows what it means to rule as a queen in this land.
Queen Elizabeth I: [voice over] You were right when we spoke a half lifetime ago. You said the day would come. And that day has come. I regret not doing then what I do now, so that I could have spared you so many years of imprisonment and misery. If you would lay eyes upon me now, you would not recognize me. I have relinquished all sense of self to the throne which rules my every word and action. But when I think of you, I see not an aged woman, but rather the young, resplendent queen whose portrait I first gazed upon five and twenty years ago, and whose beauty shone so brightly when we met, despite her despair. I know God’s arms will accept you in that likeness, as the young, fierce queen who I have always loved and admired. May your soul have pity on mine.
Robert Beale: By order of our sovereign Elizabeth Queen of England, Wales and Ireland; Overlord of Scotland; certified by her privy council and Parliament, Mary Stuart is condemned to death, this day, February the 8th, the year of our Lord 1587.
[as Mary is about to be executed at the scaffold, she reveals herself wearing a bright red dress]
Nobleman: She thinks herself a martyr.
[last lines; as she’s about to be executed]
Mary Stuart: James, my only son. I pray that with your life you will succeed where I could not, and for one which I am about to give my life. In my end is my beginning. I shall be watching you from Heaven as your crown one day unites two kingdoms. And we shall have peace.
Total Quotes: 39
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