Major History Mistakes Made in the Movie Mary, Queen of Scots
Major History Mistakes Made in the Movie Mary, Queen of Scots

Major History Mistakes Made in the Movie Mary, Queen of Scots

Steve - May 9, 2019

Major History Mistakes Made in the Movie Mary, Queen of Scots
Still from Mary, Queen of Scots, depicting the execution of Mary I of Scotland in 1587 (2018). Focus Features.

1. Wrong: Cutting to black with a swing the executioner’s ax, implying the sudden beheading of Mary Stuart, the execution of the former Queen of Scotland was, in fact, a botched affair

Informed on the evening of February 7, 1587, that she was to die the following morning, Mary Stuart walked freely and with dignity onto the scaffold erected in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle. As depicted accurately in Mary, Queen of Scots, two servants removed their mistresses outer garments to reveal a crimson petticoat: the liturgical color of martyrdom in the Roman Catholic Church. Accepting a blindfold, unlike in the film whereupon she refuses it, Mary, Queen of Scots ends by cutting to black as the executioner swings his ax down upon the neck of the condemned and praying Mary.

Strongly implying Mary’s sudden death, the real-life execution of the Queen of Scots was far less clean. Having accepted per convention the apologies of the executioner, replying “I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles”, the pardoned soul incompetently bungled his task. The first blow failed to behead the slender woman, missing Mary’s neck and striking instead the back of her head. Unsuccessful with his second swing, the next attempt severed Mary’s neck albeit not entirely, remaining connected by pieces of sinew. Forced to cut through the remnants with his ax, the executioner finally completed his gruesome objective.


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