Lately I’ve been trying to fill the void left by Outlander and Game of Thrones. In the last couple of months I’ve watched all available episodes of Vikings, Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife and now I’m halfway through the third season of Reign.
I know what you’re thinking, instead of binge watching all these shows, I really should be taking advantage of the long wait for Game of Thrones and Outlander and getting some serious writing done, but in case you didn’t already notice, I’m an extreme procrastinator as you can read about here, here and here.
Now, back to Reign. If you’ve never heard of this series, I’ll forgive you. I hadn’t heard of it either until I was on the search for something to fill the long months of “Droughtlander”. I thought the perfect way to fill the void would be with another Scot, Mary, Queen of Scots to be precise. The series is about the young queen and her early years at French court, it sounded like the perfect way to cope with “Droughtlander”
****The rest of this post may contain spoilers for Reign****
The series is categorised as an “Historical Drama” or “Period Drama”, I’d say the term “historical” is used rather loosely in this case. Now, I’m not expecting a fictionalised series to be 100% historically accurate, but it would be nice if it had resemblance to the historical events that apparently inspired the series in the first place. However it’s so historically inaccurate that the only resemblance to actual historic events is the names of some of the characters and perhaps a few of the key events, although even these are twisted and changed in order to convert them to the teenage angst and drama of the series.
The relationship between Mary and her first husband Francis the Dauphin of France is depicted as some great romantic story of two teenage (around the age of 18 I guess) royals who were betrothed as children for the sake of an alliance, but who were actually deeply in love with each other. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact Mary and Francis were married when Mary was 16 and Francis was only 14. Francis ascended the throne a year after their marriage.. Francis was always a sickly child and his constant ill health resulted in his death a year later at the age of 16. There is also doubt that their marriage was even consummated, so here we have a young queen, a widow at the age of 18, in troubling times for her country and her treaty with France hanging on by a tether. Definitely not the great story of love and loss as shown.
Next we have the costumes, with many of the female characters wearing sleeveless, sheer and revealing dresses that were totally inappropriate for the time, Yes, I understand it was French court and many morally questionable things probably occurred there, but the ladies of the court would definitely not be wearing some of the dresses worn in Reign, that’s for sure!
Next we have the music, I wasn’t expecting Bear McCreary quality but I also wasn’t expecting to hear Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” either! It really hurts my brain to hear very recognisable modern music in what is supposed to be historical drama, especially when paired with the out of place costume choices.
Now let’s move on to the accents, everyone at French court seems to have these terrible English-sounding accents from the Italians, to the French to the Hungarian Lord Julien (for the record Juilien is NOT a Hungarian name and his accent is not even remotely Hungarian sounding). Now, even though the show is mainly set in French court, I was not exactly expecting everyone to be speaking French as they would have at the time, but I was at least expecting SOME sort of accent. Mary, Queen of Scots was Scottish, that is true, but she was raised in France from the age of 6, therefore I would have expected her to have a French accent, not a Scottish one, however, Australian actress, Adelaide Kane (who portrays Mary) instead employs this wishy-washy posh accent that is somewhat generically English-sounding, as do her ladies in waiting, her betrothed Francis the Dauphin of France, King Henry II of France and practically everyone else at court. Even the Queen of France, Italian Catherine de Medici, has the posh English-sounding accent, when you would expect her to have perhaps a slightly mixed Italian/French accent, having lived in France since the age of 14. Occasionally some Scottish visitor to French court may have a somewhat Scottish-sounding accent, but that’s as good as it gets. Don’t even get me started on the slight American accent of Mary, Queen of Scots’ mother, the French native Mary of Guise (Marie de Guise).
I’m beginning to think Diana Gabaldon, Ron Moore, Meryl Davis, Terry Dresbach, Bear McCreary and the entire Outlander cast and crew have ruined me for any other Historical Drama, their attention to detail and in keeping as historically accurate as possible in the world of fiction has caused me to notice these historical inaccuracies in other works of fiction even more than I would have before. I have always enjoyed historical fiction, whether it be in writing, film or television and have also enjoyed exploring the actual history that inspired such works. After reading Diana’s Outlander series though and watching the series come to life, I think I have become even more critical of works of fiction which are not historically accurate. However, Reign is possibly as historically inaccurate as they come.
Some of you may be aware that my own writing includes historical fiction, set in the 1910s and then in the 1930s. Now I am not saying that it is 100% accurate and true to history in this time, but a lot of time and research is done on my part to ensure that the events and details of the time are reflection in the telling of the story. Details such as clothing, key events, living conditions and so on are meticulously researched in order to attempt to reflect the times in which the story is set. Yes, my work is historical fiction, but if the historical aspect is not presented with at least some sort f accuracy, then you might as well just call it fiction.
The question is though, will I continue to watch Reign as a form of procrastination? My answer is yes, despite the inaccuracies of this “Historical” Drama, my inner angsty teenage drama queen will continue to revel in the dramas of French court, the rivalry between Mary, Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England and the romance and heartbreak of Mary and her ladies, no matter how far from historical fact it might be. I’ll enjoy Reign for what it is, a slightly trashy drama series, set in a time and place that it not my own.
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