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Why the Reign inaccuracies annoyed me as a history writer

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Reign ran for four years and had some major inaccuracies in the storylines. Here’s why they annoyed me as a history writer.

As a history writer, the historical inaccuracies in Reign really annoy me. However, I continued to watch the show to the end. At first, it felt like I was putting myself through torture. I ended up having to take my head out of what I knew about history.

After watching the first couple of episodes, I decided to pretend that Reign was set in a fictional world; something like Game of Thrones. You see, I really liked the storyline of the woods and witchcraft and really wanted to see how that and Clarissa’s storyline played out.

But Reign inaccuracies still annoyed me

I had to pretend that it was a fictional world. If I remember it is based on real history, I’d scream. To start with, the names of Mary’s four friends are completely wrong. I can understand why the show would want to change the names from the real ones. After all, in history, the four were known as “The Four Marys.” It would get very confusing for the show—although I’m sure they’d find a way around it with nicknames. But why change the names to ones that would clearly not be around back then?

Catherine’s treatment of Mary, Queen of Scots also annoys me to no end. There is no proof in history that there was this tension between the two, or that Catherine tried to prevent Mary from marrying Francis.

As for Francis, in history, he was considered a very sickly boy and impotent due to his illness. It’s ridiculous that he is this amazing soldier, and got one of Mary’s ladies pregnant. I know it’s all in the name of drama, but it’s taking the characters way too far for history.

Finally, don’t get me started on the costumes! At least get the dress right if you’re going to set it in the 16th century.

Why change the story at all?

I want to point out one thing: Mary, Queen of Scots’ life was dramatic enough. This was a woman who was Queen of Scotland from a week old. She was then shipped to France and betrothed to the dauphin as a child. She grew up in the French court and was close to her in-laws, especially Henri II of France. When he died, she mourned him. He wanted her to become Queen of England, and maybe he did brainwash her with that idea, but part of her would have wanted that throne too.

She was Queen Consort of France for a year before her husband’s death and then found herself a Catholic Queen in a Protestant Scotland. It was difficult, especially when she ended up marrying an English Catholic. Not only did that anger the Scots but it angered Elizabeth I of England.

Yes, that marriage did bring a son, but then there were accusations that she was involved in her husband’s death, especially when she married another man shortly afterward.

Poor Mary was forced to abdicate her throne in favor of her one-year-old son, James VI, and took refuge in England. All that did was land her behind bars, where she spent the last 19 years of her life.

Her life was full of twists and turns, which would have been perfect for Reign. But, no the writers had to make up storylines for her and then ran out of time to tell some of the biggest parts of her dramatic life.

What I wish would happen

I’m not going to comment on the storyline. In fact, I’m not sure what I want to see happen in the whole storyline.

This is about what I wished the writers decided to do. If they really want to create a fictional storyline for Mary, Queen of Scots, why did they not just create a whole fictional world? This is something George R.R. Martin decided to do when he created Game of Thrones. He took aspects of English history and adapted them to fit his needs. He had more control, and readers love his works.

The writers for Reign could have used parts of Mary, Queen of Scots’ story for inspiration and adapted those parts to make a completely fictional tale.

I can only see one benefit of Reign from a historical story point of view, and that is to get people interested in the time period. Hopefully, viewers will want to do their own research. Of course, from a purely fictional view, it is an interesting storyline.

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What do you think about Reign? Do the historical inaccuracies annoy you, or are you simply enjoying the story?

Get Reign* on Amazon.