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Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

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During the sixteenth century, the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots engages in over two decades of religious and political conflict with her cousin, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England, amidst political intrigue in her native land.



(original screenplay)
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Dudley
David Riccio
Tom Fleming ...
Father Ballard
Katherine Kath ...
Catherine De Medici
Beth Harris ...
Mary Seton
Frances White ...
Mary Fleming
Bruce Purchase ...
Brian Coburn ...


Mary Stuart, named Queen of Scotland when she was six days old, is the last Roman Catholic ruler of Scotland. Her cousin Elizabeth Tudor, Queen of England and her arch adversary, has her imprisoned at age 23. Nineteen years later, Mary is executed, removing the last threat to Elizabeth's throne. The two Queens' contrasting personalities make a dramatic counterpoint to history. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They used every passion in their incredible duel....and every man in their savage games of intrigue! See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

29 March 1972 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Maria Stuart, Königin von Schottland  »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(world premiere)| (35 mm prints)| (some 35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to a 1974 interview, the role of Mary was intended for Geneviève Bujold. She turned it down after refusing to be typecast in movies about doomed sixteenth century queens, leading to a major fallout with Hal B. Wallis. Oddly enough, her replacement, Vanessa Redgrave, had appeared in A Man for All Seasons (1966) as Anne Boleyn, the same role Bujold had played in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). See more »


Mary is seen enjoying a late-morning cup of hot chocolate in bed (and even requesting it when she is a prisoner) despite this not being a popular drink in the British Isles until well into the 18th century. See more »


[first lines]
Francis - King of France: [screams] La Vierge!
Mary, Queen of Scots: What is it? What is it?
Francis - King of France: My head! My head!
Mary, Queen of Scots: Be still, be still, put your head down.
Francis - King of France: Please, help me.
See more »


Referenced in Columbo: Identity Crisis (1975) See more »


Vivre et Mourir
Music by John Barry
Sung by Vanessa Redgrave
See more »

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User Reviews

Captivating study of the Tudor Era's royal lady rivals
3 April 2006 | by See all my reviews

It's been quite some time since I saw this movie, so have forgotten many of the details, but quite enjoyed this portrait of the clash between Mary Queen of Scots and her rival Tudor cousin, Elizabeth I. I confess to a lack of knowledge as to its historical accuracy, which may perhaps be just as well, as I read that the supposed meeting between the two queens never took place in real life. The producers presumably felt audiences would expect such an in person meeting. Frankly, however, while such films might be permitted a wee bit of dramatic license, they should definitely stick with fundamental historical truths.

The movie chronicles the struggles of Mary Stewart, who returns from France, where she had been wife to the sickly (now deceased) king Francois II, to Scotland, where her Protestant half brother, Jamie, is acting as Regent. In order to secure the Scottish throne for herself and her son (later James VI of Scotland and James I of England), she must battle the Scottish Lords, her brother Jamie, who causes rebellions against his sister, and even her second husband, Lord Darnley, who makes a bid for the throne himself. The most devastating enemy proves to be her royal English cousin, Elizabeth I, who sees Mary as a threat, especially when Mary produces (with Darnley) a son while she (Elizabeth) remains unmarried and childless.

The main asset of the movie lies in its two female leads, who portray the warm, emotional Catholic Mary and the cool, calculating Protestant Elizabeth. Vanessa Redgrave made, at least for me, a convincing enough Mary. Especially, however, I recall Glenda Jackson as an absolutely brilliant Queen Elizabeth. She IS Elizabeth, and I believe to a certain extent, it's really her movie. To this day, whenever I picture Elizabeth I, it's Glenda Jackson, who of course went on to play the Virgin Queen in the TV series, Elizabeth R.

Others in the star studded cast include Patrick McGoohan as James Stewart (Mary's brother), Timothy Dalton as Lord Darnley (Mary's weak, conniving second husband), and Nigel Davenport as Bothwell (Mary's true love and third husband). Two of Elizabeth's ministers are portrayed by Trevor Howard as Sir William Cecil, and Daniel Massey as the queen's devoted Dudley.

Beautiful Oscar nominated Tudor period costumes and scenes. I would like to see again the tale of this tragic figure, a woman who should have been content with her Scottish crown and not covetous of the English one as well. Pity modern cinema seems disinclined to delve into these British historical dramas. Personally, I would like to see more movies such as this one and the 1986 Lady Jane with Helena Bonham Carter. There's certainly no lack of historical figures that would make interesting subjects.

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