I was recently persuaded by my sister to start watching Reign, a highly fictionalised programme about Mary Queen of Scots’ arrival at French Court and her engagement to Francis II. I began incredibly sceptical, and it is, by all accounts, a soapy drama with little real life accuracy. And yet I love it. Reign never promises historical accuracy, and it is very aware of it’s own ridiculousness. But as well as the soap drama-esque antics, which pop up in so many popular teenage shows, there is more to Reign. It’s about a young girl’s struggle for power, and how dangerous power can be. Of course, as well as the political struggles of French Court, it also details the relationships of both Mary and her ladies in waiting. There are moments where the show is overly dramatic and the script lacking, but it is compelling stuff.
One of the most interesting part of the series is the characters, who are fully developed and intriguing.
Firstly, of course, there is Mary. Despite starting off in the show as a naïve character, to the point of being embarrassing to watch, she soon toughens up. She struggles between what she wants and what is best for her country. She is also forced to make tough and morally ambiguous decisions for the good of her country and one of the most intriguing plots of the series is how this battle for power threatens her moral integrity.
Francis starts the show as a playboy who has no intention of loving or being faithful to Mary, due to his knowledge that his country must be his first priority. However as the series continues, Francis, despite his questionable choices, becomes likable through his passion and the kindness and vulnerability which becomes more clear.
Bash is, basically, a huge sweetheart. He’s the bastard of the King, and as such enjoys all of the freedom which Francis is denied. He’s chivalric, kind and follows his heart in a way that Mary and Francis can’t. However, he has secrets and is ruthless in his protection of them, as well as in his defence of the people he loves.
Kenna is the sexually liberated lady in waiting of Mary. She is disliked by many fans, probably due to the aspects of her personality which are selfish, determined and cunning but she is also independent, loyal and kind.
Greer is the only one of Mary’s ladies in waiting without a title, and due to this, has to hurry to find a good husband, regardless of her affections for him. Greer’s plotline (which I won’t go into due to spoilers) is my favourite, and I think her situation is a hugely sympathetic one, which makes her actions, though frustrating and heart breaking, understandable.
Lola is my least favourite of the main ladies in waiting, as she seems to have the least personality, despite one of the key plot points of the series revolving around her. The actress playing her is also unconvincing.
Henry is the King, a misogynistic, power hungry, ruthless player, who shows brief glimpses of humanity. He is a fascinating character, and is compelling to watch. Alan Van Sprang plays the character to perfection.
Lastly but certainly not least is Catherine de Medici, one of the most interesting characters in the series. She is ruthless in getting what she wants, which is normally power, for both herself and her family, as despite her numerous negative traits, she is loyal. She has great lines and is humorous as well as wonderfully wicked.
The relationships in this show are also done perfectly, as although most programmes thrive off the will they-wont they dynamic, the social context means Reign cannot do this to the same extent and most of the characters are either engaged or married pretty quickly. This means that the relationships, which most tv shows fail in making compelling to watch, have to be interesting, and Reign does this successfully, showing the interesting struggles within the relationships, especially in Francis’ and Mary’s.
Reign succeeds from a feminist viewpoint as well. It centres around a character who is powerful in her own right, and the number of female characters outweighs that of the men – which is rare for most media. Although an important plot in most of the ladies in waiting is about their marriages, this is due to the social context, and they are developed to an extent which many female characters are not. There are also certain instances when the women point out the double standards of sexuality, and whilst they are in the 1500s, this is still relevant in today’s culture. Overall I would say that with so much of media depicting women in an unhealthy light, teenage girls watching Reign is in no way a bad thing.
In conclusion, if you are a stickler for historical accuracy, do not watch this show. However if you’re looking for a fun show to watch, give Reign a go, and you might find more than you first expected. Personally, I adore it.


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