10 AM Hatfield House. Out on location at Hatfield House but today however we’re using this as the home of Mary Queen of Scots and Hatfield House has become Chartley Hall to introduce her to the story.
By the time of our film Mary had already been in captivity in England for 18 years, being moved between houses and placed under the care of various wardens (whom she would no doubt have called jailors). We first meet her in the very early stages of the Babington Plot. In January 1586 she had been moved to Chartley Hall and it was here that her final, deadly correspondence with Anthony Babington began.
The problem we have in telling Mary’s story is it’s sheer scope and complexity – there simply isn’t time to go into detail of her childhood in France, her three marriages, her flight to England or the first 18 years of her captivity here so much of this has to be just suggested in the scenes at Chartley and Fotheringhay where we meet her. Partly the story can come from the people around her. We have given her a maid Annette who is based Mary’s French maid Reneé de Beauregard, hinting at her time in France. Then there is her warden, Amyas Paulet. Paulet was Mary’s last and harshest jailor, a puritanical man with little time for Mary’s Catholicism or her protestations of Royalty. But he was the last in a line of keepers. Prominent amongst these had been the Earl of Shrewsbury who had been removed following a groundless scandal (begun by his wife) that he was having an affair with Mary. He was replaced by Ralph Sadler and finally Paulet. Obviously having three jailors would be confusing in the film so to reflect the progressively harsher treatment Mary received at their hands our Amyas begins as a softer, more understanding character than he actually was and his attitude hardens as the Babbington plot develops. In parallel with this, each time we meet Mary her circumstances have been reduced, her entourage thinned, some of her possessions removed. Countering this is Mary herself, played by Samantha Morton, who throughout the growing humiliations of her captivity retains the two things that no jailor can take from her – her belief in her position as an anointed Queen and her faith. It is a faith that will take her to her death.