Reign TV Series Review and Guide for Teachers | Student Handouts
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Reign (TV Series, 2013-2017)
World History > Rise of Nation-states > Rise of Nation-states Books and Films
Reign (TV Series, 2013-2017) Guide and Review for History Teachers Reign is a television program aired on the CW network. It is very loosely based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots, focusing on her marriage to Francis of France. Currently in its second season, this television series is best described as historical fiction.

The real Mary Queen of Scots (lived 1542-1587) was married, as a young girl, to the Dauphin of France, the future Francis II (lived 1544-1560), son of Henry II (lived 1519-1559) and Catherine de' Medici (1519-1589). However, the marriage was not only brief, but far from romantic or highly charged. According to reports at the time, the teenaged Francis had not even completed puberty at the time of his early death.

The plot is nearly all fiction. Queen Mary is at the French court, and marries (after many plot twists) Francis. Apart from correctly naming and placing the central royal characters, there is largely no link to historical events. Each episode focuses on characters who never existed, or events that never occurred.

Henry II did have a mistress named Diane, but their son, Sebastian? His character is completely fictionalized, as is the notion that Henry would insult the powerful Medici clan (as well as the Catholic Church) by divorcing his wife and legitimizing a son with Diane.

For what it is, the show isn't bad. And despite the token sexual appetites of the reigning monarch, there is little on-screen sex (after all, this is CW, not HBO). But if you're watching this to hone up on history, it's not only a waste of time, but quite misleading. For example, Reign gives a viewer the impression that France's countryside was overrun with pagans at the time, as if this were the leading religious issue of the day. The Protestant Reformation, the true leading religious drama of the era, is given lip service only when England's Elizabeth I is mentioned (usually in passing). For an extra mythical element, Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame, 1503-1566), who did in fact serve Catherine de' Medici, is shown making true prophecies. There is even a pagan cult's vampire/werewolf creature introduced. It is as if the show cannot decide if it is mimicking The Tudors or Twilight or both. Entertaining, yes, but all rather ridiculous.
As stated, Reign offers some entertainment value. Even the costumes are fun to watch, despite that they in no way resemble Renaissance fashions. However, the real tragedy of Reign is its failure to take the opportunity to introduce teenage girls to women who were fascinating historical figures. One doesn't need the excitement of a fictional illegitimate romantic interest, or the flawless smile of Francis, in order to pique interest in a young girl who is arranged to marry a sickly, pubescent boy two years her junior.

Mary and her mother-in-law, Catherine, were formidable, powerful women in their day. Instead of seeing how these real women wielded power in a time and society dominated by men, we watch a young girl make ridiculous, foolhardy choices, and an older woman clinging to magic to get what she wants. It is a pity that the teenage girls watching this show are being cheated out of an opportunity to learn about these fascinating women, in favor of ridiculous love stories and fancy lace gowns. Click here to enlarge the promotional poster.
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