A couple of weeks ago, after a few days of intense activity (a.k.a. ‘too much work’), I decided to binge on film, as I am wont to do. Despite my doubts, among the various movies I decided to see was Diana, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, starring Naomi Watts as the Princess of Wales.
After having thought about what Mary Queen of Scots must have felt as a prisoner before ending up on the scaffold, I sensed there could be a few parallels between Mary’s story and that of the famed Queen of Hearts / People’s Princess, who is portrayed in the movie as a victim living in a gilded cage.
Half-jokingly, I came up with the following list of hazardous parallels between Mary and Diana:
- Both were famed for their beauty and charisma;
- both were good at using their networks to advance their causes (see #1);
- both were mistreated by their husbands;
- despite their popularity, both were heavily criticized for their adulterous romances (Mary with Bothwell, complicit in her husband’s murder; Diana with the men which are at the heart of this year’s movie) (for the cause of #5, see #4);
- both lived — and died — under the reign of a queen… with the same name: Elizabeth (I and II, respectively);
- both were kept away from their children, who would/will inherit the crown some day (see #4 and #5);
- … but in both cases, things sometimes got out of hand (Mary was convicted of treason and beheaded; as for Diana… she ended up dying in a horrific car accident);
- both were considered as martyrs, victimized by the establishment;
- both have been repeatedly portrayed in film (and, as it happens, Helen Mirren brilliantly played both Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II)…
Of course, the differences between the two out-number the similarities. But what interests me the most is the ambivalent reception/perception of these two figures. As discussed in earlier posts on Mary, these tragic figures have been demonized or celebrated, a point which seems to have been made by the movie’s marketing directors, as posters for the film are either close-up portraits of Diana/Watts with a white background, or distant shots of the back of the princess, alone on a boat, with a blue-green background. Clearly, one version emphasizes her beauty and proximity with the viewer (along with the puppy-looking bent head), while the other is a picture of almost suicidal solitude (upper body tense, legs tangled).