Hazardous parallels

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.

diana-affiche1After 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:

  1. Both were famed for their beauty and charisma;
  2. both were good at using their networks to advance their causes (see #1);
  3. both were mistreated by their husbands;
  4. 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);
  5. both lived — and died — under the reign of a queen… with the same name: Elizabeth (I and II, respectively);
  6. both were kept away from their children, who would/will inherit the crown some day (see #4 and #5);
  7. … 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);
  8. both were considered as martyrs, victimized by the establishment;
  9. 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).


Cite this blog post
Yan Brailowsky (2013, October 29). Hazardous parallels. Murderous Queens on Stage. Retrieved May 27, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/ronc

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