‘Queen of Scots’ takes artistic license in its portrayal of rival 16th Century Queens Mary and Elizabeth

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Saoirse Ronan stars as Mary Stuart in “Mary Queen of Scots.” Photo credit: Liam Daniel/Focus Features

The usual version of what happened between Queen Elizabeth I of England and her cousin Queen Mary of Scotland goes something like this: England is Protestant under Elizabeth’s rule, and Mary grew up in France and is Catholic. The two are bitter rivals. When the people of Scotland rebel against hot-headed Mary, she appeals to Elizabeth for support. But she gets suspected of plotting to kill Elizabeth. Mary is then decapitated.

The new movie “Mary Queen of Scots” explores a more psychologically and politically nuanced take on the story -- that perhaps Mary and Elizabeth were affectionate cousins who wanted to forge an alliance, but were pushed to conflict by the power-hungry men around them.