In 1557 France, teenage Mary, Queen of Scots, leaves the convent where she's been hiding for the past six years and arrives with her four besties at the French royal court, where her betrothed, Prince Francis II, lives with his sprawling, insane family. The cast of thousands (of cousins) includes the king, the queen, the king's mistress, the king's bastard, the queen's pet fortune teller, the king and queen's other nine legitimate children, and a bunch of priests and sundry old dudes who watch the king and queen of Spain get it on.
The besties include social-climbing Greer, naive Aylee, horny Kenna, and love-struck Lola, whose hometown Scottish boyfriend, Colin, shows up in France just in time for Queen Catherine to blackmail him into raping Mary so she'll be defiled and therefore ineligible to be queen. Mary's warned beforehand by the ghosts who live in her room (yep: the ghosts who live in her room), so she doesn't drink the drugged wine supplied by the queen's pet fortune teller, Nostradamus, and Colin fails to rape her. He's beheaded for his trouble and Lola cries. Au revoir, Colin.
Elsewhere, the king and queen's daughter Elizabeth has just married the king of Spain, and the king (of France) celebrates by cheating on his wife and his mistress with Mary's lady-in-waiting Kenna. (The king of Spain celebrates by consummating his marriage in front of a bunch of priests and old dudes.) The mistress, Diane de Poitiers, and her son, bastard Sebastian, have plots of their own. Everyone has plots. Tons and tons of plots. In future episodes we can look forward to war with Italy, war with England and people dying gruesomely of really innocuous things like earaches.
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We open with water falling on dogwood leaves, and then we see blood. A bearded man -- who sort of looks like hottie producer Liam on Nashville, which will distract me all through this episode -- stands under the tree and blood drips on his face. He looks down at his hands, which are covered in blood.
Beardy wakes up from his dream and gasps, "She's coming."
A teenaged girl in a field chucks a primitive leather ball over her head toward some nuns. Nun soccer! We're told this is France, 1557, and Mary, Queen of Scots has been secretly living at a convent to keep her safe since she was nine. Mary, who is now fifteen and Henry VIII's great-niece, is engaged to Francis, the future king of France, who's two years younger than she is…uh, historically. (As we'll see, he's not played by a thirteen-year-old. Although he acts like one). The nuns and Mary and some other girls have lunch. One nun starts frothing at the mouth and bleeding from her nose and ears. She chokes and collapses into her porridge, rather horribly. Another nun runs over to take Mary's obviously poisoned plate away from her.
The Mother Superior wants to get Mary safely away after the assassination attempt. Mary gasps that she didn't know Sister Helen was tasting her food, and the Mother Superior explains that every meal she's eaten since she was weaned has been tasted for safety, since she's, you know, the queen of Scotland.
Wikipedia history time! Mary succeeded to the Scottish throne at the age of six days, when her father, James V, died. Mary's mother was French, and the Stuarts, crucially, are Catholic, whereas the reigning English monarchs are Protestant, on account of Great-Uncle Henry wanting to bang some strange. It's also worth mentioning that a good portion of Scotland is Protestant as well, thanks to the efforts of John Calvin, so when Mary does eventually go back, that will cause some trouble. Mary's living at the convent to keep her safe, since all manner of people want to kill her for all manner of reasons: they don't like Catholics, they especially don't like her claim to the English throne, they've just gotten used to beheading women since Anne Boleyn rolled into town and now if they don't see a good beheading once a year they feel they have nothing to live for, etc.
Anyway, all the young ladies of the nunnery surround the door as Mary leaves the convent wearing a rich red cloak and a jeweled headpiece. This show has the potential to spawn some killer prom fashions, I am betting. Mary tells the Mother Superior she's not ready to leave, or to get married (since she's fifteen!). Mother Superior assures her she's nearly grown, as is Francis, and it's time for her to go to the court. She impresses on Mary how important the marriage is for the Catholic Church, and for the people of Scotland. Oh, and Francis will also love her, she says.