Researching Dido Elizabeth Belle, I stumbled across a tantalizing historical debate regarding Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Charlotte was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and subsequently Queen of the United Kingdom and Hanover, through her marriage to “mad” King George III. The controversy relates to Charlotte’s heritage and speculations she had black ancestry.
“She is not what you would describe as a classic beauty.”
-From "Mary, Queen of Scots: Dundee University Create Facial Reconstruction"
No, seriously, tell us what you really think! This remark by Professor Caroline Wilkinson (you might remember her from such facial reconstructions as Richard III) concerns a new 3D virtual sculpture of Mary, Queen of Scots. The rendering was created, under Wilkinson’s guidance, for an exhibit on Mary’s life at the National Museum of Scotland.
If you’re rusty on your Elizabethan history, Mary was Queen Elizabeth I’s first cousin once removed (read the chart, still confused), queen regent of Scotland, queen consort of France, and rival for the English throne. She braved numerous tragedies during her short life-her 1st husband Francis II of France died roughly two years after they wed, her 2nd husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley was murdered, and following her indictment in a plot against Elizabeth, beheaded at age forty-four.
Though Wilkinson concedes, “the paleness of her skin, red hair, and strong features meant she had a very striking appearance,” you can’t deny the accuracy of her first statement-this Mary looks frumpy. Conversely, death masks supposedly crafted shortly after her death, portray Mary as bearing a definite resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor. This jibes more with biographer Antonia Fraser’s description of Mary as, “the quintessential queen: statuesque, regal, dazzlingly beautiful.” So, what do you think?
Personally, I’m not sure it matters, though it’s fun to ponder. Regardless, of her physical appearance Mary was a fascinating and tragic woman who captivates historians (and podcasters) even today. Besides, not everyone can be a historical hottie…
For more information about Mary, Queen of Scots, visit:
Mary, Queen of Scots: Dundee University Create Facial Reconstruction
National Museum of Scotland
National Portrait Gallery
Long before Shakira unleashed her inner carnivore, there was Queen Isabella of France, the original “She-Wolf.” The daughter and wife of two megalomaniacal monarchs, Isabella was deemed little more than a political pawn. But Isabella was hardly some languishing princess in a tower, and when eventually the boys played themselves into a corner, she became the “Queen that Conquered England.”
Shoved down the aisle at age 12, Isabella was barely old enough to wed by medieval norms! But seriously, that was the least of her problems. For starters, husband Edward II, King of England, had already found true love. And #2, said true love, boyfriend Piers Gaveston, wasn’t keen to share. Awkwardly side-lined, Isabella didn’t catch a break until Piers lost his head…literally. But alas, there was another royal favorite just dying to take his place.
The History Bitch
Podcaster, tea aficionado, Anglophile, 'Game of Thrones' enthusiast.