REVIEW: Queen of Scots

  • Broadcast: 29th November, 1961

Character: William Maitland of Lethington and Burleigh (at Fotheringay)

The Great Hall at Fotheringay Castle, 1587. The executioner knelt to beg customary forgiveness from his victim. Then, the axe fell and gave birth to the most romantic legend in royal history.

Mary Stuart was colourful, reckless, indulgent, passionate and extraordinarily graceful. A mammoth two-hour dramatisation of her life ‘The Queen of Scots’, was screened on Wednesday, November 29th, 1961.

The production was directed by Geoffrey Nethercott whose wife, actress Ellen McIntosh, played the difficult title role. In the play, Ellen had to wear twelve heavy period costumes; they were lovely, but difficult to work in. However, the actress who suffered most from the costume difficulty, was Mary Kerridge, who played Queen Elizabeth. Her costume was copied from a portrait, was four feet wide and quite impossible to sit down in.

Altogether, there was a cast of sixty actors in the production, all meticulously dressed in 16th century costume. PETER, who played two parts in the production – William Maitland & Burleigh – says that the play was extremely dramatic, which had caused a few headaches for the writers: “Some of the more crucial turning points in Mary’s life were some of the most shrouded in doubt. Although history professors from Glasgow University were on hand to advise, the writers had to make a few decisions of their own.

“For example, at the heart of Mary’s ruin were the so-called Casket Letters. These were reported to have been written by Mary to Boswell. They were love-letters full of poetry and sentiment, but also implicated her in her husband’s murder. The writer’s decided to assume these were forgeries.”

The writer’s, Ian Stuart Black and Jack Gerson, set out to cut through the romance and put forward the truth. Gerson believed that Mary did a Pontius Pilate act and washed her hands of Darnley’s murder. Co-Writer, Ian Stuart Black had been taught at school that Elizabeth had been a bad Queen, but the research he’s done later taught him that she was actually a very courageous woman deserving more sympathetic consideration, which was just what she got in the play. In fact, as both history and this production showed, it was only Elizabeth herself who was protecting Mary from her inevitable execution. But Mary’s ambition for her throne made her a constant source of danger which finally had to be resolved.

Special Note: Whilst filming ‘Queen of Scots’ – which went out live, PETER had decided to have a cigarette doing an interval.

When the red light went on to say that the commercial break had ended and that transmission had been resumed, the director was horrified to see PETER still puffing away in full Elizabethan costume! The Director had tried to contact the Studio Manager, but he had been standing in what’s known as a “blind spot”, so his radio wasn’t working.

Thankfully, the moment PETER realised that they were back on air, he subbed out the cig and went straight into Shakespearian mode as if nothing had happened.

© Copyright The Hellfire Club: The OFFICIAL PETER WYNGARDE Appreciation Society:




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