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Reign Rewatch: History is written by the survivors

Note: This post was initially posted in the old Recap Lab site back on February 17, 2018.

Reign Catherine de Medici
Image from Reign, currently streaming on Netflix

'The first lesson I ever learned was never to wait for a man's rescue. History is written by the survivors, and I am surely that.'

When I look back now at Reign, there wasn't an episode that made more of an impact on me as Left Behind. It was the episode that made me a fan of the show. It was the episode that made me like Leith and Greer together. It was a taut, self contained episode that showed Reign at its best -- political intrigue, poisoned gold, revenge plot, passageways inside castle walls, Frary. Above all, however, Left Behind was the episode that showed us there was much more to Catherine de Medici than a prophecy believing Frary foil.

When I rewatched the Pilot last year, I wrote about Catherine's first horrible move against Mary, arranging for Lola's betrothed Colin to rape her. I wondered then why a creative schemer like Catherine would turn to rape to rid herself of the woman who could cause her son's death. In Left Behind, Catherine again tried to offer Mary's virginity to Count Vincent, a man consumed with fury and sadness over the death of his only son. That's twice that Catherine tried to arrange for Mary's rape.

Things changed when Mary came to Catherine with her plan to get everyone out of the castle safely, including and especially Francis and his brothers. Without telling Mary or her ladies, Catherine laced the gold she offered the Count's soldiers with poison. Before the Count and his men could sexually assault Mary and her ladies, the soldiers began to drop with blood coming out of them. When Mary asked why Catherine did not allow the Count to rape her -- the loss of her virginity would have invalidated the marriage treaty between Scotland and France -- Catherine replied that Mary was willing to risk her life for Francis; perhaps she (Catherine) owed Mary a moment of respect.

Catherine was a rape survivor. The circumstances of her rape were horrific. She was taken prisoner at the age of eight. Years passed before rescue came. The soldiers, impatient on what to do with their Medici hostage, called for her to be brought out and shared. In Catherine's version of events, she was rescued before the rape happened. Mary figured out that was not the case.

In these early days of Reign, empathy was a virtue Catherine had not yet learnt. She could recognise and respect a fellow schemer, however, especially one who was willing to risk her life for Francis. I do wonder if turning Catherine into one of the heroines of the tale was part of the Reign writers' plan from the beginning. Or was that more a byproduct of Megan Follows' phenomenal performance?

Image from Reign, currently streaming on Netflix


■Diane de Poitiers was such a non factor as a character. She had her schemes (e.g. Bash's legitimisation) but she barely registered in a French Court ruled by Catherine de Medici. The thing is, RL Diane de Poitiers held influence during the reign of RL King Henry. She was the power figure at Court, not Catherine. RL Catherine only began to wield power after King Henry's death.

■ This is what happened to RL Catherine, according to Wikipedia. The Medicis were overthrown in Florence in 1527, and Catherine was taken hostage. She was placed in a series of convents throughout her captivity. In October 1529, the forces of Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor, laid siege to Florence. Catherine's captors called for her to be killed, or given to the soldiers for their sexual gratification. Catherine's captivity ended on August 1530.

■ For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Sara the maid had to wear a jewelled headpiece. I could barely take anything about her plot point in Chosen seriously because of it.

Image from Reign, currently streaming on Netlix

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