When Saoirse Ronan played Mary Queen of Scots film, she was instantly recognisable to most people who have stepped in a cinema this decade – even with her hair dyed red.
Yet new research indicates the public is not so familiar with the beleaguered Stuart queen’s own portrait.
Some 51 per cent of people questioned in a survey commissioned by the University of Glasgow did not recognise Mary Stuart from her likeness painted by François Clouet sometime between 1558 and 1560.
Though it currently hangs in the British Library, it appears the dramatic history of the West Lothian-born monarch is often glossed over.
A dramatic biography
Born just a week before her father King James V of Scotland died prematurely, she married three times and was widowed twice before she turned 25.
In a jealous rage, Mary’s second husband, Lord Darnley, together with others murdered her favoured secretary David Riccio in front of Mary in Holyrood House. She was six months pregnant at the time.
Mary’s third husband, the Earl of Bothwell, was believed to have killed her second before forcing her to marry him.
Following the mysterious circumstances of the death of her second husband, and quick third marriage, Mary was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle by Scottish nobility.
She raised an army but was defeated, and fled to England where she sought her cousin Elizabeth I’s protection.
The two never met, but Queen Elizabeth’s concern that Mary would raise enough Catholic support to oust her from the throne and so imprisoned her for 19 years.
Mary was eventually found guilty of treason when letters between her and an English Catholic plotting to assassinate Elizabeth, and put Mary on the throne, were discovered. She was sentenced to death and beheaded in 1587 at the age of 44.