SHE cast her spell on Europe like no other Scottish monarch.

Mary, Queen of Scots, has been immortalised time after time across the continent in plays, books and films – far more than in what was once her own kingdom.

Now she is to hit the small screen again in a major new blockbuster mini-series from Spanish TV detailing her complex relationship with her cousin, Elizabeth I of England.

RTE, Spain's public broadcaster, last week unveiled Queens, a six-part historical drama shot in English, partly filmed in Edinburgh and aimed firmly at an international audience. This is just the latest global attempt to capitalise in continental fascination with the woman most Europeans refer to as Marie or Maria Stuart.

Mary, Queen of Scots

HeraldScotland: Mary Queen of Scots came to Traquir during a hunting trip.The new Spanish show, like the historic play, Maria Stuart, by Germany's Friedrich Schiller and the opera it inspired by Italy's Gaetano Donizetti, is clearly labelled as a work of historical fiction.

But it sets the conflict between Elizabeth and Mary – the English queen was eventually to have her cousin beheaded – firmly in the context of interference in the politics of the British Isles from Spain's despotic ruler Philip II.

English actor Olivia Chenery, who plays the queen Spaniards called Maria Estuardo, said the role had been an "exciting voyage of discovery which I enjoyed very much. Our parts, apart from being queens, are women and that is the most fascinating thing."

Mary, said Chenery, wanted to act like a women while being a queen and ended up making decisions which ruined her life.

Queen Elizabeth I

HeraldScotland: Queen Elizabeth I

She was speaking at the MiM Series, Spain's annual TV fiction festival, alongside her fellow British actor Rebecca Scott, who plays Elizabeth I, Isabel in Spanish.

Scott said: "Elizabeth is an icon in our country so it is a huge responsibility for an English actress to play this part. The challenge was to find my own interpretation for a role that has been performed by great actresses before. The thing that I like about this series is that both queens are incredibly human, with their own fears, passions and sorrows."

She added that the film was focused on a time when the island of Britain, for the first time, had two women as monarchs and this unnerved male courtiers in both England and Scotland.

Reinas, or Queens, the Spanish TV series


The Spaniards shot in English (except for scenes set in Spain), bluntly declaring that their product was for export. Fernando López Puig, head of cinema and drama at TVE, said it was a "product made by Spanish professionals but for an international market". It was the kind of project, he said, that should be in the DNA of Spanish TV.

Director José Luis Moreno, referring to his cast, said "the English had embraced the project". It is not clear when and if the show will be broadcast in the UK.

The first episode features a 19-year-old Maria, the widowed and grief-stricken queen consort of France, returning to her native and bitterly divided Scotland in 1571 after a 13-year absence. With scenes shot in Leith, TVE previews suggest a primitive and unhappy country.

"Brought up at one of the most exquisite courts of Europe," the broadcaster said, "Maria arrived in her poor and small country divided by religious conflict and constant rebellions between troubled clans and Scottish nobles."

The last major UK production to feature the queen was the 2004 Gunpowder, Treason & Plot on BBC by Jimmy McGovern and starring France's Clémence Poésy.

Three years ago there was a major Swiss movie called Mary, Queen of Scots, and an American competitor called Reign. Neither set the heather alight in Scotland.

Mary of Scotland, 1936HeraldScotland:

Vanessa Redgrave was the last actor to take the iconic role in a major British commercial feature, in the 1971 film, also called Mary, Queen of Scots. Even earlier, in the 1936 Hollywood classic Mary of Scotland the role was taken on by Katherine Hepburn. Nearly a decade earlier Magda Sonja played the title role in another classic, the silent German film Mary Stuart.