Should New CW Show 'Reign' Have Tried Harder to Get History Right?

Some critics are complaining that the historical drama is filled with inaccuracies. But is it any surprise?

Spend a few minutes watching the preview for The CW's lusty new drama, Reign (premiering Thursday at 9 p.m. ET), and you can see why the network's largely teen audience might like it. Reign is like Gossip Girl in corsets. Telegenic 20-somethings scheme in the name of love and power. There are alliances, and betrayals, and mean moms who just don't understand. The setting happens to be France in the mid-1500's, but oh! The idea of sex with adorable, boyish rogues is timeless!

Also: did we mention that it's an historical drama -- about an actual person, Mary Queen of Scots? Anyway…here's the preview.

Isn't it enticing? How cute is Prince Francis (Toby Regbo)?! And smoldering chemistry can go a long way towards nullifying the critical barbs that are being thrown at this show. ("At least it’s not vampires," cracked one dismissive reviewer, who graded it a C+.) 

But here's a question: If some TV producers decide to turn an actual historical account into a bodice-ripping teen show, do they bear any responsibility to get the history right? Because Reign doesn't.

Their Scottish queen, Mary Stuart (Teen Wolf's Adelaide Kane) has been living in a convent when she is called to the French court, for an arranged marriage to the king's son, Francis. And she's not just an actual queen, she's also the queen bee among her clique of beautiful, popular girls (sorry, uh, ladies in waiting), all of whom have their own romantic intrigues to attend to, no doubt.

Yet Mary's union with Francis is not a done deal, for both political and personal reasons. There's a love triangle that involves Francis' half-brother Bash (Torrance Coombs), and Mary isn't the only woman in Francis' life, either. And then there's his darn mother, who hears from a young, handsome Nostradamus that Francis' marriage to Mary will lead to his death. Cue some serious meddling.

The actual Mary never lived in a convent, while the actual Francis was very short, sickly and had a stutter. He had no half-brother named Bash. And the real Nostradamus was an elderly arthritis sufferer by the time he made predictions for Francis II's mother.

Some reviewers have considered the historical inaccuracies too egregious to overlook. "It may be too much to hope that CW would help educate our children, but we could at least ask the network to avoid making them stupid," wrote Robert Bianco of USA Today.

He's got a point. But you can't blame Reign's producers for tweaking history, or setting it off in a sexier direction. And, honestly, viewers watching The CW aren't actually tuning in for scholarly reasons, unless you consider wanting to learn how to look and act like a girl who attracts hunky young guys educational. 

Jennifer Graham Kizer is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Google+ 

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