Thursday, June 25, 2009

Question from Paula - Mary Queen of Scots' accent

Hi – any linguistics experts here?

I wonder what Mary Queen of Scots’ spoken English was actually like after she learned the language while in prison in England? I noticed that in ‘Elizabeth I’ (with Helen Mirren) Mary speaks with a French accent. In ‘Elizabeth – The Golden Age’, she speaks with a Scottish accent. Which do you think is more historically accurate?

Mary did spend her formative years in France, so her English was probably ‘very French’, but on the other hand, one of the English ambassadors who met Mary as an adult, said she had a ‘pretty Scots’ accent. (By the way, how close was the 16th century Scottish language to their neighbors in the south)?

Of course, we’ll never really know how Mary spoke, but I would be interested in others’ opinions nonetheless.


Blogger Kristian said...

I am not a linguist, but when I saw "Elizabeth - The Golden Age" one of the things that left me wondering was Mary's Scottish accent...

I had always assumed that since she spent most of her first 20 of her 45 years (the most formative) in France, that she had a French accent. I'm sure she acquired hints of the Scottish tongue but I can't imagine she would lose all of her French accent.

Accents and linguistic ability vary considerably according to the individual. I have a friends who moved to the US when they were 20 or so - one from England and one from Turkey - and both still have VERY "thick" accents; whereas another friend moved here more recently in her 30's from Argentina and has little or no accent at all.

As far as the movie/program comparison, I have no doubt that Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren is more historically accurate.

I have watched numerous interviews with Michael Hirst, the writer of Elizabeth - The Golden Age, and he has said that he simplifies history in his movies and TV shows for his American audience. He seems to feel that if it isn't obvious, most Americans won't get it. (As an American, I can't argue ;o)

So he makes "creative" changes to history in his writing that he believes will help clarify it: like making the Scots Queen speak with a Scottish accent.

June 26, 2009 9:50 AM  
OpenID entspinster said...

A foreign visitor wrote home that Elizabeth was master of many languages and specified Latin, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Scotch. Well, that is how the translation reads. Was Scotch-- presumably the English-like "broad" Scotts, not Scotch Gaelic--really a seperate language? James I seems to have made himself understood-- or am I just assuming that? Might Mary have considered herself to have learned two languages, English and Scotch?

June 26, 2009 3:42 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

I came across a few sites on Scots (the relative of English, not the Gaelic language) while I was looking at some stuff related to Margaret Tudor.

There's some good info on the language's history here:

There is a discussion in the section "History of Scots to 1700" about whether is should be considered a dialect of English or a language of its own.

June 27, 2009 10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would hope that she had a Scottish accent with a little french lilt. Her mother made sure that she had an entourage of Scottish noble women, one of which was Mary Flemming's mother who was her governess until she had a child by the king of France. she had playmates of around her own age the 4 Marys and her 3 half brothers John,James and Patrick how long these boys stayed with her i am unsure, also she had a monk for her religious education.

she would have, must of heard the Scottish accent everyday as during this time it was impolite if you were in company to have silence, so books were read aloud, music played and sing etc would have gone on everyday all day.

i do agree with Kristian about accents.i have been brought up and have lived in and around the same area all my life but know one when they first meet me know that i am from Yorkshire, but when i go down to London to visit people know i am from up north. that's because my mum didn't like our local accent as she was not from here so as my school pals would say i speak posh.i also have a habit of picking up other people's accents this can be embarrassing as some people can take offence thinking that i am taking the Mickey out of them.

from Lady Hobby

June 30, 2009 1:30 PM  

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