Director Josie Rourke had to convince the studio not to delete the scene where Queen Mary has her period. She stated that "those were instructive discussions about how honest we were being about women's bodies and what they do, women's pleasure and what that is, and a queen's body as a political canvas." She added that "it happens to half of us", so "we need[ed] to show this stuff. It does need normalising."
Queen Elizabeth never ruled Scotland, which has led to protests in more recent times about the sitting British queen being called "Elizabeth II". In the 1950s after Elizabeth ascended to the throne, a post box in Scotland marked "EIIR" was even blown up, and the lawyer Ian Hamilton fought a court case against the use of "Elizabeth II" in Scotland. The lyrics of the folk song "Coronation Coronach" include the lines "Hou can ye hae the Second Liz/Whan the First yin's nivver been?".
This is the second time that Saoirse Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave were cast as the same characters on screen. Vanessa Redgrave played Mary Stuart in ''Mary Queen of Scots'' (1971). She also played the older Briony Tallis in ''Atonement'' (2007); Saoirse Ronan played the younger Briony.
The film is based on Dr. John Guy's biography "Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart", and centers on the theory that Queens Mary and Elizabeth may have met and looked each other in the eye as they contemplated their kingdoms' fates. History buffs have objected to Guy's theory that the two ever met face to face, since it is commonly accepted that they only ever corresponded via letters. Guy told Deadline Hollywood that six years ago, "an auction house possessed documents that indicated the two complicit, yet warring cousins, had a meeting that was in the cards."
Mary's son, James VI, was raised Protestant, and actually made problems between Catholics and Protestants much worse. He was responsible for planting Ulster with Protestants which led to the worst parts of the Irish Troubles.
One of the Gaelic speakers that Queen Mary speaks to, says he comes from Thurso in Caithness. Although many people today think of Caithness as never having being Gaelic speaking, there were communities there which spoke Gaelic into the twentieth century, and there were Gaelic speakers recorded from the parish of Thurso within the nineteenth century. This was long after the period which the film is set in.
The crew on the film includes Academy Award winners costume designer Alexandra Byrne, hair and make-up designer Jenny Shircore and editor Chris Dickens; Emmy award-winning production designer James Merifield; and BAFTA award-winning director of photography John Mathieson.
David Tennant appears in this film, which also features Elizabeth I. Previously, Tennant starred in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary "The Day of the Doctor", which showed the Tenth Doctor having a romantic relationship with Queen Elizabeth I whom he married.
Joe Alwyn who plays Queen Elizabeth's reputed lover Robert Dudley also is in the movie The Favourite about Queen Anne's attachment to Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham. In The Favourite, he plays Abigail Masham's husband.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie rehearsed separately. Their scenes were filmed separately, Robbie's being completed the very day Ronan began hers. The first time that both actresses actually saw each other in character was during the pivotal scene where both met for the first time.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Josie Rourke said that the meeting of the two Queens was also inspired by the 19th-century Friedrich Schiller play ''Maria Stuart'', in which Mary and Elizabeth talk face-to-face on stage. "The whole conception of the film for me was around that meeting.'' "We really wanted to have our version of that famous scene, with these two women looking at each other and being confronted with their choices - their personal choices, their political choices. It's a moment that's deeply personal."