Music for Brain Dead

The brain is dead for two reasons. One, I watched three episodes of that teen Mary Stuart show “Reign” with some other historians (two Americanists – one revolutionary-era and one antebellum slavery – and an early modernist who works on Switzerland) and a well-informed lawyer. It was a mixture of the surprisingly accurate and the eye-stabbingly stupid.

Surprisingly accurate:

1. Nostradamus really was at the French court in the late 1550s. In reality he was a 50-something man rather than a scruffily handsome young thing of 25, but we were impressed nonetheless.

2. Henry II had a mistress named Diane de Poitiers who was very influential at court. This is impressive only because they didn’t make her 19 and rename her something stupid (see below: ladies in waiting).

3. The heir to the throne of Portugal in the late 1550s was indeed three years old.

Eye-stabbingly stupid:

1. Severely under-supervised princesses.

2. Everyone (whether French or Scot or Italian or etc.) has a English accent, except for the Portuguese guy.

3. In reality, Mary had four ladies in waiting with different (one assumes) personalities and the same name, Mary. On this show, she has four ladies in waiting with different names and no personalities whatsoever. I think there’s one called Kenna and one called Greer and there may be a Lilah or a Lola. I stopped paying attention because it doesn’t seem to make any difference.

4. They all wear prom dresses all the time. Sleeveless prom dresses. And lots of chunky knitted shawls.

5. Mary doesn’t like ceremony – she wants things to be “real.”


1. Apparently everyone in the world is either sixteen and a little slow or an authority figure over 40.

2. Remember the Anne of Green Gables TV series from the 80s? The woman who played Anne has now grown up and become Catherine de Medici.

3. They compressed 1557, 1558 and 1559 into an indeterminate temporal morass. My suspicion is that they assumed no one would notice. HA.

4. Some sister of the future Francis II gets married to some dude in what might be 1559. Interestingly, two of Francis’s sisters married in 1559. Claude (age 11) and Elisabeth (age 14). We are treated to what is intended to be a steamy nuptial night between one of these two and her husband. The young lady on the TV is (fortunately) somewhere between 18 and 30; the dude is ditto. Possibly attempting to make sense of this one is a fool’s game.

But anyway: Schumann’s Mary Stuart songs. Because why not?