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Execution of Mary Queen of Scots

Dramatic reconstruction of this infamous historical event

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This early American film depicts the gruesome beheading of Mary Queen of Scots and is believed to be earliest surviving screen representation of Scottishness. It is also one of the earliest films to employ a special effect. The original footage is preserved in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Questions & Activities


  • When and why was this filmed?
  • Who is the actor playing Mary?
  • Why did the filmmakers choose to make a film about this event?
  • Is it right to make a film about such a gruesome event?
  • How was this filmed and is the special effect convincing?
  • Would this be more effective with sound and music?


Technology: Research the construction of early movie cameras and how this special effect was created.

Media Studies / Moving Image Education / Drama: Research the work of a foley artist and try adding sound effects and music to the footage to see whether this makes the film more dramatic or more comic.

Media Studies / International Education / Drama: Research the history of fictional films made about Scotland and discuss what they say about our view of ourselves and the view of Scotland in the wider world.

History / Art and Design / Drama: Research The Tudor's and Henry VIII. Find out how many wives he had and why he beheaded a number of them. Present your findings as a piece of art, creative writing or drama role-play.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-357-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 4413
Date 1895
Genre Drama
School Subject History, Media Studies, Technologies, Drama, English, Art and Design
Subject Matter Victorians
Who Alfred Clark, Raff & Gammon (producer), Robert Thomas (Mary), (actor), William Heise (camera)
Where England
Event Execution
Attributes Black and White, Silent
Clip Length 0:18
Film Length 00:18