Gunpowder, Treason and Plot (2004)




Director:     Gillies MacKinnon.

Starring:     Vulpe Adrian (Soldier),  Carmen Ungureanu (Mary of Guise),  Clémence Poésy (Mary, Queen of Scots),  Tadeusz Pasternak (David Riccio),  Maria Popistasu (Lady Marie),  Catherine McCormack (Queen Elizabeth I),  Steven Duffy (Lord James),  Catalin Babliuc (Father Michael),  Kevin McKidd (Bothwell),  Emil Hostina (Bothwell's Lieutenant),  Daniela Nardini (Lady Huntly), Radu Andrei Micu (Sir John Huntly), Iona Ruxandra Bratosin (Young Mary), Gary Lewis (John Knox), Garry Sweeney (Lord Gunn),  Michael Nardone (Lord Ruthven), Paul Nicholls (Lord Darnley), Adrian Stefan (Taylor), Daniel Cristian Iancu (English Soldier), Sira Stampe (Queen Anne of Denmark), Robert Carlyle (King James I), Tim McInnerny (Cecil). 

Made for TV mini-series.

Protestant Guy Fawkes's Gunpowder Plot of 1605 against the Catholic Stuart, King James I (1603-1625)


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 


Episode I.

In Scotland a man finds Mary's mother dead on the floor.

In France a messenger comes in to say to Mary that her mother has passed away. A friend comforts Mary and Mary tells her friend that she will be going home to Scotland. "For now I am Mary, Queen of Scots."

As narrator, Mary says: "When I was a child, the English waged war upon Scotland and my mother sent me to France for my safety. I remained in exile for thirteen years and never saw my mother's face again. But now I will have my revenge. One day my child, my mother's grandchild, will take the English throne."

Court of English Queen Elizabeth, 1561. Elizabeth is upset about the news that Mary has come back to Scotland with claims that she has the right to be not only Queen of Scotland, but Queen of England as well. Mary represents a great threat to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is especially mad at Lord James. She tells him she paid him well because she thought Lord James would govern Scotland. He is the half-brother of sister Mary. James assures her that the wee little girl will not be a threat to Elizabeth, who comments: "Be sure that you do."

Port of Leith, Scotland. This port of Leith was the port of Edinburgh, Scotland. Mary of Guise, Mary's mother, moved her court to Leith, where a large French garrison was stationed. In June of 1560, the Siege of Leith ended with the departure of the French troops. During the siege, Mary of Guise died. Daughter Mary arrived in Leith in 1561.

Mary asks an adviser how shall she show that she is Queen of Scotland? She is told to take James's horse from him.

James arrives. He says hello to his half-sister and she introduces him to her Italian adviser David Riccio. And, in turn, Mary meets Bothwell, who her mother always spoke highly of. Mary suddenly asks to have her brother's white horse and he consents.

The Huntly family comes on horseback to speak with Mary. The woman spokesman tells her that Sir James did not let them know of her arrival in Scotland. She asks James if this is because they are Catholic in a land of Protestant heathens? James just says that Mary is Catholic.

The Huntly spokesperson asks if Mary might perhaps marry her son John Huntley, who will give her many Catholic sons? Mary does not answer, but starts going back to her travels.

Mary thinks she hears voices coming from the reeds of a marsh. She thinks back to an incident where she was forcefully taken from her mother in a fight.

She comes to her palace with the Huntlys behind them. The Huntlys really get booed by the people of the town.

James gives David Riccio a piece of advise: "Go home, wee David. Go home. It will soon be too hot for you here."

Accompanied by Bothwell, Mary goes to see the bed in which her mother died.

James is upset with his sister. He tells her that she is heading to a Catholic service in a largely Protestant Scotland. Mary just ignores his remark. Bothwell tells one of his men to get two dozen men "armed to the teeth". He is expecting trouble.

And, sure enough, trouble does come. A mob tries to get into the Catholic service and do harm to the Catholics.

The mob breaks through and their spokesman is Mr. John Knox. He claims that a Catholic church is not a house of God. Mary says she does not want to make Scotland Catholic. She will practice her faith in private.

That's not acceptable to Knox who wants the pernicious weed of Catholicism to be stomped out. And he doesn't like the Queen of England taking advice from an Italian (David Riccio). The Queen tries to exit. Bothwell is the one who saves her from the mob. He tells those who touch the Queen shall be killed and the mob allows Bothwell and the Queen to pass.

When Mary is safe, she thanks Bothwell for his meritorious service. She tells him that they hate her, but her aide tells her no. What they hate is her religion.

Mary goes into a council meeting and the Protestants in the group will not stand up for her. The Queen says that over time she may convert to Protestantism and she will seek the advice of Knox on this matter. This helps tamp down the hatred directed toward Mary.

James rides to England to tell Elizabeth the bad news that the Scots are now accepting Mary. She listens to advice from an Italian named Riccio and adapts well to tough political realities. Elizabeth tells James to get rid of this Riccio. She also tells James to get Mary to destroy her allies, the Catholic Huntley family.

Back in Scotland, James tells young John Huntley that the Protestants say that he is weak. He knows this is wrong, because he knows John. He says: "Let them mock you. I know that you're a man." James then says that whatever John does, he will having the blessing of the Queen.

John kills his Protestant enemy who had taunted him repeatedly. This man was on the council. Then John has his men carry the bloody body to Mary. He tells her that she must get rid of the Huntley family. So John is arrested and put in a dungeon.

Bothwell tells Mary that he will solve her dilemma by killing John in his cell. Mary rejects the idea and forcefully tells Bothwell: "Good night, sir!"

John will be beheaded. Mary has to listen to the pleadings of John's mother to spare her child. James has to intervene to free Mary from the woman's grasp.

Mary climbs up the scaffold to witness John's death. John tells her to watch out for the bastard, Lord James. He says that James told him that whatever he did would have Mary's blessing. Mary replies that these are lies, but when James walks onto the scaffold, Mary sees him in a different light.

After the beheading, Riccio rushes over to Mary to tell her that now she must speak out to the people. At first she says she can't, but Riccio says she must. So Mary says that this was a crime of a Scot murdering another Scot, and not a Catholic murdering a Protestant.

Bothwell forcefully pushes back the crowd to get Mary safely back to the castle. Then Bothwell tells her that she must rule the Scots by fear. She says she takes her advice from wee David. Bothwell also tells her that the Scots must never see her tears. Very firmly, Mary tells Bothwell that he will not see her tears again.

John's mother comes to curse Mary saying she will die in the same way her son was killed.

The council applauds for Mary when she comes to discuss matters. The Catholic councilmen are not at the meeting. Mary changes the subject by saying that she will take a husband. She says she needs a strong ally -- a person she can trust.

Lord Darnley comes to court. The women are glad to see Darnley, whereas Bothwell is not. The man is the grandson of Henry VII and fourth in line to the crown. Mary dances with him.

At dinner Lord Darnley sits at the right hand of Mary. Bothwell is so mad that he starts drinking too much. He interrupts the dinner by asking: "Madam, is there not one man in the whole of Scotland who is good enough for you?" The guards have to be alerted to take Bothwell out by force.

Late at night, while Bothwell is sleeping off the intoxication, Darnley comes into his room and hits him over the head. He then takes Bothwell's bottle of red wine.

In the morning Bothwell is awakened by Riccio and his French poodle. He tells Bothwell that he is to go see the Queen. He goes, but refuses to be apologetic for his outburst. So he is put in the dungeon.

Riccio says to the Queen that she can have a man and yet not marry him. He says he fears that she is too fond of this Darnley fellow. "And it blinds you to his weakness." But when Lord Darnley bursts into the room, Mary tells him that she wants to marry him.

James is furious to hear that the Queen will marry Darnley. He suggests to Mary that the Queen of England will find none of this palatable. Mary replies that she hopes that Elizabeth will choke upon hearing the news. He suggests that Elizabeth may have Mary killed, like she killed her own half-sister.

James leaves the room. Mary tells Riccio: "We're in peril." To guard her and Riccio, Bothwell is given charge of Mary's own private guard. Mary and David both go to Bothwell to tell him that he will be put in charge of her guards.

Bothwell bursts into Mary's room and asks for her hand in marriage. Mary asks Bothwell if he is drunk? Bothwell leaves the room.

On her wedding night, Darnley gets drunk. Marry does not care for the smell of his breath nor for the drunken intercourse. But he does perform his duty. Mary goes and lays down on the couch.

James tells Elizabeth the Darnley will be executed for he plans to murder Riccio.

Mary is signing papers and asks where is her husband? Bothwell tells her that her husband is once again drunk.

When the drunken husband does return, he finds Mary's door closed. He has a tantrum and starts banging hard on the door shouting for Mary to let him in. Bothwell bursts into the room and asks if Darnley will be going out to the tavern? Darnley tells the head of the guards that he better sleep with one eye open.

Darnley on his horse shouts up to Mary that he is her husband. He also says he is going to the tavern to find a whore, because his wife will not "attend to my needs".

James and four of his men come to the tavern and tell the drunken husband that Riccio is in bed with "our Queen". He adds that they want to get rid of Riccio. If Darnley assists them, they will make him King of Scotland with equal rights with those of Mary. Furthermore, Darnley will have the support of all the Lords of Scotland. They have Darnley sign a document and then tell him to open the castle gates to them.

Darnley does what they wish. He then goes into the Queen. Then a number of men burst into the chamber and tell Mary that they must have wee David. Mary says they will not have him and physically tries to resist the men. Wee David tries to hide behind the ladies in waiting.

Since Riccio resists going with the men, he is stabbed in the chest. He goes down and the man with the knife now stabs Riccio repeatedly. Mary watches this happen. Bothwell is having sex with a woman in his chambers and the killers lock him in there. He is able to get out a window.

Later James comes to see Mary. He tells her that he has a signed document from the men who killed wee David. He denies that he did anything to kill Riccio. He adds that the first name on the list is that of her husband Darnley. "He must be executed", he says.

James tells Darnley that he helped kill Riccio and for that he will not leave this castle alive.

But Darnley and a friend take off with Queen Mary and a lady in waiting. Bothwell goes with them. At a rest break, Bothwell tells Mary that she killed wee David. She took her advice from an Italian Catholic and that sealed the man's fate. Furthermore, she now has to raise an army and slaughter her enemies in Scotland. He tries to kiss the Queen, but she pulls her head away from him. She tells him to go to some dark and lonely place.

Bothwell rides back to the castle to bring back an army. Meanwhile, Mary has also gathered an army. The two armies meet and Mary tells them to join forces together against the enemy James. A big cheer goes up for Mary.

James and six men run for their lives. They are just able to cross over the border into England when Mary and her forces show up. Bothwell goes to the attack, but Mary calls him back saying: "I will not fight on English soil."

Bothwell returns to the Scottish side of the border. She tells Bothwell that he may have whatever he wishes. He answers: "I want you naked in my bed." She says his duty now is to protect the Scottish border. "You will not return to Edinburgh."

Bothwell goes into Mary's tent and asks that before she goes, please forgive him. She says first she looses wee David and now him. Bothwell says she will be stronger because of this. Now Mary tells Bothwell that she is with child.

Mary returns to her castle. She now has a completely new council.

At the border Bothwell defeats an English army. Elizabeth demands to know who killed her soldiers? A Scot named Bothwell. Bothwell sends a message to Elizabeth.  And now Elizabeth realizes that Mary is with child. Elizabeth is furious and wishes Mary will have a girl.

Mary goes through labor and delivers a fine son. Darnley comes to see his son. Mary asks him to acknowledge that her child is his child also. He says yes. Their son, James, will be the rightful heir to the thrones of both Scotland and England.

By the border an ambush is set up to get Bothwell. An archer in a tree wounds Bothwell in the right shoulder. He rides his horse out of there.

Mary shows her baby to all her guards and says that they will protect the boy with their very lives.

Mary gets news that Bothwell is dying. She goes to see Bothwell. In the tent they hug and kiss each other. They have sex.

Darnley tries to rape the Queen. He beats the lady in waiting and throws her out of the bedroom. But the lady comes back with a bottle and breaks it over the head of Darnley.

Bothwell tells his Queen that this situation with Darnley cannot be allowed to continue.

Darnley takes the baby form the Queen. She goes after him. He wants to use the child as pressure to make the Queen have sex with him again. A male attendant comes and distracts Darnley and Mary takes her child from his arms.

Mary marches over to see Bothwell. She simply says: "Kill him!" He must make the death look like an accident, because the Queen must be above suspicion.

Mary goes to ask for dispensation to kill her husband. The priest says she cannot do this for she will burn in hell. Mary is willing to burn in hell ands she will have the killing done. Bothwell puts gunpowder in the basement below Darnley's room. He lights it and it goes off with a loud explosion, but Darnley is still alive. Bothwell strangles Darnley to death. He then goes to see Mary. He tells her to have him hanged. She won't do this. So Bothwell says then she has to marry him, because they will not hang the husband of the Queen. She says she will marry him.

Unfortunately, the explosion killed the boyfriend of the lady in waiting that saved Mary from Darnley when he was trying to rape Mary. Mary goes to see her and the woman says Mary had her own husband killed and her own, true love died too.

James takes advantage of the murder and manslaughter by preaching against both Mary and Bothwell who murdered the Queen's husband to rile up a rebellion in Scotland.

Only four council members are present at the next meeting. She whispers to Bothwell that the people of Scotland are turning against her.  Bothwell says they must prepare for battle. Mary asks: "What have we done?"

Mary's forces will meet those of James. In her tent she tells Bothwell that she fears that this night will be the last time she and he will ever make love.

Mary is upset that she is bringing even more war to Scotland. This is one of the reasons why she came to Scotland -- to bring peace. So now she decides to take her child and surrender herself to her enemies and ask that they be merciful. She will ask freedom for Bothwell for one day and during this time he is to flee.

She surrenders to James. He turns over her child to a wet-nurse. He immediately puts Mary in a coach and sends Mary off to England.

With a few men, Bothwell goes to try to retrieve Mary.

Mary is put in a dungeon.


Episode II.


Scotland, 1587. Mary's boy is all grown up now. He has a club foot. A possible mate for James comes to see him. She is Anne of Denmark.

Fotheringay, England. James goes to see his mother in prison. He pulls back the little window and looks into her room. She is busy practicing laying her head on the chopping block so that she might die with some grace and dignity. James remarks to the jailer that she's so beautiful.

Lord Cecil tells James that with the death of Mary, he will be able to unite England and Scotland and end 300 years of war.

James goes over to Anne to tell her brutally to not speak of love between them, but of dignity and respect for one another. If she is able to do this, then he shall marry her.

Mary is beheaded.

Lord Lovely comes to tell James that the English have executed his mother. Lovely says they will ride toward England and pick up men as they go to avenge the death of the Scottish Queen. James tells the man and his friends that they will not start a war with England. Rather, he is content to wait perhaps ten years or more for Elizabeth to die. And then he will become the King of a united Scotland and England.

Lovely says he and his men ride tonight. James asks for them to wait until morning and he and his men will join them. Lovely says that they are leaving tonight. James tells him to at least give him one day to grieve over the loss of his Queen and of his mother. Recognizing the right to grieve, Lovely asks James for forgiveness.

After Lovely and his men leave, James gives the order to kill Lovely and all who ride with him as they sleep. The order is carried out.

James has sex with Anne and seems to enjoy the fact that he is causing her a great deal of pain. After the sex he basically calls her and all women whores.

At breakfast he tells Anne that she will bear him three or four sons and then she may take a lover. But taking a lover will only be done after the birth of all the children.

The Queen has two boys and a girl.

Lord Cecil now starts to eliminate Catholics, saying a Catholic is a traitor. Cecil and his men go after a key Catholic spokesman, Robert Catesby, and his followers. They surround the group and then hang the priest. And now they arrest Catesby. Catesby tells his people to go to James and tell him what happened "for all this must cease".

Thomas Percy tells the King and Queen that Elizabeth will die soon. The royals have a hard time believing this because there have been so many reports that Elizabeth is dying. Percy says the queen will soon be dead. Furthermore, there is a rival claimant to the throne. It's Princess Isabela, a Catholic.

James is furious and says they will all be cut down. His wife, however, urges James to spare Percy and he is to tell the English all that they wants to hear and send him on his way unharmed. If Percy is killed, the English will take up arms against the Scots, so be calm and wait. James will follow his wife's advice.

Elizabeth dies and James becomes King James VI of Scotland the King James I of England. The year is 1603.

James arrives in England triumphant. He tells Lord Cecil that the crimes against the Catholics will be stopped. Robert Catesby is a free man again.

Anne loses a child during childbirth.

James doesn't like it, but there is very little money in the English coffers. England is at war with Spain (the Eighty Year's War). James has to go before Parliament and asks that his coronation not be one only worthy of a pauper. Parliament turns him down.

The coronation is a miserable one. The royal family rides in an open royal coach while a hard rain drenches them thoroughly.

James tells his wife that three children are enough. She may now take a lover.

Cecil informs James that now that the Catholics are not paying fines, the coffers are especially low. So James reintroduces the fines for attending a Catholic mass. Priests are hung again.

A man named Guy Fawkes fights in Flanders on the side of the Spanish to protect Catholicism. Robert Catesby sends for this man.

A man is shot down coming toward the king. The Queen objects that the man was only bringing her the flag of her native land, Denmark. Cecil says an assassin named Guy Fawkes has entered the country and the man now dead could have been that assassin. The plot is to blow up the royal family and Parliament at one time with barrels of gunpowder stored beneath Parliament. In the following chaos Robert Catesby and his men will be able to seize power.

The Catholics don't know it, but Lady Margaret is a spy for the Protestants.

The plotters rent a storage room in the basement of the Parliament. The King is told of the storage of the gunpowder by one Thomas Percy. He tells Cecil that Thomas Percy must be arrested. Cecil urges the King to let the plot widen and they will grab them all at one time.

Lady Margaret tries to use her charm to get to Guy Fawkes, but Fawkes will have nothing to do with her.  But Thomas Winter is another matter. She tells him straight out that she wants to help in their endeavor. He tells her that there are many men in the plot. Margaret has sex with Thomas.

Thomas learns from Fawkes that Lady Margaret is a spy. He then goes back to Margaret and has more sex with her. After this he strangles her to death because she already knew the name of Fawkes. The King is informed of what happened. He and his family are moved to a safer place.

Francis Tresham, one of the plotters, wants to save his brother-in-law from the gunpowder explosion beneath Parliament. So he tells his wife's brother what is going to happen. The brother starts to take off, but his sister stops him by saying that they will kill her husband. She says she will write an anonymous note about the plot and William can take it to the King.

Through the note, the King and Cecil realize that there is going to be an explosion under Parliament. They both go to find the powder. They find the powder.

Robert Catesby and Thomas Percy learn of what Franics Tresham and his wife did. They grab Tresham and start to torture him. They keep pushing Tresham's head under water. Catesby keeps the man's head too long in the water and he dies.

James wants the plot go go ahead and blow up the Parliament. He sees Parliament as his enemy and wants it done away with. His enemy will kill his enemy. Cecil informs him that there are bands of men just waiting to descend on London and finish off the Catholic king. And their sign to act will be the explosion under Parliament. Cecil says a better scenario is to say that the King saved the lives of all the Parliamentarians because he realized the threatening nature of the written note, went and found the gunpowder under Parliament and dismantled the threat.

Guy Fawkes checks on the gunpowder. He stays in the room with the gunpowder now.

The King and his men arrest Guy Fawkes. Thomas Winters sees this and runs to warn Percy.

Guy Fawkes is tortured. The Queen says his cries are music to her ears because he wanted to kill her children. She also says that they must not bring back Percy alive or he will say that the King reneged on his promises to the Catholics.

Percy and the other conspirators ride out and hide themselves. The next morning Percy wakes up first and goes outside. There he is gunned down by the King's men. Catesby and three other plotters go out to fight the King's men, but they are immediately killed after the voicing of their threat to fight till the end.

The King asks the Queen if she has chosen a lover yet? No. Then he will come to her bed tonight. The Queen says: "That prospect no longer repels me."

Parliament stands for the King. He takes credit for saving Parliament. The remaining plotters will be killed by hanging. Their bodies will be quartered, their heads cut off and put upon pikes for all to see.

He also says that Catholicism will not be tolerated and will be wiped out in England. Parliament gives the King 300,000 pounds. "God save the King!"

The King exalts in his triumph. He later stands before the portrait of his mother and says: "If you could only see me now."


Good film.  This is one that is different from the other film tales of the story of Mary, Queen of Scots.  Those films end with the beheading of Mary, but in this film we see her son become King of both England (James I) and Scotland (James VI).  This lessens the bitterness left from the execution of Mary, for this fulfills Mary's wish to have her son have both thrones and unite Scotland and England.  The film does not cover all of James's life.  It stops with the execution of those Catholics who tried to blow up Parliament and King James I.  Of course, if his whole life's story were shown, it would end with the death of King James followed by Charles I who is executed by Parliament, followed by a civil war between the supporters of Parliament (and Puritans like Oliver Cromwell) against the royalist forces. 

The acting was very good.   Especially noteworthy were Clémence Poésy (Mary, as Queen of Scots),   Catherine McCormack (as Queen Elizabeth I),  Kevin McKidd (as Bothwell) and Robert Carlyle (as James, so of Mary, Queen of Scots). 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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