A King’s Unconditional Heart
Reign is a historical fiction drama that follows the life of Mary Queen of Scots. Throughout many episodes, the storyline focuses on Mary’s relationship with her fiance and eventual husband, Francis King of France. Within the series, Francis’ character destroys the expectations of others by devoting himself completely to Mary. Meanwhile, many kings tend stray from their wives and take other lovers without repercussions. Although Francis’ marriage was originally intended to create a political alliance between Scotland and France, the young king does not view his wife in such a manner. Unlike other kings, Francis values his wife and her political opinions. His love for Mary is what drives many of his decisions as king as he is always looking out for her safety, country, and happiness. Reign’s portrayal of Francis and Mary’s relationship while historically inaccurate, bring hope to its viewers that unconditional love could have possibly existed even in political marriages during this time period.
Francis and Mary have been engaged since they were six years old in order for their families to ensure that their two countries would become allies. Francis, who has been training for the role of king his entire life, has also been instilled with the thought that his future bride would be nothing more than a political symbol. The thought that, “love is irrelevant to people like [him],” sits within the back of his mind constantly (Season 1, Ep. 1). Upon meeting Mary, the audience can physically witness Francis’ liking of her. His cheeks become flush and a his mouth cannot help but smile. However, Francis knows that alliances can shift and his engagement with Mary could change. Therefore, he forces himself to push away her by telling her, “If you are ever going to be the Queen of France, you need to understand something. Kings do not answer to their wives.” (Season 1, Ep. 1). This pains him to say as he never wants to hurt her, but knows that falling in love with her could bring him even more pain if he were not able to marry her.
Francis’ attempts to separate himself from his fiance prove trying as time goes on. When Mary mistakenly puts their future marriage at stake by…., Francis’ true love for her slips out. He lectures her, saying, “You could’ve ruined your reputation so that I couldn’t marry you. Even if things go the way we want them to” (Season 1, Ep. 1). Alas, his emotions are revealed and he is no longer able to deny them. Here it is evident that his love for Mary has a hold over him that he cannot ignore. From this point forward he decides to accept his heart’s decision.
As the series continues, Mary and Francis do become wed. However, their marriage is far different from any other royal union. Their mutual love for one another causes them to think with their hearts and work alongside one another, breaking the normalities of royal marriages during that era. One expectation of king and queens during this era is to produce an heir. Mary feels a great sense of pressure from others to accomplish this task and believes that Francis too will become impatient. However, the king again shows his devotion to Mary explaining, “I don’t make love to you because I want a baby. I want a baby because I love you,” (Season 1, Ep. 15). This is very astonishing for a king to proclaim. Most tyrants would become irritated if their wife did not quickly give them a child. King Henry VIII of England was known for beheading his wives for failing to do so. Francis, however, does not conform to the traditional mindset of power-hungry kings. Love is what brings him the strength that he needs to run his country.
While Francis is noble to his country of France, but his relationship with Mary always seems to take precedence. Even Mary questions his decisions to neglect his own country at times in order to protect hers, Scotland. He in turn asks, “What if my wife doesn’t realize that I love her? What if she doesn’t see that I put her first?,” (Season 1, Ep. 18). These bold words reaffirm his desire to cater to his duties as a husband first, rather than a king.
Even as a husband, Francis’ unconditional love for Mary causes him to act in ways most husbands and especially kings rarely would. When Mary is sexually assaulted after Francis had fled the castle on a mission, she sought comfort in the arms of another man. Most queens at this time would be hung for being unfaithful to their husbands, being classified as treasonists. However, Francis accepts that Mary is hurting and grants her to have an affair with this man. His reason in doing so is as he states, “I cannot bare to see you in pain. And i will not be the cause of any more suffering. Even if your pain results from being kept from another man whom you desire,” (Season 2, Ep. 16). Mary’s actions should result in her and her lover’s death, but Francis’ love allows him to be merciful and forgiving in a way that most could not be.
Later in the series, the two reconcile and continue forward with their relationship. One may feel as though their marriage would be unstable and untrusting, but Francis’ emotions towards Mary help them move past their previous roadblocks. While the audience is excited for the royal couple to be able to move, their times of trouble are far from over. Francis learns that he is deathly ill and will not live much longer. He intentionally keeps this information in order to see Mary happy for as long as possible. He begins to fully devote himself to them rather than his duties as a king stating, “This is important. This…nothing is more important,” (Season 3, Ep. 1). When Mary hears the dreadful news of her husband, she is devastated. She is also in awe how Francis continues to work at their relationship, run his country, and ensure that she will be protected after he is gone. She tells him, “Stop being so strong, so perfect, worrying about me,” (Season 3, Ep. 1). However, unconditional love is the reason behind all of these actions.
While it is unlikely that King Francis and Queen Mary had a relationship as true as Reign portrays, the show’s storyline cannot help but make the audience hope that there were some royal couples during this time period that were fully committed to one another. Francis’ character shows time and time again how love can affect one’s perception of life and how one makes choices in it. The king’s unbreakable affection for his wife continuously draws him towards making decisions that will only result in her well being and happiness. Reign truly exemplifies what unconditional love looks like.
– Nicole Bruso